The Music Man

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The Music Man is one of the most popular and iconic of all American musicals and Carol Edgar is celebrating its anniversary.

Throughout this 60th anniversary year of the Broadway debut of ‘The Music Man,’ I’ve been running its songs through my memory more than ever. Even before the death this summer of Barbara Cook, the original Marian the librarian, I was almost haunted by it.

I grew up knowing every word of the show—even those fast “patter” songs that some call predecessors to rap music. The story of a con man arriving in a rural town, capturing the heart of its most beautiful young woman, fleecing the residents by collecting precious money from them for a boys’ band he promised to form despite not knowing a word of music—well, the premise seems apt for the time, as far as it goes.

But Harold Hill, as played by Robert Preston, was the most irresistible con man ever. And here’s the spoiler-alert rub: the boys’ band actually materializes. How? By something the professor concocts called “the think system”: think the Minuet in G by humming the tune, and you’ll be able to play it.

Really? Well, I must confess, I have sometimes gotten through my ever lengthening, ever shortening life by improvising. And that’s what Harold does, and has the boys do, to the point that the whole town gets caught up in we might call illusion. But it could also be called magic.


That magic as the essence of the show’s famous love song, “Till There was You.” I began singing it, shower-wise, as a tribute to all who have brought magic into my life. Those birds winging, those bells ringing—“no, I never heard them at all ‘till there was you.”

Ingenuity. Optimism. Hope. Aspiration. These ideas inspired a a man from Iowa, long years ago, to write what may not be the best American musical but what is surely the most American musical in my winter of discontent, I see the brightness of promise in the form of a triumphant marching band, with “Seventy-Six Trombones,” and I am quickened.

With a Perspective, this is Carol Edgar.

Carol Edgar is a media consultant living in Sonoma County.