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.