Everything you need to know about 'The Music Man' starring Hugh Jackman on Broadway

Learn all about the classic musical before your trip to River City.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Sound the seventy-six trombones! The Music Man is marching back onto Broadway for its third revival, with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster leading the big parade. The story of a con man and a local librarian who develop true feelings for each other amid the con man's web of lies has endeared and uplifted audiences since its premiere in 1957. The show would turn out to be creator Meredith Willson's most famous show and is widely regarded as his magnum opus.

Now you, too, can join the big parade by seeing The Music Man at Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre — but ya got trouble if you don't know anything about the show. Read all about the show's award-winning history, musical numbers, and all the details on the show's cast and running time before you head to the theatre.

Get The Music Man tickets now.

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What is The Music Man about?

The main character of The Music Man is a con man named Professor Harold Hill. He travels all throughout the Midwest posing as a music instructor for boys' bands. He sells uniforms and instruments to hopeful young groups of musicians and promises to train them to become successful bands. But he doesn't actually know the first thing about teaching — so once he gets the boys' money, he skips town before teaching them a single note.

The Music Man kicks off when he arrives in River City, Iowa, with plans to enact his scheme there. He convinces the townsfolk that the town's new pool table will lead all their boys to corruption, so he promises to teach them music to keep them upright. But the local librarian, Marian Paroo — who happens to double as an actual piano teacher — sees right through his lies and resolves to expose him. The only problem is, there are some things about Harold Hill that turn out to be true. He shows genuine care for her younger brother, who lisps, and helps him gain real confidence in himself, endearing Marian to him. Her plan to expose Harold as a fraud suddenly get complicated as she develops real feelings of her own for him.

The Music Man

When did The Music Man premiere?

The Music Man first premiered on Broadway more than 60 years ago, on December 19, 1957. That production ran for 1,375 performances, closing in 1961, and received six Tony Awards including Best Musical.

The 2021 production is the musical's second Broadway revival, following one in 2000. Performances were supposed to begin in 2020 but were delayed by the pandemic; The Music Man finally began performances on December 20, 2021 and opens on February 10, 2022.

  • 1957: The first Broadway production of The Music Man opens
  • 1961: West End premiere in London opens
  • 1962: The Music Man film adaptation premieres
  • 1965: Two-week Off-Broadway revival at New York City Center opens
  • 1980: Three-week Off-Broadway revival at New York City Center opens
  • 2000: First Broadway revival opens
  • 2021: Second Broadway revival opens

Who wrote The Music Man?

Meredith Willson wrote the music and lyrics, and he collaborated on the book with Franklin Lacey. The Music Man is Willson's most famous work, though he also wrote three other musicals (including The Unsinkable Molly Brown) and numerous film scores.

What Broadway theatre is The Music Man playing at?

The Music Man is at the Winter Garden Theatre. The theatre is located at 1634 Broadway, between 50th and 51st Streets. The theatre sits just north of Times Square and is a short walk from plenty of restaurants, shops, and other theatres there.

What is the running time of The Music Man?

The Music Man is 2 hours and 45 minutes long, including one intermission. This is a typical length for a Broadway musical, though musicals can run anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours. Intermissions are usually either 15 or 20 minutes long.

What days is The Music Man playing?

The Music Man plays eight performances a week at the Winter Garden Theatre. For the complete performance schedule and show times, please visit the Music Man page to learn more. 

Who is in the cast of The Music Man?

Right now, you can catch Hugh Jackman as Professor Harold Hill and Sutton Foster as Marian Paroo in The Music Man. Here is the full principal cast of the 2021 Music Man revival:

  • Hugh Jackman as Professor Harold Hill
  • Sutton Foster as Marian Paroo
  • Jayne Houdyshell as Mrs. Shinn
  • Jefferson Mays as Mayor Shinn
  • Marie Mullen as Mrs. Paroo
  • Shuler Hensley as Marcellus Washburn
  • Remy Auberjonois as Charlie Cowell
  • Gino Cosculluela as Tommy Djilas
  • Emma Crow as Zaneeta Shinn
  • Remy Auberjonois as Charlie Cowell
  • Benjamin Pajak as Winthrop
  • Kayla Teruel as Amaryllis
  • Garrett Long as Ethel Toffelmier
  • Linda Mugleston as Alma Hix
  • Jessica Sheridan as Maud Dunlop
  • Rema Webb as Mrs. Squires
  • Phillip Boykin as Olin Britt
  • Eddie Korbich as Jacey Squires
  • Daniel Torres as Ewart Dunlop
  • Nicholas Ward as Oliver Hix

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What celebrities have performed in The Music Man?

Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster are the current celebrity leads in The Music Man. The 1957 production and subsequent film adaptation was what propelled Robert Preston to stardom, and both his Marians — Barbara Cook on Broadway and The Partridge Family star Shirley Jones on screen — are also acclaimed for their roles. The 2000 Broadway revival featured the late Rebecca Luker as Marian.

In addition, a 2003 TV movie adaptation starred Matthew Broderick as Harold, Kristin Chenoweth as Marian, alongside Victor Garber, Debra Monk, and Molly Shannon.

Who are the characters in The Music Man?

The main characters of The Music Man include multiple types of residents of River City and, of course, the traveling con man Harold Hill who stops in for a visit. Many of the characters are loosely based on people Meredith Willson saw when he was growing up in Iowa. Here are the main characters of The Music Man:

  • Professor Harold Hill: a con man who poses as a music instructor
  • Marian Paroo: a librarian and piano teacher in River City who falls in love with Harold
  • Winthrop Paroo: Marian's shy younger brother
  • Mrs. Paroo: Marian's mother
  • Marcellus Washburn: an old friend of Harold's and former shill who lives in River City
  • Mayor George Shinn: The mayor of River City, who is suspicious of Harold
  • Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn: George's wife
  • Zaneeta Shinn: George and Eulalie's daughter, who Harold sets up with Tommy
  • Tommy Djilas: a troublemaking teen in River City

What are the songs in The Music Man?

Meredith Willson's musical features 24 songs. Because the musical is all about a marching band, many of the songs are written with parts for plenty of band instruments, making for a complex and sumptuous score. The new revival cuts one of the songs from the original score: "It's You," sung by the Barbershop Quartet; the second act now opens with the well-known tune "Shipoopi." A reprise of "Lida Rose" replaces the "It's You" reprise. All of the most famous songs remain, however — "(Ya Got) Trouble" and "Seventy-Six Trombones" are often counted among the most iconic songs in musical theatre history.

Act I

  • "Rock Island" - Charlie and Salesmen
  • "Iowa Stubborn" - Townspeople of River City
  • "(Ya Got) Trouble" - Harold Hill and Townspeople
  • "Piano Lesson/If You Don't Mind My Saying So" - Marian, Mrs. Paroo, and Amaryllis
  • "Goodnight, My Someone" - Marian
  • "Columbia, Gem of the Ocean" - Eulalie and Townspeople
  • "Seventy-Six Trombones" - Harold and Townspeople
  • "Sincere" - Harold and the Barbershop Quartet (Olin, Oliver, Ewart, Jacey)
  • "The Sadder-But-Wiser Girl" - Harold and Marcellus
  • "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" - Eulalie, Maud, Ethel, Alma, Mrs. Squires
  • "Goodnight, Ladies" - Quartet
  • "Marian the Librarian" - Harold, Boys and Girls
  • "My White Knight" - Marian
  • "The Wells Fargo Wagon" - Winthrop and Townspeople

Act II

  • "Shipoopi" - Marcellus, Harold, Marian and townspeople
  • "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" (reprise) - Eulalie, Maud, Ethel, Alma, Mrs. Squires and Ladies
  • "Lida Rose" - Quartet
  • "Will I Ever Tell You?" - Marian
  • "Gary, Indiana" - Winthrop, Mrs. Paroo, Marian, Harold
  • "Lida Rose" (reprise) - Quartet
  • "Till There Was You" - Marian, Harold
  • "Seventy-Six Trombones/Goodnight, My Someone" (reprise) - Harold and Marian
  • "Till There Was You" (reprise) - Harold
  • "Finale" - Company

What did the reviews of The Music Man say?

The [four-star New York Theatre Guide review](https://www.newyorktheatreguide.com/reviews/the-music-man-broadway-review-hugh-jackman-sutton-foster) praises the lead performances, reading, "Jackman is a charm attack in suspendered slacks, nimble-footed, smooth but not slick, with suave vocals and a smile as assured as a railroad. His Harold makes quick and delectable work of small-town marks, with the exception of one, whose front is harder to crack until it shatters in a heap of impossible dramaturgy. Foster’s Marian is wry but not cynical, sharp but still tender, a tough shell with a golden, runny heart like an egg. The Anything Goes star brings a precise wit to the role that is relentlessly delightful, attention to detail that buoys Marian’s tenuous modernization here into a woman with some measure more agency (if a soft will)."

Past productions also received widespread critical acclaim. The late New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson (who now has a Broadway theatre to his name) called the original 1957 production "a warm and genial cartoon of American life" with "the uniformity of a well-designed crazy-quilt in which every patch blends with its neighbor." He went on to write, "Mr. Willson's music is innocent; the beat is rousing and the tunes are full of gusto. The dances, improvised by Onna White, are rural and festive. Raoul Pene du Bois' country costumes are humorously hospitable. With Robert Preston in top form in the leading part, the cast is as exuberant as opening day at a county fair."

More recently, a Variety review of the 2000 production, directed by Susan Stroman, calls The Music Man "a theatrical slice of cherry pie." The critic writes, "Indeed, the marvel of Stroman's production is that none of the sugar in the show turns to saccharine, none of the characters turn to cardboard, none of the creamed-corn jokes land with too resonant a thud. The book's simple plot is at least watertight, and thus holds up better than most of its era, and while none of the gags will challenge the sensibilities of a moderately hip 10-year-old, they raise a few real smiles."

What awards has The Music Man won?

The original Broadway production of The Music Man won five Tony Awards at the 13th annual ceremony in 1958. The production won Best Musical; Robert Preston (Harold Hill), Barbara Cook (Marian Paroo), and David Burns (Mayor Shinn) all won for acting; and Herbert Greene won Best Conductor and Musical Director. Iggie Wolfington (Marcellus Washburn) was nominated against Burns for Best Featured Actor, and the show was also nominated in the direction and choreography categories.

In addition, Sammy Knapp lost the Best Stage Technician award in 1958, but was re-nominated in 1959 and won, earning The Music Man its sixth Tony.

An actor each in the 1980 and 2000 Broadway revivals received a Theatre World Award; Meg Bussert (Marian, 1980) and Craig Bierko (Harold, 2000). The 2000 revival also received eight Tony nominations including Best Revival of a Musical.

The current Broadway production will be considered for awards at the 2022 Tony Awards ceremony, which has yet to take place.

Is there a The Music Man movie?

Yes — in 1962, five years after the show premiered on Broadway, The Music Man was adapted into a film. Robert Preston, who starred as Professor Harold Hill on Broadway, reprised his role for the film, starring opposite Shirley Jones as Marian Paroo. The movie was one of the year's biggest box office hits and a critical darling. The Music Man was nominated for six Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and won one, for Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment. At the Golden Globes, the film won Best Picture (Musical or Comedy) and four additional nominations, including for Preston and for Willson's score. The film was added to the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" in 2005.

A TV movie adaptation was also made in 2003, starring Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth.

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Fun facts about The Music Man

  • Four of the characters in The Music Man are collectively known as the school board, four local businessmen who Harold transforms into a barbershop quartet. A real-life barbershop quartet called The Buffalo Bills played the roles in the 1957 Broadway production and the 1962 film version. The Music Man remains the group's most famous gig!
  • Two different meanings of the word "shipoopi," which Willson invented for the musical's song of the same name, are given in the lyrics. During the song, a high schooler requests that "The Shipoopi" be played at their dance, indicating that it's a song. But in the song's chorus, "shipoopi" is defined as a "girl who's hard to get" — more specifically, a woman who waits until the third date to kiss her man.
  • The Music Man, along with many other classic musicals, is spoofed in the 2021 Apple TV+ series Schmigadoon!, in which a couple wanders into a Golden Age musical and can't leave until they find true love. Some of the characters include the schoolmarm Emma Tate, her little brother Carson, the mayor Aloysius Menlove, and the preacher's wife Mildred Layton — they're based to various degrees on Marian Paroo, Winthrop Paroo, and Mayor and Mrs. Shinn, respectively. In one episode, Mildred sings a parody song of "(Ya Got) Trouble."
  • River City, Iowa, where The Music Man takes place, is based on Mason City, Iowa, where Meredith Willson grew up. He based many of the characters on people he saw there.
  • More than 40 drafts of The Music Man were written before a final draft was settled on. Early drafts also included nearly 40 songs; 22 were ultimately cut.

How do I get tickets for The Music Man on Broadway?

The Music Man offers nothing less than big, old-fashioned fun. There's nothing minimal about the production: You'll see a large ensemble doing plenty of lively dancing and hear a full orchestra play all the musical's classic songs. If you're looking for an escape from the pace of modern life and the urban environment of New York City, The Music Man offers a three-hour escape to the Midwest in a bygone era. Plus, you don't want to miss out on seeing stage and screen greats like Jackman and Foster perform live while you have the chance.

The Music Man tickets are available now. Get tickets to The Music Man on New York Theatre Guide today.

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