Archive for September, 2011


Broadway Time Capsule: 1975-1976 season

September 30, 2011


Average Annual Income $4,818

Tickets cost: Balcony, $7.00 Orchestra $15.00

Gas $.57

Milk $1.40

President: Gerald Ford

This feature of the blog represents:

a) a way to get to know your Broadway history by plopping you down in a particular season and poking around there

b) an easy way to see video clips and audio clips of year-specific shows and

c) a hand guide for T.V.’s time traveling Scott Bakula to what shows to see when he visits New York.

All the great historians of Musical Theatre at some point heave a great sigh, and say something like, “… and here’s where it all went down the tubes.” This era is when Gerald Bordman does that. Bordman told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1978: “I was a tired businessman myself for 20 years. I want to see pretty girls dancing and listen to someone singing a Jerome Kern song.” “I’ve stopped going to the theater. I don’t like profanity, which is used gratuitously in the theater now, or the working-class slum settings and radical sentiments,” he told the Philadelphia Daily News in 1982. “Where are the zany, delightful musicals, the airy farces, the lovely operettas?” Bordman was one of our finest chroniclers of theatre, with a perceptive mind, but the things that drew him to the theatre were on the way out in the 1970s. He died this year, but others had carried on his work in his later life. Ethan Mordden waits another 10 or 15 years to start getting cranky about things, and if I think hard enough, I can find somebody who says the early 2000s are when Broadway died. It seems to hit right about when the author turns 40, which means I’m really going to hate the shows in the season 3 or 4 years from now.

The thing is, there are always a few streams running on Broadway at the same time. In this season for example, there are shows which use the frame of American musical theatre conventions to comment on American culture, (Chicago and A Chorus Line) there are shows trying hard to catch the rock sound more or less badly (Rockabye Hamlet), there are pieces that push the very edges of what a musical can be about (Pacific Overtures, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) There are also shows celebrating the African American experience, and celebrating it well (Me and Bessie, Treemonisha, Bubbling Brown Sugar)

If you are a partisan of one of those streams of theatre which is just coming into flower, it will be the beginning of a golden age for you. If you like one of the things which is being done badly, it will seem like the nadir of the theatre. At some point, Broadway actually WILL die, but for a long time yet I think it will more likely keep shifting, finding delighted new audiences and turning fans of the stile antico into sad, misty eyed dreamers, longing for a bygone day.



Chicago is a Bob Fosse show with music by Kander and Ebb, and a book by Ebb and Fosse. It is based on the 1926 play Chicago, by Maurine Watkins, which was in turn based on an actual murder in 1924. Fosse’s take is a sardonic, dark view of the world, where everybody’s in show business, egos are large, and all the presentation is sensational/sensationalistic. The story is told through vaudeville tropes, which at once evokes, sends up, and comments on the era it takes place in. It’s a concept musical, because the story isn’t told in a traditional way, the vaudeville tropes are the story delivery mechanism, not the book scenes. Notice that Fosse is continually refining his dark, bawdy vision. The story, the actors, the music, lyrics all are only pieces in his game. A step further from Sweet Charity and Pippin, perhaps Chicago is the perfect distillation of Fosse’s way of theatre.

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

Deconstructing Harold Hill pp.24-36, One More Kiss, pp. 128-131

A Chorus Line

One of the reasons I brought up Gerald Bordman in the intro to this session is that he wrote something really incredible about A Chorus Line in the 1978 edition of his seminal American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle. He wrote: “… the show seemed to many theatergoers taxing in its demand to listen to other people’s problems and disappointing in its lack of memorable music…” I think most people today would disagree with both those assessments of this show; the way the show portrays the humanity of its characters is generally considered quite moving, and the numbers ‘One’ and ‘What I did for Love’ are considered some of the most memorable music in the 1970s, if not in the entire modern era of Broadway. For almost every person on the creative team, it represented a high water mark. Marvin Hamlisch, Michael Bennett, Ed Kleban, and the members of the cast would not ever create any better theatre than they did in this love letter to the experience of being a Broadway performer. It captured the imagination of an entire generation of theatergoers.

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

One More Kiss, pp. 217-222, Broadway Babies Say Goodnight pp.191-195


Pacific Overtures

It’s interesting to note that Chicago is covering a tawdry story using deconstructed Vaudeville methods, which Sondheim had explored in both Gypsy and Follies, and that in A Chorus Line, Michael Bennett was exploring the lives of performers fighting for relevance in a continuation of his work on Follies using methods he pioneered with Sondheim and Prince in Company, but Sondheim and Prince have moved on. They wouldn’t deconstruct show biz or explore performers until Merrily, which would scuttle their collaboration. Here they are again asking the question, “What can be made into a musical?” and finding the most unlikely and interesting answers of anyone around. Pacific Overtures is nothing short of a telescopic history of Japan, told through Kabuki theatrical conventions, with some Japanese musical and poetic forms, and with a cast of mostly unknown Asian men..

Someone in A Tree, one of Sondheim’s favorite songs.

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

One More Kiss, pp. 131-134 Sondheim & Company, pp. 209-227, Sondheim and Lloyd-Webber, pp. 213-220 Stephen Sondheim, pp. 279-284 Art Isn’t Easy, pp. 174-206 Sondheim’s Broadway Musicals, pp. 249-280 Finishing The Hat, pp. 303-329


Rockabye Hamlet

A rock Hamlet? Most people asked ‘why?’ And the second question was, “why would Gower Champion have anything to do with it?” This clip is very revealing:

P.S. I hear Meatloaf was in this show.

Want to hear more? There’s one track on this album.

Want to read more?

Not Since Carrie, 40-41, One more Kiss, p. 178

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Bernstein must have known his music was great, and that it would never work in the context of this particular show, because he insisted it not be recorded. (a shame for us, but a good choice for him, because it allowed him to reuse the material elsewhere) Ken Mandelbaum says “1600 contains the greatest score in post-war Broadway history that ever went unrecorded” Fortunately for us, there is a cantata version which was handsomely recorded in 2000.

I’m so glad these clips are on the web. You can hear 1) How stilted and crummy the dialogue is and 2) How magnificent the music is. What a waste.

The President Jefferson March

Take Care Of This House music starts 6:48 real tune starts around 8:00

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

Not Since Carrie 323-327, One More Kiss, pp.127-128, 134-137


Richard Rodgers and Sheldon Harnick tell the story of Henry VIII badly. Debut of Glenn Close in a musical, and the shortest run of Rodgers career. Ken Mandelbaum tells a story in Not Since Carrie about Nicol Williamson, at a curtain call. Dancer Jim Litten said, “That’s a wrap” but Williamson thought he said “That was crap” and slapped him right in front of the audience. Sounds like trouble, but then if you read the wikipedia article, you’ll see that Williamson is a slapper.

Want to Hear more?

Want to Read more?

Not Since Carrie, pp. 100-102, One More Kiss, p. 98-99


Ragtime King Scott Joplin’s 1910 opera was lovingly restored by Gunther Schuller, and played at Houston Grand Opera, afterward transferring to Broadway with Willard White and Carmen Balthrop among others. (Kathleen Battle was Carmen Balthrop’s alternate) A beautiful piece to be sure, but it’s better when you know that Joplin was creating an entire genre himself, there being no successful American Opera to act as a model.

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

One More Kiss, pp. 158-159

A Musical Jubilee

What a cast! Lilian Gish, Tammy Grimes, Larry Kert, John Raitt, Patrice Munsel, Dick Shawn. Wanted to show development of the American Musical, but some of the songs sung were not even from a show. Closed after 92 showings.


Can somebody help me? I can’t find out ANYTHING about this show, except that it starred Armand Assante, was based on the naughty bits in the Decameron, and closed after 48 previews and 7 performances.

Home Sweet Homer

Yul Brynner attempting a big comeback as Odysseus, with the Man Of La Mancha team writing. The show ran into trouble the entire process, with people suing restaurants for food poisoning, choreographers getting fired, Brynner threatening to quit, and the backers threatening to close the show. Evidently on the road for the pre-broadway tryout, Brynner demanded all his hotel rooms be painted a specific shade of tan, and that the kitchens in the hotel suites be stocked with a dozen brown eggs, and no white ones! Lasted one performance.

Want to read more? One More Kiss, pp. 121-122

So Long 174th Street

Robert Morse, who was too old to play the part, in an overblown version of Joseph Stein’s play version of Carl Reiner’s novel Enter Laughing, which was based on Reiner’s life. Lasted 16 performances. Morse’s star power couldn’t pull this one out of obscurity, but the songs, particularly the one in this video, are still getting some play.

Want to hear more?

Want to read more? One More Kiss, pp. 187-188 Not Since Carrie, pp. 195-196

Something’s Afoot

A play on Agatha Christie Mysteries that never quite got off the ground. Seems to have a life in community and regional theatre.

Want to read more?

One More Kiss, pp. 180-181


Bubbling Brown Sugar

BBS was a tour through black music, and a fantastic tour at that. It ran for two years, and started a movement of tributes to African American songs that would include Eubie!, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and Jelly’s Last Jam.

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

One More Kiss, pp. 172-173

Me and Bessie

A tribute to Bessie Smith by Linda Hopkins, I get the impression it was more a cabaret than a musical.

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

One More Kiss, p. 170


Patrice Munsel, the youngest singer ever to debut at the Metropolitan Opera, first singing there in 1943 at the age of 17, and making her debut the following year in Mignon. She had her own television show, The Patrice Munsel Show, from 1956-1957. Here she is on What’s my Line in 1958.

Glenn Close had already been in 3 Broadway plays, but Rex was her first musical. She has since appeared in Barnum, Sunset Boulevard, and an Off-Broadway benefit concert of Busker Alley.

Here’s a picture of her from Rex. She’s the one on the left, looking just a little like Joan Sutherland.


Broadway Time Capsule 1965-1966 Season

September 24, 2011


Average Annual Income: $6,450

Tickets cost: Balcony $2.85-3.80, Orchestra $6.25 – $7.50

Gas $.31 a gallon

Milk $1.05 a gallon

President: Lyndon B. Johnson

This feature of the blog represents:

a) a way to get to know your Broadway history by plopping you down in a particular season and poking around there

b) an easy way to see video clips and audio clips of year-specific shows and

c) a hand guide for T.V.’s time traveling Scott Bakula to what shows to see when he visits New York.




Man of La Mancha

This retelling of Don Quixote through the frame of Cervantes imprisonment in the Spanish Inquisition started out as a television drama, then was fleshed out into a musical. It’s notable for having no violins, violas or cellos in the pit, instead filling out the band with traditional flamenco instrumentation. It has a reputation for the stirring and popular anthems The Impossible Dream, and The Man Of LaMancha (popularly known as I, Don Quixote), and even though it has been revived on Broadway 4 times, it doesn’t appeal to Theatre snobs very much. Things might have been different with the original lineup, which included W.H. Auden writing lyrics, and Rex Harrison as Don Quixote. But Auden’s lyrics were considered too biting, and Harrison couldn’t cut the singing, so we got the populist lyrics of Joe Darion, and the lead went to Richard Kiley, seen here:

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

Open A New Window, pages 200-204

Sweet Charity

This is a Bob Fosse/Gwen Verdon show. Oh, and book by some guy named Neil Simon. Somehow, Bob Fosse’s theatrical sense overwhelms every other collaborator. Whether it’s Kander and Ebb, Adler and Ross, or this time, Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields, it’s always a punchy, kind of raunchy sound, with lots of pauses for movement. As brilliant as Big Spender is, compare it to Kander and Ebb’s music for the Cell Block Tango. All the coolest things are clearly Fosse’s ideas. I sometimes feel like the big moments are all written by Fosse himself, with the composer called in at the last minute to put the finishing touches on the thing. This is a little documentary footage of the original production including some footage of the movie.

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

Open A New Window, pages 219-223 Rewrites, pp. 214-218


Mame is one of the shows which is slowly dropping out of the canon. Like Hello Dolly!, it has great music, some broad comedy, and a role for a glamorous and perhaps older woman. It’s not as clean as Hello Dolly!, so it isn’t quite as good for schools, and the treatment comes off as dated now. It does have great numbers, and Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur were fantastic:

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

Open A New Window, pp. 114-119

On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever

This show (like all Alan Jay Lerner’s shows after My Fair Lady) ran into some trouble. It was first supposed to be written by Richard Rodgers, who after the death of Oscar Hammerstein went flitting from partner to partner. Their collaboration was to be called I Picked A Daisy But Rodgers found Lerner’s working methods unworkable, so the collaboration fell apart, and Lerner turned to Burton Lane to write the music. (to my knowledge, none of Rodgers material is in the final product) Like many of Lerner’s shows, the book is problematic. Like many of Lerner’s shows, and all of his marriages, it involved an older man attempting to transform a younger woman. Lane hadn’t had a show on Broadway since 1947’s Irish Finian’s Rainbow. (the same year of Lerner’s Scottish Brigadoon) Mark Steyn relates a story about James Kirkwood, who said that since the musical was an original story, when he saw the show,  at intermission he was delighted that he didn’t know how the show was going to end. Lerner later said, “I didn’t either. That was the trouble.” In this set of clips, you’ll see the amazingly quirky Barbara Harris, who you may recognize from her work in The Apple Tree, which would open 4 months after this show closed.

Want to Hear more?

Want to Read more?

The Wordsmiths, pp. 329-342. Broadway Babies Say Goodnight p. 119 Open A New Window, pp. 243-244


Drat! The Cat!

Okay, you’d never know it from listening to this bootleg clip, but this show is really well respected by the pointy headed musical theatre geek crowd! It’s about this burglar, you see, and the overture is staged with her white gloves stealing stuff all over town. Remember that Streisand hit He Touched Me? Well, it’s from this show, and she recorded it to drum up business for the show. Her then-husband Elliot Gould (best known now as Ross and Monica’s dad on Friends) was in the show. Enthusiasts of this show managed to get the show recorded, with Elaine Stritch, Judy Kaye, Susan Egan and Jason Graee, among others.

Want to hear more? Really, you should listen to some of the clips of the studio cast. I’m not being fair by showing you only this clip…

Want to read more?

Open A New Window, pp. 217-218, Not Since Carrie, pp. 296-297


The Zulu and the Zayda

Who could go wrong with a show about an unlikely friendship between a Yiddish grandfather and a young Zulu in South Africa? They could… But the underappreciated Harold Rome wrote a decent score, and because this show was a flop, he was able to reuse a lot of the material. Sadly, he wouldn’t use it on Broadway. This was his last score for Broadway.

Want to hear more?


This show has some lovely moments, but people in the know say they are few and not enough to make it a worthwhile evening. The show limped into NY in trouble and was being rewritten every evening when Dorothy Kilgallen saw it in previews around Thanksgiving and announced ‘I had my turkey early this year’ But people still came to see it for Julie Harris. BTW, does this number start out like “Guys and Dolls” or what?

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

Open A New Window, pp. 216-218, Not Since Carrie, pp. 86-89 Notes on Broadway, pp. 41-43


Hey, Oliver! worked. How about more Dickens? No thank you. Closed after 56 performances.

Couldn’t find anything from the original cast on the you tube, but this is Jan Peerce singing a song from the show, in the year it came out:

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

You can’t.


Wright and Forrest spent a career retooling the melodies of great composers into new operetta. They did it most successfully to the music of Borodin in Kismet, but they also did it to Grieg in Song of Norway, and to Villa Lobos in Magdalena. Here they’re telling the story of Anastasia, the woman thought to be the last surviving Romanov, using the music of Rachmaninoff! So basically we have the story of the movie Anastasia, which everybody loves, told using the glorious music of one of Russia’s greatest composers. Sadly, it was a big flop, running only 2 weeks. The era of operetta was over, and it wouldn’t really come back until20 years later, when we were treated to Phantom of the Opera, and by that time everybody had forgotten what operetta was. Wright and Forrest evidently kept bringing the show back over and over again in various cities and companies, hoping to fix whatever might have been wrong with it, but it remains a mostly forgotten show. I couldn’t even find a clip of it!

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

Not Since Carrie, pp. 235-236, Open A New Window, pp. 86-87




Wait a Minim!

A South African Revue, with music by Jeremy Taylor, which included his big hit, Ag Pleez Daddy, which must have gone right over the heads of the New York crowd in 1966. But then they kept coming for 456 performances…

Warning: contains what may be considered a slur, although I’m not sure I’m understanding it correctly…

Want to hear more?

Pousse Café

This Duke Ellington show lasted only 3 performances. I really like Duke Ellington, but when he was writing for film or for the musical theatre, it seems like he was stepping out of his element. He evidently wrote a ridiculous amount of music for the show. The lyrics are by Marshall Barer, better known for his lyrics for Once Upon a Mattress. Pousse Café is mentioned in almost none of the Broadway reference books, and I had difficulty finding out any information at all about it. Prime territory for theatre nerds.

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

Not Since Carrie, pp. 177-178

It’s A Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman!

Hal Prince’s last musical comedy. His next show would be Cabaret. The score was by Adams and Strouse, they of Bye Bye Birdie fame. Superman flew on wires and the set included cartoon boxes in which the action took place. I think there was a time when you could honestly hope to bring this show back, but after the recent Spider Man fiasco, it’s starting to look like superheroes really have no place in musical theatre! If you love the original Christopher Reeve Superman as much as I do, you may be interested to know that the librettists of this show co-wrote the screenplay to the movie (with some guy named Mario Puzo)

Now, you occasionally read people saying that the creators of the show were being very serious with their material, and that this show represented a break from the campy treatment of superheroes. I think this number from the 1975 television version of the musical puts the lie to that…

Want to hear more?

Want to read more?

Not Sine Carrie, pp. 135-136 Open A New Window, 239-241 Broadway Babies Say Goodnight pp. 119-120


Broadway Time Capsule: 1955-1956 Season

September 17, 2011


Tickets cost: Balcony $2.30, Orchestra $4.90

Gas $.23 a gallon

Milk $.43 a ½ gallon

Average Income: $4,137

President: Dwight D. Eisenhower

This feature of the blog represents:

a) a way to get to know your Broadway history by plopping you down in a particular season and poking around there

b) an easy way to see video clips and audio clips of year-specific shows and

c) a hand guide for T.V.’s time traveling Scott Bakula to what shows to see when he visits New York.

In the 1950s, many Broadway writers were dealing with the high-brow/low-brow question. Was Broadway great ‘art’? Did it have that potential? If it did have high-art potential, what form would that take? The 55-56 season brought that question to the fore in some interesting ways.


My Fair Lady

I don’t suppose I need to introduce this show to you, but perhaps I could put it in the high-brow/low-brow framework. My Fair Lady has some serious high-brow bragging rights, since its source material was written by a theatrical genius, George Bernard Shaw. Nevermind that he never would have stood for it if he were alive, especially with the happy ending, which he would have despised. My Fair Lady allowed you to have a good time and feel smart at the same time. British accents in plays have always sounded smart, and this play is practically about accents. Composer Frederick Loewe was really Viennese, and the music is actually fairly well grounded both in American Musical Theatre conventions and Viennese Operetta conventions, which is why the songs are sometimes sung by opera singers, and why the show is still popular as an operetta in central Europe to this day. Watch this clip, and remember that Julie was 21 at the time.

(to see the same thing in color)

This show would go on to run 2,711 performances, breaking the record for the longest running show on Broadway, beating the record previously held by Oklahoma!

Want to hear more? Original Broadway Cast

Want to read more? The Wordsmiths pp. 261-280 Coming Up Roses, pp. 151-161 The Making of My Fair Lady


The Most Happy Fella

This show represents the other end of the smarty-pants spectrum. Where in My Fair Lady, the leading male character almost doesn’t sing at all, EVERYBODY sings in The Most Happy Fella, nearly all the time. It had in the original cast: Robert Weede, a genuine opera star, legit soprano Jo Sullivan (who Frank Loesser ditched his co-producer wife to marry), and these two ENORMOUS voices:

Art Lund

and Susan Johnson. (if you love Seth Rudetsky, you’re welcome. If you can’t stand him, move along please)

This show was the pinnacle of Frank Loesser’s attempts to prove to his Classical Piano brother Arthur that he too was a real composer, and not just the dude who wrote ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’. (Arthur Loesser was a classical pianist and a great writer on all things piano. He used to call himself  ‘The Evil of Two Loessers’) I think Frank largely succeeded this time. It’s actually a real American opera, and has many subtle details and psychological insights. The show ran a very respectable 678 performances.

Want to hear more? Original Broadway Cast

Want to read more? Coming Up Roses pp. 141-145, The Broadway Musical: A Critical and Musical Survey, pp. 153-178


Pipe Dream

Pipe Dream represents another attempt to smarten up the form of the musical with new and fresh source material, in this case Steinbeck’s Novel Sweet Thursday. Rodgers and Hammerstein hadn’t had a bona-fide hit since 1951, in The King and I. Sadly, this wouldn’t be their next one. A lot of people fight over why it flopped, whether Met star Helen Traubel was the problem, and whether it’s fixable. (Notice this Broadway season had two Metropolitan Opera stars in it?) Apparently next year we can expect a new edition of the score, as part of the R&H organization’s exploration of the forgotten shows in the R&H canon. This show represented the low point for R&H, and it must have been a tough pill to swallow, especially since they had turned down the chance to write My Fair Lady, and since Frank Loesser had turned down Pipe Dream to write the far more successful Most Happy Fella. They didn’t know which shows to turn down, and they didn’t know which shows to say yes to! (or did they?)

Want to hear more? Original Broadway Cast

Want to read more? Not Since Carrie, pp. 96-100 The Wordsmiths pp. 254-260, Coming Up Roses pp. 124-128

The Vamp

The Vamp is a big flop. Henry Hewes wrote in the Sunday Review: “…the loudest, fastest, and most boring musical comedy in some time.” The show was written as a vehicle for Carol Channing, and after it bombed, we would see her in only one show on Broadway until Hello Dolly in 1964, which would change her fortunes again. Here she is, talking about The Vamp:

Want to read more? Not Since Carrie, pp. 58-59, Coming Up Roses pp. 129-131


Mr. Wonderful

Like Sammy Davis? Me too! Wouldn’t he be awesome in a musical? Yes! Can we get Chita Rivera in it? Sure can!  Jule Styne is producing it? Sounds great! Let’s take a chance on this new kid Jerry Bock to write some of the tunes. The result? Meh.. But Sammy Davis was great! Here are two numbers from the show:

Want to hear more? Original Broadway Cast

Want to read more? Coming Up Roses, p. 131

Joyce Grenfell Requests the Pleasure

Joyce Grenfell was a british actress, comedienne, singer, and songwriter. She was wonderful. She had a brief solo stint at the Bijou which started on October 10, 1955 and ran for 65 performances. The soundtrack to the London version of that material is available on CD. For your pleasure, I have located the following funny clips to give you an idea of what she was like:

Want to hear more? Recording


Jerry Bock, of Bock and Harnick. Made his Broadway debut writing for a show called ‘To Catch A Star’ in 1955. In 1958, The Body Beautiful would be the first Bock and Harnick Show, and the rest, as they say, is history.


The Music Man: A Rough Guide for the M.D.

September 9, 2011


1) Listen to the Original 1957 Broadway Cast Recording

You could also listen to the Original 1962 Film soundtrack, but it won’t line up with the show exactly.

Nerd points: listen to the Craig Bierko revival.

Super Nerd points: Find the abridged Original London Cast version

(careful, there is another one on Amazon, but it looks like it might be the Movie soundtrack instead)

2) Read the script.

3) Watch the Original Movie with Robert Preston.

Nerd points: Watch the 2003 movie with Matthew Broderick and La Chenoweth.

Don’t watch these movies the other way around. This is Robert Preston’s show, Broderick and Bierko are very good Johnny-come-latelys. Let Preston form your mental image of the show, and then use the other two to show you another way to go with it.

4) Get the book Deconstructing Harold Hill and read the chapter about The Music Man. It will provide a bed of great background information and trivia.

Nerd Points: Get Meredith Willson’s book, But He Doesn’t Know The Territory.

Super Bonus Score Nerd Points: Get Meredith Willson’s other book, And There I Stood With My Piccolo.


This show is a beauty. It has a bunch of qualities you look for when you choose a musical:

1) It has many many small chorus parts

2) It has the option for a number of small children in the town scenes, and two big roles for kids. If you’re in a community theatre, children = box office. Everyone’s grandma wants to see little Barney in the big show, even if he’s only in the back because he can’t dance.

3) The Music Man has roles for people who can sing well, but none of the roles are particularly taxing. It also has roles, real roles for people who can’t sing, but can act, and roles for people who can’t act, but can sing!

4) It has tremendous name recognition, and it’s also pretty clean, with a couple of very mild exceptions.

5) The show is just about perfectly constructed. I don’t know how, but Meredith Willson constructed a nearly perfect show that is just about idiot proof. If you do all the parts even moderately well, the audience loves it.

Here are some casting thoughts for your audition process.


They really are only characters for the first scene, in which they don’t sing, but do have to have a sense of rhythm. Fill that train with your guys who have rhythm but can’t necessarily sing. Use your singing guys in the next scene.


This part can be given to the fellow in your program who is a good actor but can’t sing. Should have an outgoing, magnetic personality, but be able to play creepy and unattractive. To pull it off well, Cowell should be funny and stylish, but really slimy and unwelcome in his brief scenes.


Robert Preston couldn’t really sing, or rather, he could sing just enough to pull of this great role. Your Harold MUST be able to get through The Sadder But Wiser Girl, Marian The Librarian, and most importantly, Till There Was You. For these numbers, you need a passable F above middle C, which is approached gingerly, and left quickly. Ezio Pinza is not needed. But you DO need a very strong stage presence, the ability to command an audience’s attention, and a basic likeability. He is a likeable cad. If he isn’t likeable, you don’t have a show. And if you can’t see why the town would follow him, the plot won’t make sense. Ability to move a little, hopefully dance a softshoe is a plus.

This part is also great for an actor who can’t sing. But this guy needs to be able to play older, and have comic timing. Should also play well against Eulalie.


These are your roles for the singers who can’t act. But they do have to sing in traditional barbershop harmony. Do some basic ear testing, or teach them a passage from the show and see if they can hold the harmony. These guys have lines, but they can be stiff and sound like line readings, and you’ll be just fine. For goodness sake, please don’t make an octet of guys. Yes, it would help them hold their parts, and it would give more parts to more people, but it’s an amateurish move. Don’t do it!


Marcellus is a great comedic role, with a little dancing involved. There is a high g, but there is a way to kind of speak/sing this part if you get in a bind. Really and truly, this role is written for the big jolly tenor type, the guy who would also get cast as Nicely-Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls.

Another great role for a guy who doesn’t have to sing! The only trick with this role is that you have to look young. Normally not a problem, but if your Harold Hill looks 14, your Tommy Djilas has to look 12.


A traditional Musical Theatre Ingenue, with a g above the staff (optional high a flat) Should have a little spunk and be able to project intelligence and prudishness. Should be able to dance a little.


A little girl, should be able to sing up to a fourth space e. Make the poor child read that horrible line she has to say about Winthrop all the way up to the Old Maid line. It’s a badly written moment that’s difficult to pull off, because she has to go from an awkwardly written complaint during which she has to cry into a lame joke about Marian being an old maid.


Get a kid with a strong personality who can pull off the lisp.Unchanged voice absolutely essential. Needs to sing a fourth space Eb in Gary Indiana. But  your callback cut should really be the Wells Fargo solo, because it shows the lisp and the personality, and it goes to the highest note, E natural.


A role for a girl who doesn’t have to sing. This can also be a great role for one of your actresses who doesn’t fit the type of the leading ladies in most of your shows. Should be able to spar well with Mayor Shinn, and pull off the Grecian Urn scene. She also needs to be able to shut everyone down during the pickalittle number: “STOP! I’ll tell!”


A role for a girl with personality who also doesn’t have to sing. Must read older than Winthrop and Amaryliss and younger than the ‘adults’ of the cast. Also needs to be able to deliver those weird petulant lines and have some chemistry with your Tommy Djilas.


The female counterparts (literally) of the barbershop quartet. Where Mayor Shinn has the four fellows to rile up, Mrs. Shinn naturally riles up all their wives. Again, don’t cast 8 girls and make up new names. These girls have music that isn’t nearly as difficult as the quartet, but they do have to be able to spit out the words, and they can’t be tone deaf. It’s also lovely to cast them with a wide variety of body types, one tall and thin, one short and round, etc. Another plus would be to choose women who can effect a haughty expression. Your girls who don’t quite make the grade could be the other ladies in the Pick-a-little number.


One final role for a guy who doesn’t have to sing. A big, authoritarian guy would be nice, perhaps with a twinkle in his eye.

A few things to note about the Music Director’s Materials:

The new materials MTI sends out are well done. You may want to find the original vocal score just to be thorough, and because at times it is much more playable in rehearsal (Train Opening is a good example). Because I’m a theatre wonk, I already had one, but MTI did a very good job modernizing the score and parts. The few errors I found, I’ll list below.


3. Rock Island

This isn’t that hard a number if people are on their game. It runs like clockwork, actually, but if anyone ever drops a line or misses an entrance, you’re in big trouble. In my cast, an enterprising young man used an audio program to edit the part into stereo with individual parts panned hard left and all the other parts panned hard right. Truly, you must get everyone in the room together and run it a billion times. A number of productions I’ve been involved with have had the drummer play lightly with brushes. It’s a train effect, so work to emphasize the trainy sounds, like the SH in Cash! And the YeSSSS SSir! YeSSS SSir! Also, be sure to start SLOW, so that the build up to measure 13 can have its full effect.

4. Iowa Stubborn

Measure 26 has the word thermometers in it. Make sure it’s plural. Right away. Let the Altos and Basses sing measure 30 through the third beat of measure 31 down the octave. They can go back to the way it’s written in the last beat of 31. (same thing in 44 & 45) Use your judgment about measure 34 and 35. Your Basses in particular may not sound pretty on the high F. I think the sixteenth note triplet at the end of 38 doesn’t work. It sounds rushed and confused, and reads like a mistake, not like an intentional change from the last time the phrase was sung. Make it the same 8th note triplet from before, and give a strong 3 out of the dialogue. It’s very effective to drop the dynamic down to mp at the end of measure 46 after the caesura. I put a strong ghost vowel after the t of shirt in measure 47 and the t of it in measure 48. Build the crescendo to the third beat of 47, and punch shirt. It’s funny. Cast the farmer and the farmer’s wife by how much they can look like American Gothic by Grant Wood. They can talk the section if they can’t sing it. Altos and basses can drop the octave for Hawkeye Iowa in measure 56. I’m told the kuk of Keokuk is pronounced cuck rhyming with duck. If you’re from Keokuk, please confirm or correct this pronunciation. There is no fermata in measure 62. Have the chorus cut the final note off ON beat 2.

5. Ya Got Trouble

This number is so colored by Robert Preston’s delivery of it that some of the original notation and words are not customarilly performed. Adding those rhythms and words back as they appear in the notation adds nothing, and is actually confusing. Here are a few of the things that have now become performance practice which are different from what’s on the page:

In measure 29, people don’t sing that rhythm. People normally speak an eighth rest, an eighth note, and 3 quarters. In measures 33 and 34, nobody says “it’s a little, ah-“ They normally sing “degra-da, I say first, me-di-ci-nal wine from a tea-spoon, etc.”. In measure 107, performers normally sing goes and on with two quarters, and in measure 108, performers normally do loa-fin’ a-round on four eights, with the on the last quarter of the measure. These are not places to be a stickler about the written rhythm. If you do it the ‘right’ way, your audience will be put off, it won’t be clear, and let’s face it. Preston did it every night this ‘wrong’ way for years, and then again in a movie, and Meredith Willson would have fixed it if he’d cared. When I played this role in high school, my voice teacher wisely told me to intone the speaking (half singing) instead of shouting it. It sounds better, and it saves the voice. Furthermore, in measures 135, 137, 143, and other similar spots, cut that dotted half, and get them to sing the ble of trouble nice and clipped. This is the only way to clear space for Harold’s interjections. There’s a nice effect that has become traditional, to punch some of the troubles in measure 151 after some particularly frightening predictions during Harold’s little monologue. Time those with the director. In measure 178, people will want to sing quarter rest, Oh on an eighth, yes on another eighth tied to one more eighth, then as written. You decide if you like that better. 183 usually morphs over time into three quarters, and so does 185. I suggest you try and get the offbeat entrance in 185 the way it is on the page. It’s much better the way it’s written.

SIDEBAR: You can sing almost any rap from the 80s to this accompaniment. Try it at a party.

6. Trouble Playoff and Walking Music

When you get to measure 16, be ready to change your beat pattern. Just have a look at it, or you’ll blow it the first couple of times. If you need a repeat, 29 and 30 work well.

7. Piano Lesson and If You Don’t Mind My Saying So.

This number and Goodnight My Someone are the two places where it makes a big difference to have a little girl who can play the piano. When I did this show last, I forgot to tell the set designer that our little girl played, and they built a non-working set piano. I had to beg them to bring out a real one, and I had a little girl and a mother who weren’t very happy for a little while. Make sure your little girl doesn’t rush in the fourths exercise. It needs to start slowly, excepting, of course, measures 29-31, where it’s too fast as a joke. If you need to, put an electric metronome discretely on the set with a light blinking during rehearsals so your Amaryllis can keep perfect time until the orchestra takes over. Take that metronome away during tech week.

8. Goodnight, My Someone

SIDEBAR: When one begins to explore the history of Musical Theatre, one begins to develop a certain snobbery against very popular musicals. I think overexposure of this musical has caused many lovers of musicals to overlook The Music Man’s particular and groundbreaking innovations, and to relegate it to the category of creaky Americana. When a theatre lover first discovers that in 1958, The Music Man beat West Side Story for the Tony for Best Musical, that it won 5 Tonys to West Side Story’s 2, he becomes angry at society’s inability to recognize greatness. But if I describe the show to you in a particular way, I think you’ll hear it for what it was: groundbreaking. The Music Man is a story about a con man who goes into a small town in Iowa in 1912 and swindles them into buying instruments for their children that he is not equipped to show them how to use. When his scheme is exposed, the town mobilizes to expel him bodily and painfully, but when they see the children playing their instruments badly, he is hailed as a hero, and wins the love of the skeptical librarian who had formerly been his staunchest opponent. The story plays as an allegory of American enterprise, the strength of American communities, and the triumph of style over skill in American endeavor. Musically, the show begins with a spoken chorus of salesmen imitating a train. The lead character barely sings, and his introductory number is a gospel style chorus backing up his patter, which is half Henry Higgins, and half carnival barker rapping. Later numbers include a barbershop quartet harmonizing with a group of ladies imitating chickens, a legitimate piano exercise played by a child which blossoms into a ballad, which is later sped up considerably and becomes the show’s theme song, a Sousa March spoof. There is also a chorus singing an obscure national hymn badly, a Frank Loesser style ballad for the soprano that wanders around tonally like an arietta, and two soft shoes, one about a woman of ill-repute, and one about a town whose name does not contain the consonant s, so that a lisping child can sing it better. When you explain it that way, the show sounds downright Avant-Garde! The fact that Willson was able to do all these goofy things so well that the show plays like an ice cream sundae is evidence of his true genius, and shows a man perfectly matched to his subject matter.

But back to the number… The exercise here can be taught to a girl who doesn’t play piano. The other one is actually kind of tricky. The slower and more dramatic the left hand stretch up to the high C, the funnier it is. Again, make sure it doesn’t go too fast at the beginning. Watch the final t in the last word. Put it right on the downbeat with the button. As written, the t is on beat 2, after the orchestra has announced the number is over! And yes, this tune is 76 trombones, only quite a bit slower, right down to the b section (true love can be whispered from heart to heart is there were copper bottomed timpani in horse platoons)

9. Columbia, the Gem of The Ocean

This is a real song! At one point, it was evidently a serious contender to be our national anthem. I think the song should be sung badly, with a lot of vibrato. We had a lot of fun with it.

10. Ya Got Trouble (Reprise)

Make sure Harold really punches the word boys every time it comes up.

11-13. 76 Trombones and Dances

It’s tempting to try and get your Harold to really put a long classical line in here, but please don’t. This melody is more accented and separated than that. The long notes at the end of the phrases should be sung with confidence, but not overextended. Harold’s performance needs to be exuberant and down to earth, not mannered. If there is any subtlety, it comes with a dynamic drop at 37 (copper bottomed timpani) and a crescendo to 43 (all along the way) I feel the same way about the chorus at 88 and 91. Carrying those notes to their full value seems stylistically wrong to me. The Harch! Harch! Harch! at 93 is customarily shouted. There are many cuts to be taken should they be necessary in the dances. This is one of the great dance breaks, but a dance break is only as good as it can be danced, so cut it to the length that it can all be danced well.

14. Ice Cream/Sincere

This number is a little clearer in the original vocal score. It’s important that each of these men sound like their voice types in the scene before the number, so that Harold’s inspiration to turn them into a vocal quartet reads well from the audience. Harold doesn’t need to attend all your rehearsals for this, (after all he leaves mid number, and only sings 2 notes) but you should budget time to teach him how to use a pitch pipe. I think the hardest portions of this song are when the interior voices cross, such as between measures 16 and 17, measures 27 and 28, 30 and 31, measure 41 (especially), and 42. There is a fluidity of tempo to this and most barbershop that can only be learned by hearing examples of it and by singing together, feeling the changes as one. The number is notated at first with some of these nuances, but quickly abandons the idea. Nothing but caesuras appear between measures 22 and 39, but traditionally people really pick the tempo up at 22, slowing again at 25. The second par of 28 usually speeds up, culminating in a fermata at 30, then speeding back up again in the second beat, etc. Listening to the Buffalo Bills in the original soundtrack will give you the idea. But it’s not right to conduct these changes from the pit. A true barbershop group feels these changes among themselves. Budget a LOT of time to work these barbershop numbers, unless you are lucky enough to have a true barbershop group in these parts, in which case, they likely already know them, and will wander off on their own initiative to sing these and many others. (barbershop groups are like that)

16. The Sadder But Wiser Girl

This is an old-fashioned soft shoe to be done ‘In-One’ in front of the curtain. In measures 23-28 and 73-74, watch the dotted quarter note at the end of the measure, and make sure that it comes on the off-beat. Measure 30, it’s tricky placing the the in the right place. Teach it correctly the first time. There is a counter-melody available for whichever actor has a higher range. In 81, the higher voice sings F# for all 3 notes, in 82, the higher voice sings f natural all four notes, and the final 4 notes, the higher voice sings E for all 3 notes.

11. Pick-a-little, Talk-a-little and Goodnight Ladies

Just a couple of things on this one. Getting the first note is not really a problem on this one; it’s so repetitive that something usually kicks in and girls can find that first note. What is tricky is beginning the number together right off of the cue. I took the cue line and made it the pickup to the song, like so:

“After all she IS the liBRARian”

IS is beat 3, RAR is beat 4. The group of ladies uses the pickup to sync their entrance. Otherwise they all have to cast a sidelong glance and I’d have to bring my upbeat as he’s saying the line. Whether you use that trick or not, Harold does have to get through the line promptly. If it slows down near the end, he’ll cut off your upbeat and you’ll come in early or sloppy or both.

Watch the pianissimo in measure 9. I think it applies to the singers as well.

In measure 15 and elsewhere, Balzac should be spoken archly on two half notes, not two eighth notes as written. This is not an editorial error in the new edition; the old vocal score is also written this way. But the word reads much better stretched out over the measure, and Hermione Gingold’s performance has solidified this reading of it.

Budget a few minutes to look at Alma’s ‘shehada’ in measure 22. It’s pretty danged fast.

18. Marian the Librarian

I prefer to tell the pit that measure 2 comes at the vocal cue rather than cueing the release of the vamp. I don’t particularly want Harold watching me during the opening vamp. I want him schmoozing Marian! Probably a good idea to let your pit know what’s going on in 6 and 7 also. If your show runs a long time, the lines in measure 5 may work their way into being the same every single time, but mostly, measure 6 will be either a rushed entrance or a long wait for the end of the bar. Two possible ways to idiot-proof the spot:

1) Tell the pit that when Harold sings Ma-dam Li-, you are at the last 3 eighths of measure 6.

2)  Tell the pit to split measure 6 into 6A and 6B, two 6/8 measures. Park on 6B until you hear him sing Ma-dam Li-, then give a strong cue out.

This kind of thing seems nitpicky, but unless your pit is a crackerjack pit, explaining the section ahead of time is FAR less time intensive than screwing it up 3 or 4 times and then fixing it.

Clue Harold in on the dynamics in the orchestra under his Marians. Measures 18 & 19, for example, crescendo and decrescendo comically. Indicate that in your gesture to the orchestra too.

If your Harold can really sing, measure 41 should really bloom into a lyric phrase with long line and the whole 9 yards. If Harold doesn’t have the pipes, he just has to charm his way through the phrases.

If your Harold can’t sing, you could drop ‘it’s a long’ and ‘for the civilized world’ in measures 58-61 the octave. This is a last resort, though. The high version is much to be preferred.

I think the dance break in this number is one of the perfect dance breaks, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t cuts to be had. Only dance as long as it looks good.

You may need a safety in measure 148 in the Marian Dance.

23. My White Knight

This is an example of a kind of number that started getting written in the ‘50s, with an unobtrusive musical hook, rangey and angular melodies, and at least one long section of wandering tonality in a kind of arioso delivery. It fits among other examples of its time:

My Time of Day (Guys and Dolls) 1950

A New Town is A Blue Town (The Pajama Game) 1954

Aren’t You Glad? (The Most Happy Fella) 1956

My White Knight (The Music Man) 1957

Rosemary (How To Succeed)1961

This style wouldn’t really be out of place in American Opera from the time, and in Loesser’s case, I’m pretty sure that’s what he was driving at, since he was always trying to smarten up his musicals to compete with his half-brother Arthur. It’s certainly an attempt to break out of the 32 bar frame that Broadway had been locked into for so long. Unfortunately for the amateur performance, these numbers fall flat in second-rate performances, because they need to be sung well and acted with strong objectives and a clear line of thought.

It’s no surprise that they wrote a new number for this moment in the movie version, (Being in Love) and a new version of My Time of Day for the movie of Guys and Dolls. (Your Eyes are the Eyes) On the other hand, these numbers are the perfect ‘50s expression of longing and character definition. In the case of My White Knight, it’s crucial, because it shows that Marian isn’t just an uptight prude (although she is that), but she has an ideal man in mind, one who is literate and noble. She also doesn’t think that dream is impossible. It also pays off the conversation she has with her mother earlier in the piano lesson sequence, when Mrs. Paroo tells her she has unreasonable expectations. So the number functions to humanize her and to distance her from Harold, who is none of the things she wants. This makes ‘Till There Was You’ work better much later in the show. After all, if Marian only has to stop being a prude to love Harold, well, that’s not much. If she also has to leave behind a long cherished ideal, that’s a better story.

Make sure your Marian has a nice, open, forward resonant placement, right from the beginning. We need the thing to start pushing forward at measure 18, slowing for effect at m. 26. Open the e vowel in m. 30 and 32. I like it when the singer doesn’t breathe between 45 and 46, then breathing after Knight in 47. Measures 60-62 should be very broad, but don’t let your orchestra overpower your singer. At 63, really pick up the pace to the end.

24. The Wells Fargo Wagon

Dynamics make the beginning of this piece. Pianissimo up top, suddenly Fortissimo at 18! Watch the consonants. Measure 31 is an error. The vocal parts are an octave too high. These solos can be given to girls in some cases, even when they’re listed to men. You really don’t want all your sopranos to sing the high A at 60. Have maybe 3 or 4 of them sing that A, have the rest of them sing the Alto line, and get the altos to sing an A for two measures, then a B for 62 and 63, and then an A for 64. Then both parts should go back to singing as written in measure 65. Another option would be to have the sopranos sing the Alto part and the Altos sing the soprano part down the octave. OR if you don’t really have enough boys, have the sopranos sing the alto part, and have the altos sing the tenor part in their low range. The lower group should be going for the Mitch Miller sound. Big, beefy tone there, if you can. I changed the half note at 67 to a quarter and added a quarter rest, so that everyone could close that t consonant and get a good breath for the end. 2nd sopranos could sing an E from 68-70 if that tessitura is too high.

28. It’s You

See notes for #14. Inner voices cross at 15,17,18,19,20,22,23,27,29,30,31,33,34, 35. As with most barbershop music, the melody is the 2nd tenor (or lead) part. It might be advisable to rehearse the 1st tenor, the baritone and bass together, adding the melody later. Again, a flexible tempo set by the singers is the goal. The orchestra hit at the end should only be done when you have a crackerjack group that can stay in tune. Otherwise, the moment of truth when the pit comes in reveals how badly out of tune your group has gone.

29. Shipoopi

Let’s just come right out and admit it. This number is ridiculous. What does it have to do with the story? Well, it’s there for a reason, and you need to play it that way. The beginning of the second act of a musical is always a mess. The end of the first act of a musical should have the story in a state of suspense, with a shoe about to drop. The beginning of the second act should let the audience feel that they’re watching the same play, and it should keep them interested enough to want to watch the rest of the show, but if big plot details come in, the audience feels worried that the show is never going to end! What’s needed is some fluffy light eye candy to distract you briefly before the story rockets to the finish. And that’s where we are.

You can build a repeat into the first 4 measures if you need one. Most Marcellusses speak (shout) measures 15 and 16. The chorus at 23-30 should be marcato and separated. If you observe the accents in 31-38, the musical line will be goofy in a really funny way. Boo on Meredith Willson for this one thing: Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do Si La Sol Fa Mi Re Do is really Sol La Ti Do Re Mi Fa Sol, Fa Mi Re Do Ti La Sol, and he knew better. But you should do it his way anyhow, the characters certainly don’t know the right way to do it; they’re learning their theory from a musical illiterate! You could talk mm. 59-66, but it would be better to sing it. I think singing it down the octave would be a little weak, but it might also be a solution. Get your chorus to really be on those consonants from day 1. Once again, Laurence Rosenthal did a bang-up job on this dance break. It’s an all-time classic. It’s funny to think of this music as having been arranged by a student of Nadia Boulanger, especially when you realize that the number is best known now as a spoof on Family Guy. At the end of the shipoopi dance part 3, you can give your altos and basses an alternate C in measures 93-96. Your chorus will want to shout Shipoopi! as three quarters, but make them do it with the pick-up as written.

34. Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little Reprise

As before, I did “why ANY NIGHT this WEEK” with the A of Any, NIGHT, and WEEK being 1, 2, and 3, then a blank beat 4, which leads into the number. Really work to differentiate the dotted rhythms from the straight ones in the section between 17 and 24. Balzac in measure 31 should be performed with half notes as before.

35. Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You?

The things I wrote about the Barbershop group are, of course, still applicable here. This is, however, a rhythm number, so you’ll want to keep a steady tempo after about measure 6. This is an easier number than the others to keep in tune, but all the same, measure 34 can be truly frightening, and there’s no way to leave the orchestra out. If you find this number going out of tune frequently, you might add a pizzicato double bass somewhere in there, alternating the root and fifth of each chord on one and three. Marian’s rhythms here are counterintuitive. I made sure to really get them right, and then relaxed my grip in tech to let it be a little freer. There is a misprint in the fourth beat of measure 69. That should be the sky, not my sky. Watch the quarter rest in measure 76 for the fellas. Let the quartet take the lead in setting the tempo at 91 and after. I think a little gliss works well for the slide up in the first tenor in measure 99.

36. Gary, Indiana

Projection and charm! Plan your breathing carefully. Young performers are frequently not thinking about breath choices, and they really count here. Do some planning and really work your breathing choices into the performance early. Cut the dotted whole note into a dotted half with a dotted half rest in measure 4. Cut the dotted half in measure 16 a little short to catch a breath too. Obviously the sweet in measure 39 for Winthrop is a misprint. Should be thweet. Watch that final cutoff too. I moved it to the downbeat of 41.

37. Lida Rose (reprise)

Needs to be sung in tempo, with the exception of measures 20-22, which need to be timed so they cross at the right moment in the scene.

39. Till There Was You

This is the only song from a musical ever covered by the Beatles. Needs to be lyric and flexible, but not overindulgent. A poco accel. at 28 works well. Observe the fermata at 30, but don’t go overboard. I like to keep that last note at 59 going for 2 measures instead of one.

40. Goodnight My Someone and 76 Trombones

Embarrassing misprint in title of Piano Vocal. This number does two things: it shows the couple briefly exulting in their love for one another, and it shows the audience that they have been singing the same song the whole time. Unfortunately, most people don’t think: “that’s the same song!” they think, “look how those songs go together!” There’s nothing to be done about it, though.

44. Finale Act 2

It’s important that this sound bad until measure 13. You can either teach the kids to play it badly, have the pit play it badly, or a combination. (which is my favorite way) Have a band director come in and show the kids how to take care of the instruments, although not dropping them is far more important than holding them correctly. It may take some doing to keep the players from drowning out the parents’ lines, because for the most part, bad amateur playing = loud playing, but you must make sure you hear those lines.


You need to decide what you’re shooting for here. Because this show is about a band, if you even begin to get the sound of a band in there, you’ll quickly wind up needing to go all out.

For your bare bones version:




If you want to add some band sounds:

TROMBONE 1 (come on, you can’t do 76 Trombones without even 1 trombone!)

TRUMPET 1 (but if you have a trombone, you’ll need a trumpet)

REED 1 (flute and piccolo, really makes the marching band sound)

REED 3 (Bb clarinet, Eb clarinet, Soprano Sax)

I don’t have these parts in front of me (somebody feel free to correct me) but I think that Reed 3 is the clarinet lead.

There is an alternate instrumentation, but I don’t know it, It seems to be basically the mid range I’m describing here. If you get that set, I don’t think you can add to it with other instruments which may not be included with the parts they rent out.

Then if you have more resources, you’ll need to look at (probably in this order)









The Music Man runs like clockwork when produced well, and is a terrific show for a young cast. Have fun with it, and your audience will too!