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!



  1. Harold Hill also has to have an amazing sense of rhythm or he’ll totally botch up Trouble (also, I disagree–Robert Preston can sing–he just doesn’t have a pretty voice). Also, please be sure that the guys in the barbershop quartet can sing and are willing to do their best on the harmony.

  2. Honestly, one of my favorite blogs to read. I think it should be torture points for watching the Broderick/Chenoweth version. Granted no one can outdo Robert Preston but Craig Bierko gave it a hell of a go. Broderick couldn’t sell me free beachfront property.

  3. LOVE your blog. I will probably read your notes on Goodnight My Someone to the cast word for word. Or I may memorize them and pretend like they’re mine…:) heh heh. Do Re Mi Fa So in Shipoopi has frustrated me to no end, until I decided, like you, of course to small town America, who cares if there’s no leading tone!

    Thanks a million. Can’t wait to start tomorrow.

  4. As far as instrumentation goes, how can you do Marian the Librarian without a bassoon to play the opening vamp over and over again? When I did the show I ended up playing it for ages.

    • It’s true! The piano can cover it, but it isn’t quite the same, is it? See my comments about ‘in one’ to see how to avoid needing to play that vamp a bazillion times while the over-elaborate library set is placed behind the curtain. 🙂

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