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Wonderful production, but Broderick is miscast
on July 7, 2004
On the whole, I prefer this 2003 Disney production of THE MUSIC MAN to the original 1962 movie version. The original was full of bright, garish colors that emphasized the cast members' age and made the supposedly turn-of-the-century high school gym look more like the one in WEST SIDE STORY. By contrast, the new version recreates the period beautifully, with muted colors that give the train, the town, the school, and the ice cream parlor the look of an old-fashioned picture postcard. The original version was also quite stagey, while the new one uses subtle camera angles to suggest the unwelcoming quality of the town in "Iowa Stubborn" and to create an almost menacing mood in the opening train number, "Rock Island." "Marian the Librarian," which looked silly in the original, here becomes a delightful "literary fantasy." And the new cast is youthful and fresh, with a Marian (Kristen Chenowith) both ravishing of voice and much more appealing of personality than the original's Shirley Jones. Chenowith's Marian is no uptight spinster but the town eccentric, an independent young woman of intelligence and humor. Disney regular Victor Garber also stands out as a pompous yet likeable Mayor Shinn.
Matthew Broderick, though, is all wrong as Harold Hill. In an interview, Broderick suggested that he wanted to create a more understated salesman than Robert Preston's famous "bass drum." But in fact Broderick's performance is simply boring. I couldn't imagine duller renditions of "Ya Got Trouble" and "Seventy-Six Trombones," for example - and if Harold Hill doesn't "sell" those two big numbers, then he is not Harold Hill. In short, though Broderick has been fine in other, less dominating musical roles, he is miscast as a fast-talking, charismatic "spell-binder."