Musical of the Month: Music Man

Julia Stanski, Editor

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If you’re looking for something light and fun to watch this Christmas, this 1957 show by Meredith Willson is a truly underappreciated musical gem.

Set in 1912,  “The Music Man” follows a charming and flamboyant con man named Harold Hill as he suckers the citizens of small-town Iowa out of their money, promising to start a marching band for their children. But when he meets the town’s piano teacher/librarian, the one person not drawn in by his spellbinding, things aren’t as easy for him as he expects.

This classic musical has a hilarious script full of great characters, and more than its share of fantastic songs. Everyone’s heard ’76 Trombones’, the show’s greatest hit and now a popular march. But when Willson wrote the show, he also pioneered a unique style he called ‘speak-singing’. It’s first used in the opening song, an intricate onomatopoeic  number by a group of travelling salesmen that simulates the sound of a train and walks the line between speech and music. Its layered rhythms and precise delivery make it almost a precursor to rap music.   It comes back in Harold Hill’s first song, ‘Ya Got Trouble’,  which demonstrates how  he masterfully manipulates the townspeople into trusting him.   It’s a refreshing change from the constant ballads of some contemporary musicals; no one, save perhaps Lin-Manuel Miranda and Sondheim, writes like that today.

There’s an excellent 1962 movie version, starring the original Robert Preston as Professor Hill, and a not-quite-as-good 2003 version with Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Broderick. But either way, if you’re looking for guaranteed entertainment and a successful mood lifter, you can’t go wrong with ‘The Music Man”.  

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TMM Interview #4

Rajah Maggay, Staff Writer

Rajah Maggay: Okay! So what are your names, what grade are you guys in and how old are you?

Emma Walker: My name’s Emma, I’m in grade ten and I’m fifteen years old.

Morgan Thomas: My name’s Morgan, I’m in grade ten and I’m fourteen years old.

Lochlann Keer: My name is Lochlann, I am in grade ten and I’m fifteen.

Brianne Thompson: My name is Brianne, I’m in grade ten and I’m fifteen.

Connor Gelinas: I’m Connor, I’m in grade ten and can I say sixteen?

EW, MT, LK, BT: No!

CG: Fine! I’ fifteen even though my birthday’s next month.

RM: Why did you want to be involved with the musical?

MT: I sort of told everybody to join, but Brianne and Emma joined of their own accord because they actually wanted to. Each time we’d have Skype calls I’d just bring it up and say, “Hey guys, did you hear about the musical?”

LK: We hadn’t even finished junior high yet before she started talking all about the musical.

BT: This is really cheesy, but I’ve felt this connection to plays and musicals ever since I was little. I’ve been creating little plays my entire life and now it’s really great to be part of an actual one.

EW: I joined the musical because I’ve always been interested in them. I really enjoy acting, singing and dancing, and I’ve never been in a musical in a school environment like this.

LK: I too felt a calling or connection like Brianne said. Except for me it was Morgan literally calling my name repeatedly, telling me to join!

CG: 95% of it was Morgan telling me/peer pressure, but the other 5% was that I like to put myself in other people’s shoes. I like to take a break from reality and dwell into the life of another person.

RM: What are your roles?

MT: I’m one of the Priscilla girls named Cora, and a stenog.

EW: I’m one of the Priscilla girls named Gloria, and also a stenog.

LK: I’m F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dexter, a Modern and a cop who’s received the name Officer Coplann.

BT: I’m a Modern and Dorothy Parker.

CG: I’m a Modern, one of Muzzy’s Boys and the Letch.

RM: How’d you react when you got your role?

LK: I reacted with incoherent squealing for basically ten minutes straight and only stopped when I had to breathe.

MT: I was happy to be one of the Priscilla girls since that was the role I wanted to get. I was also really glad to be a stenog since I really wanted to be in the tap numbers.

EW: I was also really happy to be a Priscilla girl, and like Morgan, I wanted to be in the tap number since I’ve never tap danced before. In general, I was just really excited.

BT: I was relieved that I even had a line. When I found out, it was midnight and I was an emotional mess.

CG: Once I realized that I was the Letch, I had no idea who this guy was. I thought he would be something random like a janitor or a quiet guy in the corner. Turns out he was the complete opposite of that.

RM: What are your favourite scenes/numbers to rehearse?

EW: ‘Forget About The Boy’.

LK: My favourite to watch is ‘Forget About The Boy’ or ‘They Don’t Know’. Watching Jocelyn do her number is just pure beauty.

BT: I like rehearsing the opening number (‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’) because it’s just fun. Then I like watching how synchronized everyone is in the tap numbers.

MT: My favourite ones to rehearse are ‘Nuttycracker Suite’ or ‘Forget About The Boy’.

CG: My favourite is ‘Nuttycracker Suite’.
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