Outside Broadway’s Winter Garden Theater, the marquee boasts movie star Hugh Jackman and Broadway diva extraordinaire Sutton Foster in the title roles of a musical that has become an American institution - Meredith Willson’s The Music Man.
The musical, which had been in previews since December of 2021, finally opened on February 10, 2022, to mixed reviews. Many big-name theater reviewers criticized the show, with complaints of a lack of diversity in the cast and an underwhelming spectacle.
Are these reviews accurate in gauging the views of the everyday theatergoer, or are they overly critical? Let us be the judge of that.
The most important issues to consider when reviewing the overall quality of any piece of theater include casting, choreography, execution, energy, and audience reaction.
In “The Music Man”, the cast is obviously packed with powerhouse performers. The supporting cast boasts a Tony each for the adults, and stars Jackman and Foster have two Tonys each. Is this cast too stocked with stars to produce a genuine performance? Not by a long shot.
Sutton Foster’s performance as Marian Paroo was nothing short of beautiful, and Jackman’s Hill was just sleazy enough to deliver the right amount of charm. The two were electric onstage, and their happiness oozed off them in waves. It was clear that there was nowhere else either would rather be. The supporting cast were each committed to their roles, bringing laughter and dance expertise to the production, but the standout performance of the ensemble cast was Benjamin Pajak’s debut as Winthrop Paroo.
In terms of choreography, Warren Carlyle clearly understood the assignment with his high energy, beautifully-staged choreography. Standout choreography shone through in Marian the Librarian, a fun ballet-modern piece; the show’s finale, which featured a strong and exciting tap duet by Jackman and Foster; and Shipoopi, a fast-paced number oozing with energy. Even among these incredibly complex dance numbers, the true showstopper was the show’s anthem, Seventy-Six Trombones. Actors exploded into impressive leaps and twirls, keeping with the lightning pace of the song while creating gorgeous visuals with their bodies.
Jerry Zaks’ direction emphasizes a society hesitant to trust a traveling salesman that blossoms under the changes brought upon by his influence. The creative vision is cohesive and the payoff is satisfying, leaving the audience with good feelings long after the curtains have closed. Suffice it to say, the standing ovations awarded to the cast were well-deserved.
By: Emma Creason