The Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster-led revival of The Music Man opened with a set of “meh” reviews this Thursday. Though well polished and featuring all of the proper elements and people, the critics agreed that ultimately the spark is just missing from this revival and it feels dated, dry and two dimensional. Read the review roundup below.
New York Times Review of The Music Man
[T]he musical, which opened on Thursday night at the Winter Garden Theater, only intermittently offers the joys we expect from a classic revival starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster — especially one so obviously patterned on the success of another classic revival, “Hello, Dolly!,” a few seasons back. The frenzy of love unleashed in that show…has gone missing here, despite all the deluxe trimmings and 42 people onstage. Instead we get an extremely neat, generally perky, overly cautious take on a musical that, being about the con game of love and music, needs more danger in the telling. … Jackman mostly suppresses his sharky charisma here; this is not a star turn like Dolly Levi or, for that matter, Peter Allen in “The Boy From Oz.” Instead, he seems to see Hill as a character role: a cool manipulator and traveling horndog who in being unprincipled must also be unlovable. The result is a smart but strangely inward performance. By turning away from the audience, he not only undersells big numbers like “Ya Got Trouble”…but also undersells us. As the town librarian who sees through him immediately, Foster does not have that problem; her take on Marian is witty and front-facing throughout. … Though Foster can sing the required notes, she is really a belter, with a mezzo quality to her voice regardless of the pitch. In her high-flung songs she works too hard to force the bloom when what’s needed is ease and exuberance. “My White Knight,” an aria that is usually a rangy highlight of the role, is performed here in a lower key and as fast as possible; it comes off less as a stratospheric dream than a street-level race, making Marian sound, and thus feel, pretty much like everyone else. Unfortunately, that flatness is endemic to the production. The central element of Loquasto’s set is a full-width barn wall whose doors occasionally slide open to reveal vignettes played out against drops painted in the style of Grant Wood (another Iowan). But even when the barn disappears completely, the staging feels two-dimensional — and so old-fashioned (except for the astonishingly good dancers performing Carlyle’s athletic choreography) that it might have come straight from 1957, when “The Music Man” premiered on Broadway. Or even 1912, when it’s set.
TimeOut Review of The Music Man
For a revival of musical theater’s most famous portrait of a con artist, the new Broadway production of The Music Man seems oddly lacking in confidence. Meredith Willson’s 1957 classic should sweep you up in a happy spell of suspended disbelief…Yet while this Music Man is a solid and professional piece of work, and includes many incidental pleasures, the hoped-for enchantment never arrives. The production has reassembled much of the top-shelf creative team behind the thrilling 2017 Bette Midler revival of Hello, Dolly!, including director Jerry Zaks, choreographer Warren Carlyle and designer Santo Loquasto. And as in Dolly, it has surrounded its star with well-proved talents: Broadway darling Sutton Foster as his local foil, the wary librarian Marian Peroo; Marie Mullen as her excitable Irish mother; Jefferson Mays and Jayne Houdyshell as River City’s malaprop-prone mayor and his fussy wife; a loosey-goosey Shuler Hensley as Hill’s old friend and accomplice. The vehicle is polished; what it lacks is drive. … The Music Man‘s story of duplicity and redemption could have deeper resonance today than ever, but this incarnation sticks resolutely to the surface. … The show is fine; it hits its marks. But at these prices, the marks might be us.
Deadline Review of The Music Man
As the lovable con man Professor Harold Hill, Jackman seduces the River City yokels and, if advance box office is any indication, Broadway audiences with his sonorous voice… Jackman is matched vocally – outperformed, actually – by Foster, whose singing is so good she very nearly convinces us that Music Man‘s maiden Marian is something more than a remnant of bygone Broadway convention. That’s a tall order. … Try as they might, their chemistry rarely comes over as anything deeper than the pleasant-enough, vaguely campy Grandma Moses-style flats that, in Santo Loquasto’s set design, make an easy signifier of America’s mythical innocence. … Warren Carlyle’s energetic, song-and-dance choreography blends vaudeville panache, ballet and pre-Depression dance craze, hitting all the right spots at all the right angles. Still, anyone who has seen the thrilling moves of MJ or the boundary-pushing explorations of Flying Over Sunset might be left a bit un-wowed. Like so much else with this Music Man, from Loquasto’s attractive, wheat-colored turn-of-the-century costumes to Brian MacDevitt’s autumn lighting, the dancing is expert – effortless even – yet still and all underwhelming. The Music Man lives up to every expectation except the most crucial one: Surprise.
The New York Post Review of The Music Man
The meteoric hype surrounding “The Music Man,” which opened Thursday night on Broadway, has been building now for — somehow — three years. The musical boasts the same creative team as Bette Midler’s wildly successful “Hello, Dolly!,” and we all hoped it would be the bandleader of Broadway’s post-pandemic return. Adding more sparkle, Hugh Jackman plays the leading man, Harold Hill, and on paper, it’s the role of the celebrated actor’s lifetime. “The Music Man,” I’m sorry to say, does not live up to our oversize expectations. Quite unexpectedly, you leave not raving about Jackman, one of Broadway’s hottest sellers, but the music woman — Sutton Foster, who plays Marian “The Librarian” Paroo. She’s a wonder and the main reason to buy a ticket. Much has been made of Foster not having the soaring soprano range of Barbara Cook and Shirley Jones, but that doesn’t matter. Hers is as thoughtful, funny, threatening, witty, maternal and romantic a Marian as you’ve ever seen. She never settles for a schoolmarm stereotype and makes 65-year-old lines fresh. … Sometimes the show is dark and moody, determined not to have too much fun with a story about a con artist who wins in the end despite his misdeeds. At others, it’s the “Music Man” of our cringeworthy high school memories — painfully corny when it need not be. The friendly opening night crowd was not sure when to laugh at the jokes, and that’s a major problem for a musical comedy.