It's Today! : Till There Was Them

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Pat Cerasaro

A staple of community theaters and schools around the world since its 1957 debut, Meredith Willson's paean to all things Americana, THE MUSIC MAN, will return in a brand new concert production at the Kennedy Center next year. Led by Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller and Broadway regular Norm Lewis, the Marc Bruni-directed production is scheduled to run February 6 through 10 at the Eisenhower Theater Could a Broadway revival be next? Considering the impossibly rich heritage of the material, it certainly is not outside the question to consider such a proposition.

In one of the most heated Tony Award battles ever enacted, THE MUSIC MAN took home several trophies at the 1958 ceremony, squaring off against no less than WEST SIDE STORY. Besides Best Musical, the tuner scored with its resplendent leading players, Robert Preston and Barbara Cook, as well as David Burns taking home top honors for his supporting role. Evoking early 20th century America in such an affectionate and affecting manner makes the musical evergreen in its abundant affability, besides the sterling score by Meredith Willson, boasting numerous showstoppers including "76 Trombones", "Till There Was You", "Ya Got Trouble", "Gary, Indiana", "My White Knight" and several more. Based upon Willson's own childhood experiences in Mason City, Iowa, as expressed in his 1948 memoir AND THERE I STOOD WITH MY PICCOLO, few musicals express romantic nostalgia for times gone by in such a potent way.

THE MUSIC MAN hit the big screen in 1962, once again led by Preston, followed by several notable New York City revivals, including a 1965 production featuring Bert Parks and a 1980 City Center limited run presentation headlined by Dick Van Dyke. Subsequently, Susan Stroman directed and choreographed a hit 2000 revival showcasing Craig Bierko and Rebecca Luker which was followed by a small screen remake starring Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth. With the Kennedy Center revival arriving next year, it is safe to say that a new production of THE MUSIC MAN is thankfully never very far away.