The Music Man is the story of con-man named “Greg” – better known by the alias Professor Harold Hill (Robert Preston). He’s a travelling salesman who preys on small townspeople by duping them into buying instruments and uniforms for a boys marching band that he never has any intention of forming. Hill sells parents on the wholesome appeal that a band will have to the youth of the town and promises to teach the boys to play but always skips town as soon as he’s collected the money! Now he’s come to River City, Iowa, and quickly convinces the locals that a band is the best way to save their sons’ souls from the vices of the pool hall. The only person who seems to be on to Hill is the town librarian, Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones). He intends to con her into falling in love with him but this time his plan doesn’t go quite as he intends.
Modern times have not been too kind to the movie musical genre. I’m sure that a large part of our population would be horribly confused if they went to a movie and all the characters suddenly burst into song and dance (unless they’re unfortunate enough to be seeing High School Musical). But the Best Picture nominated Music Man is a movie musical that deserves to be seen and enjoyed by a new generation. It doesn’t matter that the movie is almost 50 years old and that it depicts a time almost 100 years ago. The music is infectious, the characters are loveable, and moral of the story is as just as true now as it was in 1912.
I will admit that the movie begins a little slowly but before long I was completely won over by Professor Hill, just like he won over the citizens of River City. Preston’s performance is absolutely brilliant. He manages to be both arrogant and sensitive at the same time. What’s even more incredible is that if you really listen closely; his singing voice isn’t anything to write home about. Not bad but most of the other singers in the movie are much better. Yet somehow he makes me believe that he’s the best singer in the world! I could never imagine anyone else singing “Seventy-Six Trombones”, “Ya Got Trouble” or any of the other iconic songs from this film. It’s no wonder that Preston won the Tony for Best Actor in 1958 for the stage version of The Music Man.
As impressive as Robert Preston is as Professor Hill, there is an even bigger star – the music itself. Meredith Willson’s score packs more than two and a half hours worth of nonstop music – and it’s all good. Musicals tend to have one common theme that runs through most if not all of its songs. But the songs in The Music Man are completely original and stand alone musically with the exception of “Seventy-Six Trombones” and “Goodnight My Someone” which are actually the same song just played at different speeds and with different lyrics. And even better than the originality, is the fact that they’re all catchy. It’s been 2 days since I’ve watched the movie and “Marian The Librarian” is stuck in my head. Earlier today it was “Gary, Indiana.” I’m sure it will be another song later. And it’s not just me . The Beatles liked “Till There Was You” so much that they recorded it themselves for their 1964 album, Meet The Beatles!
If you like musicals, see The Music Man. If you don’t like musicals, see it anyway. I can’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy it as much as I did but give it a try. The worst that can happen is that a catchy tune will get caught in your head!
The Music Man arrives on Blu-ray with a beautiful 1080p/VC-1 encode framed at 2.40:1. Seeing that The Music Man is a couple of decades old, I am really surprised on how good it looks. The level of detail is impressive, it is very sharp, the colors specially red and blue standout the most. There’s a slight yellow tint, now I am not sure if this is inherent of the film or intended, this does cause some of the skin tones to look unnatural at times. There is also a fine layer of grain detected, but it’s not distracting at all. There was one problem I found at the beginning of the film, during the piece inside the train car, obviously we know that the animation on the windows is another video however you can see haloing around the characters passing by, it’s really obvious and sticks out.
The Music Man arrives on Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless track. Don’t expect an audio track filled with new things that you’ve never heard before, The Music Man is not a film that uses the surround speakers much not that it really needs it. The sound tends to fluctuate quite a bit throughout the film, sure some people will complain, but comparing this to the other audio tracks included in the disc you will instantly notice the difference.
The Music Man only has 3 special features. They’re essentially filler but it only takes about 25 minutes to watch them all and you’ll learn some fun facts about the cast and crew.
Introduction by Shirley Jones
Ms. Jones recounts her excitement at landing the role of Marian Paroo and sets the scene for the film.
Right Here In River City Vintage Featurette
Surviving members of the cast and crew talk about their experiences while working on The Music Man. There is some interesting information presented but the featurette isn’t long enough to provide the type of in-depth perspective that a real fan would want.
The Music Man is a delightful piece of Americana that offers something for everyone – a charming story, an incredible cast, inspired music, and lively choreography. This is truly a classic of stage and screen that would be a nice addition to any Blu-ray collector’s library but is an absolute must-have for musical fans. I recommend at least a rent.