The Hugh Jackman-Led Music Man Revival Is Wonderful

How could there be “problems” in River City?

How could you go wrong with Broadway superstars Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster leading a massive cast, and all those fabulous, hummable Meredith Willson songs?

Lovingly directed by Jerry Zaks, with marvelous choreography by Warren Carlyle, the Broadway revival of “The Music Man” is a rousing celebration.

In other words, it’s pretty much what you’d expect.

Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster star in the Broadway revival of

The show about the quack who comes to small-town Iowa in 1912, ready to sell musical instruments and costumes for a large marching band before he leaves town, was last revived on Broadway in 2000. This production, starring Craig Bierko and the late Rebecca Luker, was nominated for eight Tony Awards.

This production was supposed to open in 2020, and then came COVID.

But the wait is worth it.

Tony winner Jackman, however, takes a while to get going. “Ya Got Trouble,” when Harold Hill warns people that a new pool table is going to have a bad influence on town kids, is far from forceful.

The good news is that he’s getting better. By the time “Seventy-Six Trombones” kicks into high gear later in Act I, all is well. While front and center, Jackman never dominates the stage, giving everyone a chance to shine.

Sutton Foster stars in the Broadway revival of

Sutton Foster is sensational as Marian, the town librarian and piano teacher. She’s a much more reserved character than her Tony Award-winning roles in “Thoroughly Modern Millie” and “Anything Goes,” but Foster seems at home.

His expressions say it all. We see Marian’s intelligence, strength, passion and no-nonsense attitude. And when she sings, she delivers. “My White Knight” and “Till There Was You” by Foster are magnificent.

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She naturally connects with Jackman and their bond grows as the show goes on.

Jefferson Mays as goofy Mayor Shinn is hilarious, and Jayne Houdyshell as his wife Eulalie is even better. Marie Mullen plays the folksy Mrs. Paroo, Marian’s mother, with lots of heart and charm.

Hugh Jackman (centre) with Phillip Boykin (left to right) Nicholas Ward, Daniel Torres and Eddie Korbich in a scene from

Gino Cosculluela as “bad boy” Tommy stands out for his dancing and for punching Zaneeta, the mayor’s daughter (Emma Crow).

The quartet of barbers – Philip Boykin, Nicholas Ward, Daniel Torres and Eddie Korbich – are a delight. The ladies of the town – Garrett Long, Linda Mugleston, Jessica Sheridan, Rema Webb and Houdyshell – chirp enthusiastically.

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‘The Music Man’ is something of a reunion, as Tony Shuler winner Hensley played Jud Fry at Jackman’s Curly in ‘Oklahoma’ in the West End in 1998. Here Hensley is Harold Hill’s friend Marcellus, and it doesn’t quite work. He is too gifted for this rather thankless role.

Hensley has a brief moment in the spotlight with “Shipoopi,” but what’s most remembered during the number is the cast singing and dancing up a storm at the start of Act II.

The library scene from the Broadway revival of

As Winthrop, the shy boy who stutters, Benjamin Pajak is adorable. He entertains the crowd with every word. With or without his cornet, he brings the character to life.

A real show highlight is “Marian the Librarian,” featuring Jackman, Foster, and the show’s “kids.” Watch out for the books!

Santo Loquasto’s costumes and stage designs are fine – and he gets bonus points for the Statue of Liberty costume for Houdyshell’s Eulalia. It’s almost worth the price of admission. The Wells Fargo Wagon is also quite special.

Jonathan Tunick’s orchestrations and Patrick Vaccariello’s musical supervision and direction do justice to Willson’s score and classic songs.

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“Cash for the merchandise” is the opening lyric of the first song, “Rock Island” — and people are certainly paying big bucks to see “The Music Man.”

To see Jackman and Foster? Sure.

But this all-American show is full of joy, melody and harmony.

It’s an escape, and we all need it now.

You have problems ? Come to River City and have a great time.

Tickets for “The Music Man,” playing at the Winter Garden Theater, 1634 Broadway, cost between $99 and $599 and can be purchased by calling 212-239-6200 or visiting www.telecharge.com. More information at musicmanonbroadway.com.

Bill Canacci can be reached at [email protected]nj.com.