In only its second Broadway run since its 1957 debut, this revival proves as sweetly funny and beguiling as when it won the Tony for the season's best musical.
Meredith Willson's affectionate comic valentine to his native Iowa has been superbly staged and choreographed by Michael Kidd. The big dance numbers abound in the fleet, gymnastic, high-flying cart-wheeling Kidd stuff that delights and amazes. Dick Van Dyke's "Professor" Harold Hill is as slick a charlatan as ever peddled snake oil to gullible hayseeds. In addition to his comic aplomb, Mr. Van Dyke is a dancer of exceptional grace. His miming and timing are equally expert -- a reminder that he once formed a comedy act called "The Merry Mutes."
From "Trouble," the opening spiel with which Harold razzle-dazzles the good folk of River City, the glib con-artist is intent merely on working his current swindle -- selling them instruments and uniforms for a youth band that will never be. Harold, of course, encounters more than he bargained for in the person of Marian Paroo, the local librarian and piano teaher. After initial resistance, she becomes an unlooked-for accomplice when she falls for the supersalesman.
Mr. willson happily caught the Midwestern flavor of a period tale that begins on July 4, 1912. "Seventy six Trombones" (the marching version of the lilting "Good Night My Someone") is undoubtedly the best-remembered tune from "The Music Man." But there are also romantic ballads, like "My White Knight" and "Will I Ever Tell you" (charmingly sung by Meg Bussert as Marian); comis ditties like "Marian the Librarian" and "Gary, Indiana"; and barber-shop quartets like "Lida Rose." Mr. Kidd puts the entire company through its brisk paces in romping numbers like "Wells Fargo Wagon" and "The Shipoopi."
Iggie Wolfington, a veteran of the original production, returns this time to play bumptious Mayor Shinn, with Jen Jones as the formidable Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn. Other principals include Calvin McRae, Christina Safran, Richard Warren Pugh, Jay Stuart, Carol Arthur, and small Christian Slater as the prize product of Professor Hill's "think" system of musical instruction. The scenery is, as they say, serviceable but the costumes seem remarkably fresh. The performance conducted by Milton Rosenstock ensures that revisiting River City, Iowa, is time well and entertainingly spent.