'The Music Man' Hopes to Lead Broadway Out of Winter Woes

By MARK KENNEDY, AP Leisure Author

NEW YORK (AP) — One of many first songs in “The Music Man” is “(Ya Acquired) Bother” and the most recent Broadway revival has definitely confronted its share.

It was imagined to open in fall 2020, however rehearsals have been interrupted by the pandemic shutdown. In 2021, it jettisoned its lead producer, Scott Rudin, after allegations of bullying. When the present restarted, each lead actors — Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster — contracted COVID-19. And when the understudies could not preserve it going, it briefly shut down.

Now its producers see mild on the finish of the tunnel — for the present and Broadway. “The Music Man” opens Thursday because the marquee occasion of this theater season, commanding a whole bunch of {dollars} per ticket and signaling a brand new daybreak for a beleaguered theater trade.

“Every part has been thrown at us and we survive,” says Barry Diller, who’s producing alongside David Geffen and Kate Horton. “However I gained’t say we’ve survived till we open. I wakened this morning considering locusts would possibly come.”

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The musical tells the easy story about Harold Hill, a touring con man who in 1912 convinces a small Iowa city into forming a band and promoting them devices till love adjustments him. It is obtained basic songs like ″Seventy-Six Trombones,” ″Goodnight My Somebody,” ″Gary, Indiana” and “Until There Was You.”

“It feels to me like ‘The Music Man’ is type of the antidote to the stress and the uncertainty and the concern that everyone has been feeling as a result of it’s such a narrative of hope and group, love and perception fulfilled,” says Horton, who beforehand held govt roles on the Nationwide Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Firm and Royal Court docket in England.

The starry revival of the basic musical comedy, which gained the Tony Award for greatest new musical in 1958, consists of six Tony winners and 21 solid members making their Broadway debuts.

4-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks says rehearsals went effectively within the fall and the present began inviting audiences for previews, a vital time for the inventive staff to make adjustments based mostly on crowd reactions.

However then the solid began testing optimistic for the coronavirus, together with Jackman and Foster. When Foster was out, Jackman’s tribute to understudy Kathy Voytko throughout curtain name went viral on social media. Besides, the present needed to be shuttered for 11 performances.

“So the time that will normally be devoted to creating adjustments that enhance this present, all that point and power was devoted to creating positive we had an organization on stage and getting ready understudies and swings and standbys,” says Zaks.

The return of “The Music Man” hasn’t been greeted with open arms by all. Most of the protesters who marched towards the established order on Broadway in April 2021, have been indignant at Rudin but additionally that theater producers have been ignoring contemporary voices in favor of a present that celebrates what one critic calls a “sanitized, insular and really white America.” The group obtained notably rowdy whereas passing the Winter Backyard Theatre, dwelling of “The Music Man.”

Zaks defends his model, which has minimize Native American stereotypes and misogyny, and has a various solid, one-third of whom are actors of shade.

“The people who find themselves making the noise had a sound level. However I don’t assume the individuals who protested in regards to the lack of range within the firm actually knew something in regards to the firm I used to be placing collectively,” he says.

“We made a concerted effort to guarantee that the stage regarded extra just like the America of immediately than it may need again in ’57 when it was carried out initially.”

The arrival of “The Music Man” comes as Broadway appears to be rising from a brutal winter. The once-durable musicals “Waitress,” “Jagged Little Tablet” and “Ain’t Too Proud” closed, whereas new performs like “Ideas of a Coloured Man,” “Go Over,” “Is This a Room” and “Dana H” struggled and closed early. Exhibits typically feast through the tourist-filled holidays, however this time many couldn’t as a result of they needed to shutter. Casts are more healthy now, however January and February are historically tough on the field workplace, even earlier than COVID-19.

Some producers got here up with progressive methods to attempt to survive. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Youngster,” was trimmed from a two-part play to a extra conventional one-part present, and “To Kill a Mockingbird” is shifting to a smaller theater.

Two musicals — “Mrs. Doubtfire” and ”Woman from the North Nation” — made the bizarre option to go on hiatus, shedding employees till the spring in hopes of surviving.

“Typically it’s sensible to take a knee if you’re boxing,” says Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the Tony-winner who helped restart Broadway this fall with “Lackawanna Blues” and now directs “Skeleton Crew.” “If you happen to lay down they usually depend you out, you are out. Nevertheless it’s OK to take a knee.”

Most of the well-liked exhibits earlier than the pandemic have remained massive attracts regardless of the omicron variant, together with “Hamilton,” “Depraved,” “The Lion King,” “Moulin Rouge!,” “Aladdin,” “Hadestown” and “The Phantom of the Opera.” They benefited from good evaluations, optimistic word-of-mouth and prominence earlier than the shutdown.

“The Music Man” has benefited from being a basic — that is the third Broadway revival — and has two of theater’s most beloved performers in Jackman and Foster. Plus, it is a candy, American valentine.

“I site visitors in pleasure. And after having gone by means of what we’ve all gone by means of, the concept that this present would possibly generate pleasure within the viewers, that’s all I actually need,” says Zaks.

Diller believes the worst is behind Broadway and, as chairman of the large on-line journey firm Expedia, predicts worldwide journey will explode within the second and third quarters, fueling ticket shopping for. That is music to the ears of New York Metropolis’s advertising arm.

“The arrival of ‘The Music Man’ on Broadway with Hugh Jackman instantly creates a brand new iconic New York Metropolis tent pole that lifts up the whole tourism economic system. And, sure, that’s Tourism, with a capital T,” says Charles Flateman, chairman of the board of NYC and Firm.

Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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