Saturday, March 31, 2012

After the Curtain: The Music Man

The Music Man is my favorite musical. I grew up with Shirley Jones and Robert Preston and The Buffalo Bills and Hermione Gingold and Buddy Hackett and Ron Howard (ok, now I'm just seeing how many actors I can name). It's got a hate into love romance which is one of my favorite types, it's set in the 1910s which is one of my favorite decades, it has a marching band which is how I prefer my bands, it has fantastic and catchy music with big dance numbers and beautiful ballads and of course it has Harold Hill! Oh Harold Hill, he swindled his way into my heart long ago. I saw The Music Man  this past fall at USF with Brian Vaughn as Harold and it was fantastic. I even forgot Robert Preston! BUT you can't ignore the fact that the magic would eventually have to run out on this small town toe-tapper bc let's face it, what the heck is Harold going to do in River City?

The story of The Music Man:
Prof. Harold Hill, a two bit thimble rigger, comes to River City, IA to set up a boys' band. Thing is, he's a con man and knows nothing about music and the people of Iowa are hard nuts to crack. He gets everyone on board except Mayor Shinn whose business venture he's ruined and the old maid piano teacher and librarian who is skeptical of his musical "think system". His old partner in crime, Marcellus Washburn, helps him out while the local school board tries to smoke him out. Marian the Librarian's Irish mother and stuttering brother Winthrop are both taken with Harold, along with the gossips, including Mrs. Shinn, the local hooligan Tommy Djilas, and all the parents. Harold's scam is revealed when an anvil salesman stops in town to stick it to Hill for soiling the name of traveling salesmen. Harold is captured, but the angry mob is talked down by Marian, who of course has fallen in love with Harold. Miracle of miracles the think system works, sort of, and River City has themselves a boys' band! Ta ta DA!


Let's face it, the think system doesn't really work. Luckily the boys paid for instruction books as well, which Marian reviews like a mad woman and grills Harold on so he can actually have an occupation in town. It's rough going at first, but the people of River City aren't picky and eventually the band does alright, however most of the older boys are wiped out during WWI. After the war the band really gets going and establishes a legacy of marching band excellence in Iowa.

After realizing the think system won't get him anywhere with the band Harold skips town in a panic and decides to come up with a new scam. Marian hunts him down after a couple of days and proposes the instruction booklet plan. Marian and Harold get married, but Harold, or Gregory as he goes by now, has a hard time settling down. Every so often he pops over to Nebraska (where the real fun is) or even Chicago with a resolve to get his old life back, but he always returns to River City with a guilty conscious. Marian covers for him saying he's gone to musical conferences, but really she's the one keeping them and the band together. Besides Harold's wanderlust their marriage does alright. They have two children, a boy and a girl. The boy stays in River City and takes over the band, taking after Marian's steadiness. The girl, who takes after Harold travels to California and makes it big in talking pictures. Harold and Marian grow old in River City and a statue is erected to Harold after he dies, when we all know it should have been for Marian.

Marcellus marries Ethel and they have a great Iowan life.

Tommy Djilas and Zaneeta Shinn go steady until he gets drafted. They have a rush wedding and he's sent to France. He survives the war, but looses a leg. With his mechanical mindedness he fashions himself a state of the art prosthetic leg and becomes the leader in prosthetics for the tri-state area. Their children are pleasant but dull and thrive in River City.

Winthrop, after finding his voice, takes after Harold and becomes quite the smooth talker. A product of upright River City however he uses his powers for good and becomes the youngest senator Iowa's ever had. He's a major player in WWII politics and is known fondly in Washington as the Ginger Giant. He retires to River City in the 60s, a time of struggle for the band, and rejuvenates its popularity with his charisma, a la Harold. He doesn't marry Amaryllis bc she's obnoxious. He meets somebody at college and she's a wonderful politician's wife.

Mayor Shinn does not run for re-election after Harold endorses his pool hall. He and the anvil salesman team up and sell other pool hall paraphernalia to neighboring towns including paintings of dogs playing poker, stained glass light fixtures, and personalized cues. Mrs. Shin and the town gossips roll bandages and put up bunting during the war, become suffragettes during the women's vote movement, spearhead prohibition in Iowa and organize relief efforts during the Depression.

The members of the school board go on the road and become the nations most popular barber shop quartet.

Idea behind After the Curtain  and After White Christmas

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