Dream Casting: ‘The Music Man’

The last Dream Casting blog I did was for Into the Woods, and today I wanted to do another Dream Casting for one of those classic shows I saw so many community productions of while growing up. The Music Man probably has my favorite overall score of any show – the songs are so easy to catch onto and are fun yet beautiful.

I think a huge part of The Music Man‘s initial appeal is Robert Preston in the title role both in the original Broadway production and in the film. Any other Harold Hill, professional or amateur, seems to fail in comparison because they’re (consciously or not) trying to emulate Preston’s unique style.

This may be why Broadway revivals of The Music Man are few and far between. There was a 1980 production with Dick Van Dyke that’s considered a revival, but it lasted less than a month after its opening. The 2000 production with Rebecca Luker and Craig Bierko lasted a little over a year and a half, which is a pretty standard run for a revival, but those are huge gaps between versions. What with Carousel and My Fair Lady being revived next year, there isn’t much room for another large-scale classic from that era, but I’m hoping for a Music Man revival in the next few years! So, I lived vicariously by casting my dream company of the show.

Harold Hill – James Monroe Iglehart or Seth MacFarlane

Seth MacFarlane is often the Internet’s choice for an ideal Harold Hill because he performed a very Preston-esque rendition of “Ya Got Trouble” at BBC Proms. I have to admit, I forgive Seth for all of his gross humor (ugh, remember the Oscars?) when I hear him sing musical theater, but I really don’t see him doing a Broadway show. I think he’d be a safe revival choice if producers want to please an older generation that likes their traditional musicals. However, current Hamilton star James Monroe Iglehart said in a recent interview that he would love to play Hill if non-traditional casting was embraced, and I sort of love the idea!

Playing crucial roles in Aladdin and Hamilton showed off his ability to be quick and deliver a song’s non-traditional style. Although it isn’t a song that Hill sings, “Rock Island” was like the Hamilton rap lyrics of the 1950s, and “Ya Got Trouble” has a speak-sing vibe to it as well. I think this Disney medley also displays James’s ability to perform ballads, i.e. deliver songs like “Till There Was You” and “Lida Rose.”

Marian Paroo – Laura Benanti 

I did have Laura Osnes in mind for Marian at first, but I feel that her roles are often too much along the lines of sweet and sensible ingenue. Casting her as Marian would be way too expected, and I think Laura Benanti could bring both the vocal power and a fiery, comical sassiness to the role that Osnes might not quite have. Can you imagine the side eye Benanti would give during “Piano Lesson”?

Marcellus Washburn – Alex Brightman 

Marcellus is very much a showman’s role, and although most online footage of Alex Brightman singing is very rock-and-roll, I see him fitting Marcellus perfectly. He doesn’t sing much except in “Shipoopi,” which is basically a random, dance break song that can be strengthened by the comedic timing of the actor playing Marcellus.

Mrs. Paroo – Carolee Carmello 

I just started geeking out over this decision because of age gap logistics. There’s a 17-year age difference between Carolee and Laura, which would totally be plausible in the time of The Music Man and explain why there’s such a huge gap between Marian and her little brother Winthrop. I think Carolee is known for more operatic singing roles, but I think she has the vocal control to perform “Piano Lesson” and still be able to play it up.

There are a lot of secondary roles in The Music Man, but because the songs are so ensemble-heavy, these four roles were the easiest to cast for me. As a kid, I think this show was shoved down my throat a lot for a few years, but now with some distance from it, I really appreciate its simplicity and storytelling.

What about you? Who would you cast in The Music Man or another  classic musical?

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