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  The Music Man Reviews
The Music Man
Goodman Theatre

  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune- Somewhat Recommended

"...But "The Music Man" has one of the most beautiful emotional trajectories- involving the awakening of Marian's young brother, Winthrop and a whole town's conversion to loving belief - ever penned for the Broadway stage. The last few minutes of the show are all about putting away shams and cons, understanding what is real in how we relate to each other and sacrificing what seems important for what is, in fact, crucial to a meaningful life during the time we are allowed on our shared planet. That might sound a heavy load for a "Music Man," but this is a brilliant composition and I've seen it work on the American soul many times. Here, not so much."
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Chris Jones



Daily Herald- Recommended

"...The Goodman Theatre's big and brassy revival of "The Music Man" can wash over you as escapist entertainment. Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman takes a largely traditional approach to Meredith Willson's 1957 Broadway smash hit, allowing the affectionate 1912 portraits of small-town Midwesterners to vividly shine through."
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Scott C. Morgan



Chicago Reader- Highly Recommended

"...You can say this for director Mary Zimmerman's staging of Meredith Willson's multiple Tony winner, The Music Man: like the titular con man in the 1957 musical, she sure knows the territory. From the corrupting influence of the bawdy humor magazine Captain Billy's Whiz Bang to the Isadora Duncan-inspired modern-dance ode to a Grecian urn, Zimmerman packs the story (by Willson and Franklin Lacey) with as much charm as you'd expect from the tale of a flimflammer colliding with truculent Iowans in 1912."
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Catey Sullivan



Windy City Times- Highly Recommended

"...Director Mary Zimmerman won a Tony Award and a MacArthur Fellowship for her imaginative adaptations of classical literature such as The Arabian Nights and Ovid's Metamorphoses. But she's always wanted ( she told me over 10 years ago ) to direct a classic Broadway musical comedy. Previously she's staged Candide and Wonderful Town, both with brilliant scores by Leonard Bernstein, but both with fragmented plots she couldn't overcome. Now, with The Music Man, Zimmerman has staged a strongly-written musical comedy with a memorably tuneful score and an all-American story … and it's a resounding success!"
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Jonathan Abarbanel



Time Out Chicago- Recommended

"...Meredith Wilson's The Music Man has a reputation as for sweetness, but there's more than a little sour mixed in. River City, Iowa-the small turn-of-the-century town that gets taken in by the musical's antihero, Professor Harold Hill-is a crabbed little burg inhabited by cranks and fools, and much of Wilson's top-notch score is written in the surprising rhythms of pattering salesmen and gossiping hens. In Mary Zimmerman's revival for the Goodman Theatre, it's these notes that come through most strongly, leaving a pleasantly astringent aftertaste."
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Alex Huntsberger



ShowBizChicago- Highly Recommended

"...The Music Man has it all - great story, festive costumes, dancing, and did I mention the music - which is probably why the Goodman Theatre has added a second extension week to the major revival. Music Director Jermain Hill conducts the 11-member orchestra. Mary Zimmerman's direction has the cast beaming with Midwestern charm and energy, as they take the material to its comedic extreme."
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Stacey Crawley



Chicago On the Aisle- Somewhat Recommended

"...Yes, my friends, we got trouble, right here in Windy City. I’m talkin’ about a Goodman Theatre production of “The Music Man” – a musical, the last I heard – that’s about as musical as Amaryllis’ cross-hand piece at the piano. And by the way, the show also lacks an actor in the title role with a real feel for that two-bit, gol-dang, smooth-talkin’, tin-horn, two-timin’ salesman: someone, in short, who knows the territory."
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Lawrence B. Johnson



Stage and Cinema- Recommended

"...Conning with unforced charm, Geoff Packard offers a Harold Hill who listens as much as hoodwinks. Like a good salesman he connects with the townsfolk, almost to the point of self-delusion. His charm seems fairly irresistible. What's not so palpable is the warmth that's meant to melt Marian and the chemistry that should follow. He doesn't quite register what he's giving up (his scam-artist independence) or what he's getting (a passion more permanent than ripping off strangers). So there's a hole in the heart of this respectful revival."
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Lawrence Bommer



Splash Magazine- Highly Recommended

"...In the current Goodman revival, the stagecraft is absolutely delightful, creating a tongue-in-cheek vision of small town Americana that matched up perfectly with the cornpone lyrics, Hoosier accents and very quick yet perfectly enunciated dialogue. The opener, Rock Island, was an immediate pacesetter, with numerous salesmen bobbing and weaving to the movement, while chatting about how hard it was to sell in Iowa. They also swap stories about the scandalous Harold Hill- he doesn't know the territory! - in a rap-infused syncopated form of elocution."
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Debra Davy



Let's Play at ChicagoNow- Recommended

"...Let's Play recommend that you check out 'The Music Man' it is a feel good play that is all American that is delightful to watch on stage. If you like classical musicals, this is the one to see, because Prof. Harold Hill says, "I always think there's a band, kid.""
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Rick and Brenda McCain



Around The Town Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...The classic musical! This is what many call Meredith Willson's "The Music Man", now on the main stage of The Goodman Theatre. I have probably seen this show a dozen times. Each time with a different cast, on a different stage with different performers. Each time, I am seeing the same score and script, but due to the different cast and the imagination and creativity of a different director and choreographer, I always see something new and exciting. This is in fact, as I always say, the beauty of "live theater" over film. Film is always the same, year after ye time one sees it, they see the same everything. While the film version is wonderful, the stage version is always just a little bit better. Yes, folks, even if you do not have the best match for the leads, the ensemble, if solid and highly energetic, can propel the show to a standing ovation every night."
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Alan Bresloff



NewCity Chicago- Highly Recommended

"...Director Mary Zimmerman, known for paring and reexamining Golden Age musicals, along with choreographer Denis Jones, leave the skeleton of the story intact while focusing on character rather than overblown spectacle. Geoff Packard gives a contemporary twist to the spoken patter delivered by the inimitable Robert Preston in both the Broadway production and the revered film, while popping thrilling high notes at the end of his numbers that show him as the vocalist that Preston was not. While his seemingly deliberate alterations of rhythms gave his introduction number "(Ya Got) Trouble" a fresh resonance, an opportunity was lost to set up a slickness spelled out by Willson's carefully plotted punctuations, which were used to great effect by Preston. Nevertheless, the grinning sweetness of Packard's portrayal stands him in good stead in a backbreaking role that carries the show."
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Aaron Hunt



WTTW- Recommended

"...As Hill, the masterful, fast-talking scam artist, Geoff Packard brings enormous energy and intelligence to everything he does, and there is an impressive effortlessness to his singing and dancing in what is a truly marathon role. He also deftly suggests Hill's innate sense of what is missing in people's lives, whether dealing with Tommy, the town delinquent; Winthrop, Marian's little brother who suffers from a lisp; or the ever-squabbling men of the school board who suddenly find blissful harmony as a barbershop quartet. More than the flamboyant showman, Hill is the insightful psychologist who only realizes what is missing in his own life when he finally falls in love."
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Hedy Weiss



Chicago Theatre Review- Highly Recommended

"...Staged upon Dan Ostling’s simplified, mobile period scenic design, framed by four wooden, shiplap prosceniums, and beautifully lit by T.J. Gerckens, Mary Zimmerman’s production is visually lovely, as well. Ana Kuzmanic has designed and executed a huge wardrobe of costumes that dazzle with color and turn-of-the-century style and detail; and Ray Nardelli’s sound design paints an audible background for this show that resonates with both time and place. This is not-to-be-missed musical classic, guided by Mary Zimmerman, one of the theatre’s finest directors, that offers gorgeous music, delightful characters and a few new elements that keep the play fresh and feeling new."
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Colin Douglas



Chicagoland Theater Reviews- Recommended

"...In spite of its flaws, this revival can be recommended because the show itself is such an entertaining vehicle. One could wish for a more simpatico set design and a more charismatic Harold Hill and more exuberant and inventive choreography, but there are rewards in Monica West's singing and that great Willson score. The revival is good but not great and that will have to suffice for the throngs of expectant viewers who will crowd the Albert Theatre through August 18."
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Dan Zeff



Buzznews.net- Highly Recommended

"...Director Mary Zimmerman fully satisfies our nostalgic hunger, honoring the work by Meredith Wilson (book, lyrics and music), which itself is a bit of 1950’s nostalgia about the simpler times in 1912 River City, Iowa. This was a period when science and industry were in the ascendance in America, while popular culture was shaking loose from its reverence for 19th century classicism."
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Bill Esler



The Fourth Walsh- Highly Recommended

"...THE MUSIC MAN is in one word, FUN! It's a playful escape from an intense summer. Wilson's high-spirited melodies will be on repeat in your head long after the curtain "
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Katy Walsh



Chicagoland Musical Theatre- Highly Recommended

"...Because Zimmerman's Iowa is respected-with townspeople neither dismissed as ignorant nor lambasted as caricature. Perhaps that's her gift to this book, one of the greatest in the musical theatre canon, and her gift to Chicago, in the summer of 2019-she chose not to mess with Iowa. Ye Gawds! Buy some tickets!"
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Barry Reszel



Third Coast Review- Highly Recommended

"...The Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical this year went to Daniel Fish's stripped-down, timely interpretation of Oklahoma!, a Rodgers & Hammerstein classic that first opened on Broadway in 1943. In the current iteration, the musical's deep themes of classism, patriarchy and tolerance are front and center; without changing a word of the book or a note of the accompanying songs, the show's impact nevertheless hits like a gut punch. It's an accomplishment by any definition, breathing new life into a familiar production, and Fish's realized vision proves that solid content is timeless."
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Lisa Trifone



The Hawk Chicago- Somewhat Recommended

"...It's easy to understand why Goodman Theatre's production of Meredith Wilson's 1957 Broadway hit The Music Man, just a week into its original run, has already been extended for a second time. The feel-good show has mass appeal and a recognizable name--one of those plays that falls into the "timeless classic" category (even if there's nothing "timeless" about its outdated jokes and gender politics). But as far as Goodman's production itself goes, there's not much new to draw audiences in; despite a few high notes and standout performances, Mary Zimmerman's revival overall lacks the essential chemistry and magic that has historically helped 21st century audiences overlook the show's flaws."
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Emily Schmidt



Chicago Theater and Arts- Recommended

"...Helmed by the amazingly creative Mary Zimmerman, the Goodman show has several fun moments from the superb opening "Rock Island" salesmen (and woman) train scene and the "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" hen-clucking number to the delightful quartets by formerly bickering board members."
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Jodie Jacobs



Storefront Rebellion- Somewhat Recommended

"...Hill needs to exude charisma and confidence, so that even as we know he's flim-flamming River City, we can believe in its citizens buying his spiel. But Packard is unfortunately low on razzle-dazzle. Where Robert Preston barked and brayed in the original Broadway production and the 1962 movie, Packard's milquetoast Hill is far too reserved, sometimes seeming as though he wants to want to shrink behind the mustache he's grown for the show. Professor Harold Hill needs either charm or smarm (or both) to lead us to join his merry band; Packard doesn't come up with either. Till there was... who?"
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Kris Vire



Chicago On Stage- Recommended

"...None of this is to say that the play is not worth seeing. It definitely is. The entire ensemble is strong, the songs are well done, the comedy is rich, Jermaine Hill's orchestra is lovely, and Denis Jones's choreography is imaginative and enjoyable. Other than the central relationship, Zimmerman has done almost everything right here. And the truth is that, more so than in most musicals, that relationship is not critical. The real relationship being crafted here is between Hill and the citizens of the town of River City. His scheme changes them in permanent ways as it melts the hard heart of Marion and brings joy and vivacity to the terminally shy Winthrop. It even manages to change him. That's still a lot to accomplish even if it falls a bit short of fairy tale love."
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Karen Topham



PicksInSix- Recommended

"...That is the beautiful simplicity of Willson's message in "The Music Man." Hill, a bit of a scheming scoundrel throughout who finally meets his match in the form of Marian, the kind-hearted-yet-timid, yearning-for-love librarian. With his foot stuck in the door, Harold Hill will take his lumps and change his ways, and Marian will find what she has been looking for. And there won't be another anvil salesman to weigh them down for a long time, or at least until August 18, when the parade will march out of town."
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Ed Tracy



TotalTheater- Highly Recommended

"...For audiences still ready to dismiss Willson's genius as feel-good midwestern corn, evidence of classical influence in the evolution of our American regional aesthetic may be detected in the barbershop-quartet chorale harmonies, the integration of song and spoken word declamation as a forerunner of our modern hip-hop, the terpsichoric roots of dances in both the Martha Graham and Michael Kidd modes and the scenic design based in the paintings of Thomas Hart Benton. (If you don't believe me, see for yourself-the Art Institute is only a few blocks away. So is the Harold Washington library, where you will find plenty of Chaucer, Rabelais, and Balzac.)"
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Mary Shen Barnidge



Picture This Post- Highly Recommended

"...For this writer it's hard to pinpoint anything that is less than charming about this production. One imagines even someone hell-bent on the Iowa stubbornness their native son Meredith Willson continually references in his lyrics would melt in happiness at this production."
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Amy Munice