Robert Petrie Does Robert Preston

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday! This week, we’re celebrating the 120th anniversary of composer Meredith Willson’s birth. He only penned a few Broadway scores, but his efforts include at least two classics, the fascinating The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1960) and, in my opinion, one of the all-time greatest American musicals ever written, The Music Man (1957).

Revived on Broadway several times after its initial production — and filmed several times too — this stunner is currently in performance in New York with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster. But when it comes to this show, I admit I’m a purist — no one beats Robert Preston and Barbara Cook on the Original Broadway Cast album for me… not even Van Johnson on the Original London recording, or even my beloved Dick Van Dyke, who starred alongside Meg Bussert (and a young Christian Slater) in the short-lived 1980 Broadway revival.

However, in honor of Willson and his brilliant work, I want to share — with subscribers who comment below to alert me of their private, non-commercial interest — access to an audio of this Van Dyke-led production, a forgotten moment in the history of The Music Man. I’ve actually got two different versions of this same audio for you — an unlabeled-but-tracked recording, and then an untracked copy that’s in significantly better sound. Both seem complete, and although Van Dyke is not in great voice, the score is capably handled by the rest of his boisterous cast. As a sample, here’s an excerpt from the untracked recording — the bouncing “Seventy-Six Trombones,” headed by the former Robert Petrie himself!



Come back next month for a new musical rarity! And stay tuned tomorrow for more Roseanne! 

38 thoughts on “Robert Petrie Does Robert Preston

  1. “The Music Man” is the film musical that inspired my life in show business, mainly due to Robert Preston and his definitive take on the role of Harold Hill. I did see the Dick Van Dyke version and it was a good production, only it had a big hole at its center. Surprising too, as on paper, he seemed a smart choice. It wasn’t meant to be though. Would be very much interested the recordings you’re offering. Many thanks.

  2. Yes please- have always been curious about this production and would love to hear it. (I haven’t read it and want to, but in Van Dyke’s autobiography he apparently says some interesting things about his own casting in this production, in particular the ways he thinks he himself both was and wasn’t successful.) Thanks for offering this!

    • Hi, Bob! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I have emailed you at your gmail address.

      And I have flagged your question for possible use in the next Q&A entry.

  3. thanks Jackson, another great treat.

    Was The Music Man ever filmed with Forrest Tucker to your knowledge? Since he played Harold Hill over 2,000 times, you’d think someone would have taped it once but I’ve never been able to locate one.

  4. Hello Jackson
    Would love to hear the audios with Dick Van Dyke in the “Music Man”. My sister I and memorized the words of most of the songs from the show. We had an old paper back that had the story and words of the songs.


  5. The Music Man is the first show I auditioned for. I was terrible! But a year later I got on stage with new confidence and auditioned for Gypsy. That was the beginning of 30 years in the Theatre. I always wanted to play Mayor Shinn… Not One Poop Out of You, Madam! (I Think he means Peep!) Looking forward to hearing Mr. Van Dyke in the role. He seems like a natural for the Role. Thank You, Jackson!

  6. Jackson:

    I would love to hear Dick Van Dyke’s performances from “The Music Man” tracks that you have. I know I would have gone to see it if I had the chance.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Jeff Alexander

  7. Would love to listen to this production. I think they used the original Don Walker orchestrations and had the great Milton Rosenstock on the podium. That alone makes it worth hearing. Thank you!

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