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!