In 1980, I saw a production in L.A. of The Music Man with Dick Van Dyke. He was wonderful, though miscast. I think the role of 'Harold Hill' plays best when he's a fast-talking city slicker, in 180-degree dramatic contrast with the easy-going, Iowa Stubborn citizens of River City. Dick Van Dyke is as far from a city slicker as there is. He came across in the show like a charming country bumpkin, almost one of them. As I said, he was absolutely terrific -- but for my taste, the wrong choice to play the role. But I'm sure glad I saw it.
(While most interpretation is subjective, I think that what I'm noting here is more than just personal taste, but actually inherently written into the original material. After all, that's what "Ya Got Trouble" is. The blistering pace of that song shows that it is not remotely intended as a leisurely stroll in the park. That's a guy trying to steamroll naive people. And the centerpiece of the show, "76 Trombones" begins in a completely un-neighborly way, as 'Harold Hill' actually dares interrupt a town hall meeting and shouts at everyone, "Please, folks! May I have your attention, please! Attention, please!" In fact, in the very next line, he says the way he'll change the town is "with the wave of my hand, this very hand." That's the words of a mesmerizing magic wizard. And he's as big-city pushy trying to unrelentingly seduce 'Miss Marian' as an out-of-town stranger can be. Since much of 'Professor Hill" is indeed charming, playing the role with an "aw shucks" simplicity works at times. But overall, I just don't think it's how the character is written or best done.)
Anyway, I just now tracked down seven minutes of it! The Marian the Librarian number. The quality is lousy, at times really lousy, but good enough and watchable enough to revel in seeing. And having as a historic record.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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