The Music Man reviews, and television musicals

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by DeeF, Feb 18, 2003.

  1. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    I found The Music Man to be, overall, no better and no worse than any of the recent TV versions of great musicals. The best and most insightful comment came from a friend the other night when he said, "they don't know how to do them anymore." They don't know how to walk down that very narrow path containing reality as well as bright, colorful, delightful musical reality. They don't know how to choreograph. They don't know when to cut, and when to keep the camera steady. They don't make costumes that are fun but looked lived in. They can't orchestrate a number to save their skin.

    There were some aspects of the show which were (seemingly) inexcusable to me. The costumes and hair were strictly amateur, ill-fitting and making the actors look ugly and move awkwardly. There were some awkward shots showing the flimsiness of many of the sets. The lack of good color was the first thing we all noticed. The orchestrations were changed in that modern way to add a touch of "Vegas" everywhere (incidentally, this was NOT done to Gypsy, which used its original orchestrations). They hired Molly Shannon obviously to bring out the comedy, and then gave her no opportunity to do so (unlike Hermione Gingold in the original). They hired Victor Garber for a role utterly unsuitable to him. Perhaps they didn't understand or appreciate the comedy in this show at all, as they missed jokes right and left.

    Whether the lead performances measured up is a matter of personal taste. I think Matthew Broderick overall did his best, but he is the wrong type for Harold Hill, better for Marcellus. Harold isn't an aging boy. And Broderick tries so hard to act natural and unfettered that he seems to have no range, he never "goes for it." He was, overall, bland, and he didn't even look handsome or energized. Unfortunately, I think Broderick was the reason this got made at all (Eric McCormack is a much better choice for Hill, but probably doesn't have Broderick's clout at this time).

    So, I can say without quibbling, my favorite actor in this version was Kristen Chenowith, and her singing in two songs ("Goodnight, My Someone" and "My White Night") were the only saving graces in this show, for me, even though the numbers were awkwardly staged and she had to emote through those horrible bangs. "Till There Was You" was given too much pop stylization.

    Immediately following the show, we turned on the DVD of the original movie, directed by the original show's director, Morton DaCosta. The difference was startling, even remarkable, and not just in the casting. The staging, the costumes, the orchestrations, the color -- all were superior, without question. And Shirley Jones is one of the greatest beauties of the cinema, even when pregnant with Patrick Cassidy.

    If I were Kristen, I would have been mad at my costumes, maybe even refusing to wear them.
     
  2. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    I didn't watch the new version of Music Man, as my Sunday nights belong to the Simpsons. As for the TV musicals that have been made over the past 10 years:

    Gypsy (1993): The best of the TV musicals so far, and the only one that is (IMO) superior to the first film, which was not bad, but lacked the vitality of this one.
    1962 version: ***
    1993 version: ****

    Bye Bye, Birdie (1995): Haven't seen yet. I've always like the 1963 film version; though it lacks the satirical edge of the stage play, it has the better cast.
    1963 version: ***

    Cinderella (1997): Haven't seen yet. Nor have I seen the 1957 original with Julie Andrews (where's that one on DVD?). The 1965 TV version suffered from the limitations of doing videotape at that time and from some stilted dialogue. But Lesley Ann Warren was irresistible as Cinderella.
    1965 version: **1/2

    Annie (1999): My least favorite of the TV musicals made so far. The only improvements over the 1982 film (which I liked; in spite of some minor flaws [and the fact that I expect to be burned at the stake in some circles for liking it], it is the only adaptation that strikes an emotional chord) were the reinstatement of "Tomorrow" in its place in the story and the retention of "Something Was Missing." But I just did not care for the performances at all, nor the obvious attempts at diversity in 1933. I'm used to having unpopular opinions.
    1982 version: ***
    1999 version: **

    South Pacific (2001): Not bad. Not great, but not bad. The 1958 film, though slightly flawed, has the slight upper hand.
    Both versions: ***

    I didn't watch The Music Man for the aforementioned reason above, and because the original film was the best of any of the previous filmings of the musicals that have been done. If it ain't broke...
     
  3. Phil Florian

    Phil Florian Screenwriter

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    I watched part of the film with my family (wife and 3 year old daughter who is in LOVE with musicals...in particular, Annie). I didn't make it. I wandered away after the first hour.

    It lacked pizzazz, sadly. I liked Broderick to a degree... kind of Ferris Bueller grown up and doing what he does best...huckstering. The should have added Alan Ruck as Marcellus and been done with it (in fact, he probably would have rocked in the role...he is quite funny). I didn't mind the choreography. The Mayor was horrible...and I like the actor. Miscast. Marian, while having a lovely voice, was just not right but I don't know why. Her mother was fun but waaaaay too young, I thought. Sure she is supposed to have a tiny boy and an older daughter but Marian looked to be much closer in age to her mother than is right. Personal preference, though.

    The worst thing for me, though revolved around the commercials. My god, didn't they know that kids would be watching it!! Sure, it ended at 10 but I would assume if kids started it at 7 PM (it IS Disney, after all) they would be up until the end. So why show "World's Sexiest People" and other crap like that?? Also, the amount of commercials was horrible. One song, 3 commercials, repeat. I may have stuck with it if it was 2 hours and not broken up as much.

    I am glad there is movement to bring musicals back to the screen, big and small. Chicago, Hedwig and Dancer in the Dark show how it can be done but we have to deal with Music Man-style shows in between them. Here is hoping they do better with the next property.


    ...and so's your old man! [​IMG]


    Phil
     
  4. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    I watched just the librarian scene and was immediately put-off by Broderick in the role. He has a fine voice and he's a fine actor

    He used way too much verbratto, and didn't seem like Hill at all. Robert Preston couldn't sing that well, so he "spoke-sang" most of his songs. I'm sick and tired of actors trying to make the role their own. Your job is to copy Robert Preston. DO IT. Originate a role, and other people will copy you.
     
  5. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Jeff, you do have a point to a degree. But some things just happen, such as an actor becoming so famous in a role that it's hard to see anyone else in it. And Preston's Harold Hill is one of three musical performances recreated for film that are so good that they create a sort of prejudice in their favor, IMO (the other 2: Yul Brynner's King Mongkut in the play and film of "The King and I" and Rex Harrison's Henry Higgins in the play and film of "My Fair Lady"). I admit I have that problem.

    Victor Garber is a good actor, but seemingly difficult to cast. I liked his Sid Luft better than his Oliver Warbucks, frankly.

    On another point, I, personally, would like to see some original musicals for television. That or adaptations of musicals that have never been filmed before. Several Broadway-style composers are still alive to create scores.

    And as for orchestrations, I love the old style of the musical orchestrations in movies and especially in musicals.

    But there are just some things they'll never be able to do like they used to. Hollywood has no room for stuff like "suspension of disbelief" or "fantasy" other such malarkey. [​IMG]
     
  6. Tom Koegel

    Tom Koegel Stunt Coordinator

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    Having watched the TV production, I became curious as to whether we are going to get a 16:9 enhanced DVD. (My vague recollection is that the DVD produced of the TV Annie, also by this crew, is 4:3 only.) I couldn't find anything out on the web, but I ran across this American Cinematographer article saying that the production was "composed for 4:3 but protected for 16:9", and that ABC rejected a proposal to letterbox it for broadcast. http://www.theasc.com/magazine/feb03/colorful/ Does anyone know if this was broadcast in HD, and if so, was it in 16:9? The article also explains something about the complaints about color; the cinematographer seems to have wanted it muted!

    As to the merits of the production, I thought that:

    Broderick was passable, although he either was completely intimidated by "Trouble" or had decided to do it as the much-practiced, jaded huckster who has performed the scam a million times before. No energy.

    Chenowith was amazing.

    Garber/Mayor Shinn was awful. I presume someone told him to play it like a heavy, so as to create greater dramatic tension about the anti-Djilas prejudice. But c'mon, this is The Music Man, not To Kill a Mockingbird.

    They added a couple of lines of back story to make the otherwise inexplicable Shipoopi make some kind of sense within the story. I liked this, even if it didn't completely fit together.

    I thought it was odd that they swiped shots from the original, most noticeably the reflection in the creek below the footbridge.

    I didn't notice the commercials, since I used ReplayTV to do a modest time shift. Started watching about 8:00, excised all the commercials, which probably meant I was finished not that long after 10:00 with everybody else. There were LOTS of commercials. Sorry to hear that, as per usual for the networks, the commercials were inappropriate for the audience.
     
  7. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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  8. BarryR

    BarryR Supporting Actor

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    I agree--Marion the Librarian's costumes were....awful. Ugly and overdone, even for a musical!

    I thought the "Ye Gods!" girl was a charmer.

    If you didn't care for Victor Garber as the mayor, just wait--he's suppose to portray Tevye in an upcoming TV remake of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! Do we really need another version???? Why not,say,GUYS AND DOLLS?
     
  9. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Miramax is optioning a remake of Guys and Dolls with...

    Vin Diesel

    Holy mother of God.
     
  10. BarryR

    BarryR Supporting Actor

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    Hmm...that's not exactly what I had in mind. :b
     

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