As you might tell from the number of other Meredith Willson posts on our website, I love writing about this talented Iowa boy who grew up in Mason City, and at age 55, became best known for his amazing Broadway hit – The Music Man. As we discuss elsewhere, Willson’s musical production opened on December 19, 1957 in the Majestic Theatre – immediately becoming a smash hit – winning five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and running for 1,375 performances.
Since then, there’s been a hit movie (1962), a Broadway revival (2000), a successful TV production (2003), and now, in 2022, a completely new Broadway version featuring Hugh Jackman, Sutton Foster and a marvelous new diverse cast of Iowa Stubborn River Citians.
In the summer of 2022 – The Mason City Chamber of Commerce along with The Meredith Willson Music Man Square sponsored three tours to NYC to see the new Music Man production on Broadway. Sandy & I were honored to be a part of the first group to go – July 12th to the 15th.
Our tour group met in the late afternoon at LaGuardia Airport in NYC, boarded our tour bus, and we were off – taking in some of the many sights of the city en route to the Millennium Broadway Hotel – located in Times Square. Click here for more pics.
A full day ahead of us – our bus & walking tour started out on the busy streets of Mid-Town Manhattan. See more pics here.
Our walking tour brought us to St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue. What an awe-inspiring place. See more pics here.
After our stop at St. Pat’s, we ventured on over to 30 Rockefeller Center. See more pics here.
Now, it’s time for an elevator ride up to the Top Of The Rock – 70 floors above Mid-Town Manhattan. What a breath-taking view of North America’s largest city – on one beautiful sunny day. See more pics here.
Of course, our day wouldn’t be complete without going to Lower Manhattan to visit Ground Zero and the beautiful reflection pools that pay homage to those who died on September 11, 2001. Rising high above the memorial is the new One World Trade Center. Click here for more pics.
Our tour highlight – of course – was Wednesday night’s performance of The Music Man at The Winter Garden Theatre. We’ll save that story for last…
On our free day, Sandy & I took a scenic one-hour Circle Line boat tour from Pier 83 out to the Statue of Liberty. A amazingly beautiful day to see the equally amazing Lady of Liberty – dressed in green. See more pics here.
We finished our day off with a Big Bus ride to Central Park – topped off with a delicious piece of NY cheesecake to end our perfect day. Click here for more pics.
While considered a travel day, Sandy & I were up early – exploring Times Square. Only a few steps from our hotel is ABC – and we made it in time to watch George Stephanopoulos sign off on Good Morning America. We ended our Friday morning walk with a cup of coffee in beautiful Bryant Park – located only three blocks away from our hotel at 42nd Street and 6th Avenue. Click here for more pics.
As we walked around Times Square we came across The Majestic – the Broadway theater – built in 1927 – at 245 West 44th Street – where Music Man got its start in December 1957. As you can see (below) – Phantom of the Opera is entertaining audiences there today. So – did you know – the terms On Broadway and Off Broadway don’t refer to location – but to theater size? On Broadway means the building can seat more than 499 people. Off Broadway refers to theaters that seat between 99-499, and Off-Off Broadway is any theater that seats less than 99 patrons.
Wednesday Night – July 13th – 8 PM – Winter Garden Theatre – 1634 Broadway
Over the years I’ve seen numerous productions – both professional and non-professional performances – of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man. And yes, I’ve even been a part of one production that Meredith Willson attended in person (1972). Click here for that story.
My first encounter with MM was in 1962 when I went overt* the Temple Theatre in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa and saw Robert Preston and Shirley Jones star in the award-winning movie. As I write elsewhere – that performance actually help direct my life’s path.
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed talented actors such as Bert Parks & Barbara Williams, Matthew Broderick & Kristin Chenoweth, and many others team up to star as Harold Hill and Marian Paroo. But, in all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a charming couple as Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster as they sing and dance their way through River City 1912. Jackman, of course, is the blazing-hot star that captures everyone’s attention – and he should. He’s brilliant as an actor, singer, and dancer. But, my goodness – Sutton Foster brings a whole new look and feel to Marian the Librarian – making her into a strong, vibrant woman that can sing, dance, and act with the very best on Broadway. From everything I’ve read about Meredith Willson’s mother – Rosalie Reiniger Willson – who was his true inspiration for Marian – I believe Sutton brings our favorite librarian to life like none others have done before.
This show is crisp and clean – yet it feels like a fresh new visit with a very old friend. The book is totally faithful to the original script, but with the added diversity of the cast, the over-the-moon choreography, and the colorful use of Grant Wood artwork behind each scene, I was totally caught up in the magic of Willson’s timeless classic. Quite honestly, I’ve never had two-plus hours go by so quickly – and never been so sad when the curtain closed.
From the first chord by this fine orchestra to the final wave of the conductor’s hand on the train out of town – this 2022 visit overt* 1912 River City, Iowa was nothing short of what I believe Meredith & Rini had in mind when they first came to NYC to sell this new show about his growing up years in Mason City, Iowa. Bravo!
* just a quick explanation of the word “overt” – In Meredith Willson’s books, he many times would use his Iowa slang when telling his Mason City stories. When a person goes “over to” or is “over at” the theater – Meredith’s language would be, “He went overt the theater.”
Here are some pics from our special night at The Winter Garden – please note the actual show photos (below) were not taken during the July 13th performance but are from The Music Man On Broadway Facebook site.
Now – back home to Iowa City and Sandy & I are holding onto special memories of these four amazing days in the city that never sleeps. Thank you, New York City – Broadway – Hugh Jackman, Sutton Foster, and entire cast and crew of The Music Man. You made our visit so very special. I think Meredith & Rini would be very proud of your work!
(L-0105) A few little souvenirs from our trip!
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.
Mason City Chamber of Commerce, masoncityia.com. Below are four “promotional” videos made especially for Hugh Jackman – Come to River City, Hugh – “Wish Hugh Were Here!”