Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster in “The Music Man.” (Photo: Julieta Cervantes)
Seventy-six trombones may have led the big parade, but they didn’t necessarily wow critics. Meredith Willson’s The Music Man opened Thursday night at the Winter Garden Theater with critics in attendance — an old-fashioned move that limits writing time, and as such critics were rather blunt in their reviews for this highly-anticipated revival starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster and directed by Jerry Zaks.
Jesse Green for The New York Times called the production “neat, perky, and flat.” While saying the role feels tailor-made for Jackson, Green also writes “this is not a star turn.” He was more laudatory of Foster: “her take on Marion is witty and front-facing throughout.”
The Times also noted some lyrical changes to the material to update it: “In light of that, it seems foolish merely to change a lyric here or there; in the dopey dance tune ‘Shipoopi,’ the couplet ‘the girl who’s hard to get … but you can win her yet’ has become suddenly enlightened as ‘the boy who’s seen the light … to treat a woman right.’ What world are we in?”
For Time Out New York, Adam Feldman gave the musical three stars: “While this Music Man is a solid and professional piece of work, and includes many incidental pleasures, the hoped-for enchantment never arrives. Is that enough to justify the ticket prices that The Music Man, on the basis of its pedigree, currently commands? Or are audiences being slightly conned, in effect if not intent, by a production that overpromises and underdelivers? The show is fine; it hits its marks. But at these prices, the marks might be us. ”
Helen Shaw for Vulture wrote, “Foster and Jackman’s] celebrity and undeniable presence seem to have overcome any little concerns about fissures between the performers and their characters — there are places where Foster’s mezzo strains in the high stuff and Jackman goes sour.”
No major outlet seems to have given this buzzy production a rave, and Charles Isherwood for Broadway News may have given the show its most direct criticism: it’s a “sadly mechanical, overproduced and overdesigned revival of a musical that needs tender care to allow its undeniable charms to bloom.”