The Music Man – Aotea Centre: October 12, 2023 (Musical Theatre Review)

The Music Man is back! The big-band musical premiere on Broadway way back in 1957 and now it is playing for four nights at Auckland’s Aotea Centre. The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda was there.

This was something of a two-way trip into the past. Playwright Merideth Willson began work on it in 1946 and it made its Broadway debut in December of 1957, but the story is set way back in 1912. It has been revived on Broadway last year with Hugh Jackman taking the lead role and so G&T Productions (Chess, Evita, Mary Poppins) have assembled an excellent New Zealand cast and crew to bring those 76 Trombones down under.

We don’t get Jackman but we do get Nic Kyle, who you may remember from Kinky Boots, along with the Royal New Zealand Navy Band.

This is a very big, very brassy production and the acting, singling and especially the dancing are of the highest calibre.

The Music ManThe story follows con man “Prof” Harold Hill (Kyle) as he attempts the dupe the folks who live in the small town of River City, Iowa. Hill cons the townspeople into believing he will form a boys’ marching band despite the fact that he has no musical abilities and only wants to run off with money given for uniforms and instruments.

It’s not the most plausible plot, but, hey, times were different in 1912.

Most of the locals are taken in by Hill’s charm including Mayor Shinn and his wife, the delightfully named, Eulalie MacKecknie Shinn played with great gumption by Theresa Wells. What a performance!

The Music ManThe other standout is little Winthrop Paroo (Jett Iles), the lisping 10-year sibling of love interest Marian Paroo (Jess Rogers).

If you don’t know the play, you may know a couple of the songs…76 Trombones is a classic that John Philip Sousa would have been proud of and Til There Was You was covered by The Beatles early in their career (not one of their finest moments).

But this production provides plenty for a night on the town…singing, dancing, corny jokes, archaic language, great costumes and even better musicianship.

It’s a long way from Hamilton, but if The Music Man is cool enough for Hugh Jackman, its hip enough for us.

Marty Duda

The Music Man is on at Aotea Centre through October 15th Click here for tickets.  

Click on any image to view a photo gallery: