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A Broadway musical by Merideth Willson about a traveling salesman (read: con man) named Professor Harold Hill, attempting to make lots of money at the expence of a bunch of stubborn Iowans, in the early 1900s. Of course, he meets a girl and falls in love by the end, with much hijinx and songs in between.

The rest of this is a plot (and song) summary... However, Music Man does not depend on a surprise ending or plot twists, so reading this won't spoil much. The fun of Music Man is not its (predictable) plot, but the songs and the characters.

The play starts out with a "song" (words said to a beat, really) called Rock Island, about how being a travelling salesman has changed, leading into a description of how Prof. Hill makes a living selling Boys Bands, with instruments, uniforms, and instruction books. Turns out Harold is actually on the train, and he escapes into River City just before getting pummeled by Charlie, a salesman who got run out of town because of Harold's con.

We are introduced to the residents of River City with a song called Iowa Stubborn. Harold meets an old accomplice named Marcellus, who informs them that the town just recieved its first pool table. In order to play his con, he informs the down what terrible trouble a pool table is (song cue: Ya Got Trouble).

He meets the town librarian and piano teacher, Marian Paroo, and attempts to woo her (to keep her from foiling his con) and gets quickly and frequently rejected. (songs: Piano Lesson and Goodnight, my Someone)

On the Fourth of July, he converts the entire town and gets them to let him lead a band (song: Seventy-Six Trombones). The mayor, unconvinced, attempts to get his credentials (of which he has none, of course). While deftly dodging questions, he sells instruments to the parents, forms the school board into a barbershop quartet (song: Sincere), and forms the Ladies Auxiliary into a Del Sarte dance group.

Attempting to woo Marian, he gets information from the Ladies Auxiliary, the gossips of the town. They inform him that she promotes dirty books and had an affair with Maiser Madison (a dead rich man who left a lot of things to the town) in the song Pick a Little.

Harold has no problem with this, as he prefers an "experienced" lady (song: The Older but Wiser Girl for Me). Armed with this information, he again attempts to get the "easy" Marian as she works (song: Marian the Librarian). Harold's infectious nature and con artistry start picking away at Marian's defences as he persistantly works on her and her family. (songs: Gary, Indiana and My White Knight)

The Wells Fargo wagon arrives (greeted by a song, of course: Wells Fargo Wagon), bringing the band instruments. Here, Marian is finally won over by having her lisping and stuttering little brother come out of his shell and sing. Now we learn how Harold "teaches" the kids to play without "knowing one note from another". The Think System. And that's just act one.

Act two starts out with everyone working on things for an Ice Cream Social. The quartet works on the song It's You, the teens of the town practice a dance (and song) called Shipoopi. After seeing how Marian gets along with Harold, the Ladies Auxiliary apologizes in a reprise of Pick a Little. The boys of the town are off humming the Minuet in G, very very badly, as part of Harold's Think System.

At this point, an anvil salesman named Charlie (from the very first scene), arrives in River City. He tells Marian about how Harold has used this same con across the country. She manages to distract Charlie with a kiss long enough to make him run for his train (which was only in town for a quick stop). However, instead of catching the train Charlie goes and raises the town up against the con man Harold Hill.

Marian and Harold meet on the footbridge (on their way to the Social), and have a little talk. Harold admits his love for her and Marian tells him what happened with old "Uncle Maddy", the rich old man left her the library so that she'd always have a job to support herself. her mother, and her brother. (songs: Till There Was You, reprises)

The town captures Harold, but is saved by the appearance of the boys of the town (who had been off practicing), with instruments and uniforms. Marian reminds them of how boring River City had been. Finally, an impromtu performance of the band puts the town behind Harold and the show ends happily and with a big kiss.


The musical was made into a movie in 1962. The movie stars Robert Preston as Harold, Shirley Jones as Marian, and Buddy Hackett as Marcellus. The movie is a fairly direct conversion of the musical to the silver screen.

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