Hugh Jackman Returning to Broadway: Why This Is Politically Important

A revival of a major hit with major stars is not something unusual for Broadway but the timing of this particular show is something with greater significance than box office.
Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster

Broadway shows don’t normally get announced a year and a half in advance, but Hugh Jackman starring in a revival of “The Music Man” on Broadway is no ordinary event. Beyond its box office potential, there are wider implications to having a huge star in this role opening in the fall of 2020.

To me, it’s all about the 2020 Presidential Election.

I’ve not always been the hugest Hugh Jackman fan but I’m 100 percent behind him playing Professor Harold Hill and equally happy about his co-star, the incomparable Sutton Foster whom you may know from TV’s “Younger” (she’s a supernova star on Broadway star). Their combined chops, charisma and star power will bring a huge amount of attention to the musical, and that’s really a great thing.

Why is this show which debuted in 1957 relevant to the 2020 Election? It comes down to the subject matter. The story is about a con man who takes advantage of the citizens in a small town. What could be more relevant just as we’re heading to the ballot box to elect our next President? There most likely is no other show in all of theatrelandia that could speak better to the plight of our times.

If you don’t get my point, then you’re probably the target audience for this show. How many unsuspecting audience members will go to see their favorite star onstage and suddenly get a lightbulb connecting the dots between the con man Mr. Jackman is playing and the one in the White House?

However, the timing may just be a coincidence. It has been a while since the show has been revived and the two stars are always in demand, so maybe that’s the only time their schedules coincide. But if you look to Mr. Jackman’s past interviews, he’s expressed interest in bringing a new musical to Broadway instead of starring in a revival (he tried with a show about Houdini, which never came together). To me, it’s obvious that the timeliness of the material is the true motivation.

Timing aside, let me also say that “The Music Man” is also one of the best shows ever to come from Broadway. With a great story, two lead parts built for star performers, a score with “Seventy-Six Trombones” which I’m sure you’ve all absorbed from the ether and the standard “Till There Was You”, plus a town filled with fun characters.

Catch the 1962 movie version if you can (it plays occasionally on TCM), starring Robert Preston who originated the role of Harold Hill. If you look closely, you can recognize the very same street that comprises Stars Hollow in “Gilmore Girls” on the Warner Brothers Studios backlot in Burbank. In fact, in the image below, you can see in the upper right the building that housed Doose’s Market. (I’ll post a story later about my visit to the WB backlot).

Robert Preston in “The Music Man” filmed at Warner Brothers Studios.

Whatever the motivation for staging it, I’m looking forward to seeing this revival, if I can get a ticket.

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