Mister Eclectic (howeird) wrote,
Mister Eclectic

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Disney TV The Music Man review

I rented this 2003 TV special because Kristin Chenoweth plays Marion the Librarian - I love her voice and she's pretty hot, too. Matthew Broderick as Harold Hill would not have been my first choice, but neither was Robert Preston. Broderick can actually sing, which is an improvement, and he's an excellent dancer. Jeff Bleckner did a pretty good directing job.

Disney rewrote this show from top to bottom, and I hate to say this, but for the most part they improved it. My only complaint is minor - I think they played Hill too young and Marion too old. A little makeup could have fixed that. Chenoweth was 35 - and looked it - when the show was produced, and though Broderick is 6 years older than her, he looks like he is 10 years her junior. They actually left the line in the script where he mentions Marion is 26. He needs to look significantly older for a lot of the love story to work.

The production is well-directed, the cast has amazing talent in unexpected places, and amazing lacks of talent in other places. Chenoweth is superb in this. She looks amazing in those period outfits, and her voice is to die for. Shirley Jones eat your heart out. Ditto Barbara Cook. The original Broadway and Hollywood Marions were excellent singers with cabaret-quality voices. Chenoweth has the range and control of an opera soprano on top of that. In their duets she pretty well drowns out Broderick, who sings well but not very strong. They did some good audio mixing to help him along, but his voice just doesn't measure up.

There is  a lot of choreography in this piece, most of it Standard Disney. It's obvious they favored dance skills over singing skills because the chorus numbers are not very strong but the many production dance numbers are well done, and way too long. They have Hill dancing all over the place, even when he's just doing his patter, and it got annoying. On the other hand, he was definitely the lead dancer in his numbers, which is rare to see in a leading man.

Some outstanding performances were handed in by supporting cast. Debra Monk as Marion's mother is charming and very Irish (Chenoweth's accent becomes very Irish in scenes with Monk, and reverts to Standard Iowa in the other scenes) and she really perks up the piano lesson number. Cameron Adams is adorable as the mayor's eldest daughter Zaneeta, and she gets to show off her acrobatic dancing skills and a little bit of her clear, strong singing voice. Little Megan Moniz as the piano student Amaryllis also gets a line or two of solo singing, and she'll be someone to look out for in 10 years or so. There was one redheaded dancer who caught my eye several times, but she wasn't credited and they stuck her in the back row of all the big numbers for no apparent reason. Also uncredited was the barbershop quartet, who were okay but not as good, IMHO, as the one on the original cast album.

Victor Garber gets a life membership in Overactors Anonymous for his role as the mayor. They went for the in-shape demagogue with a stick up his butt, instead of how the script is written - which would be a bumbling fat pork barrel politician a la Dukes of Hazard. Other disappointments were Molly Shannon as the mayor's wife, who did not over-act enough and played it as a normal person which is not who this character is; Cameron Monaghan has the red hair, freckles and missing front teeth required for Winthrop, Marion's lisping baby brother, but he's kind of wooden, and has all the early warning signs of being the pawn of a stage mom; and Clyde Alves as the juvenile delinquent who becomes the drum major is just boring. The part needs someone like Henry Winkler and Alves is more like the guy they just cut from the basketball team for being a wuss.

I would have liked to have more singing and less dancing, or at least shorter dance numbers. The director did some interesting experiments with Iowa Stubborn, Lida Rose/Dream of Love, Wells Fargo Wagon and 76 Trombones using vast sets and street scenes which couldn't be done on Broadway. I think the Hollywood version handled those better, however.

This version also added a few lines here and there which did a better job than the previous versions of explaining a few things about who some of the characters are. All in all a DVD worth renting.

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