The Music Man was one of the most highly-anticipated and buzzed about musicals opening on Broadway throughout the pandemic. And once the marquee lights shined again, it made its grand opening lead by two beloved stars, Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster. The musical which first came to Broadway in 1957 sticks to the classic canon of a Golden Age hit — the costumes, the lyrics, the storyline, the music. However, the choreography, done by Warren Carlyle, becomes an entire role on its own within the show.
“I wanted it to be really original. When you approach the revival, you can either choose to follow in the footsteps or choose to approach it like it’s brand new, and for Music Man, I just wanted it to be new,” Warren told HollywoodLife.com in an EXCLUSIVE interview as part of the Tony Contenders series. “Casting the kids was a huge deal. A huge deal, and it literally took us years to get it right. They’re wonderful and dance like maniacs!”
He continued, “It does something to the point of view. It forces a childlike wonder upon everything because they see things in a very different way than us adults do. And they actually just loved it. I loved their point of view. I loved having them in the room. They were and are just magnificent.”
Warren revealed that it took “over three years” to “really hone in on the choreography.” “’76 Trombones’ probably took me five days to create initially because it is incredibly complex, extremely layered, and we have a cast of 46 people,” he said. “There’s nine minutes of new dance music, and there are a lot of elements that are really new and that take a lot of work to get right.”
So much has changed since 1957 when The Music Man originally premiered on Broadway, especially the modernization of women. “This generation of theatregoers receives information differently. We perceive women differently. Sutton revolutionizes this role of Marian. She’s not a vapid victim, she’s a wonderful, highly intelligent, very strong woman, and none of that existed in the previous version. So I was happy to be involved in something really quite original,” Warren told HL.
As for Hugh, Warren, who has worked with the multi-hyphenate on multiple projects through the years, he said he “wanted him to be as comfortable as possible.” “He’s such a fine actor and I wanted his head out of the steps, and that’s what the repetition really helped with. He’s so incredibly free and he’s dancing better than he’s ever danced,” the choreographer gushed. “That was my wish, just to deliver him to a place where he was just wildly comfortable and wildly free. It looks like Harold Hill is coming up with the steps, not Warren Carlyle, it’s unique to him.”