Home Musical score Discovery of Broadway Script Reveals How Disability Was Erased From The Music Man | News

Discovery of Broadway Script Reveals How Disability Was Erased From The Music Man | News

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One of the most popular musicals in Broadway history was originally intended to be the story of a young boy in a wheelchair, according to drafts of the show recently discovered by a researcher at the University of Sheffield.

  • University of Sheffield researcher has uncovered unseen drafts of one of the most popular musicals in Broadway history
  • The drafts show how The Music Man – who is set to return to Broadway this Christmas with Hollywood superstar Hugh Jackman – was originally a young boy in a wheelchair driven out of cities in the American Midwest due to his disability.
  • The original scripts show how the musical’s author – Meredith Willson – faced a three-year battle to write the show about the discrimination faced by the boy and his family
  • The results show how the original plot was considered too provocative for Broadway, with Willson being forced to abandon his idea for the musical just 10 months before it opened in 1957.

One of the most popular musicals in Broadway history was originally intended to be the story of a young boy in a wheelchair, according to drafts of the show recently discovered by a researcher at the University of Sheffield.

As Broadway prepares to welcome a revival of The Music Man by Meredith Willson starring Hollywood superstar Hugh Jackman later this month, newly discovered drafts revealed that Willson had to struggle for three years to write the series about Jim Paroo, a young boy in a wheelchair who was kicked out of several cities from the American Midwest, cruelly taunted for his inability to speak or walk.

Until just 10 months before the musical first debuted on Broadway in 1957, the plot cornerstone would depict how titular musician Harold Hill challenged community bigotry and put Jim into a new boy group.

However, the plot was considered too provocative for Broadway in the 1950s, a genre that promoted athletic bodies performing complex dance moves, as friends and those involved in the production of the series pressured Willson. to give up the idea, even though they recognized it. was worthy.

Eight newly discovered drafts of The Music Man were discovered by Professor Dominic Broomfield-McHugh, professor of musicology at the University of Sheffield. The drafts, dating from February 1954 to January 1957, were discovered at the Great American Songbook Foundation in Indiana.

Professor Broomfield-McHugh from the Music Department at the University of Sheffield said: “Willson firmly believed that the stigma against young people with disabilities was a major issue in society that needed to be tackled, and he saw this as something he could do through the Broadway musical.

“His idea of ​​putting a young boy with a disability as the main character in The Music Man was provocative. Mid-twentieth-century Broadway writers had tried to focus their attention on important social themes of the day, but ableism had never been approached in this way before.

“What I discovered from the drafts as well as documents from Willson’s life was that it was just too much for Broadway in the 1950s. Broadway’s emphasis on spectacle and normativity meant that Willson was forced to change the show’s plot to what we know today – by erasing what could have been a much-loved and famous disabled character from Broadway.

With its colorful costumes, lively dances and lively marches, Meredith Willson’s show The man of music remains one of the most popular musicals in Broadway history.

Opening in 1957, her cheerful and romantic mood helped her original production run 1,375 performances, beating West Side Story – another classic that opened three months earlier – at most major prices that year.

The Music Man Story Study, conducted by Professor Broomfield-McHugh, also revealed new insights into Meredith Willson’s life and career. The research results revealed the stories behind Willson’s other musicals, his rise to fame through the New York Philharmonic, the Sousa Marching Band, and as songwriter of Charlie Chapin’s controversial film The Great Dictator.

Professor Broomfield-McHugh added: “Willson’s work on The Music Man, and indeed his eclectic career across symphony orchestras, Hollywood and radio, indicate that he was much more innovative and engaged than you might think.

“Willson was genuinely involved in the disability rights movement, which traces its roots back to when Willson wrote The Music Man – he went on a concert tour in preparation for his next musical. The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and donated the proceeds to a charity for children with disabilities.

“A lot of people see Willson as a political conservative and disengaged from socialist issues, but my research shows that was not the case. “

Newly discovered drafts for The Music Man along with new information about Willson’s life and career uncovered by Professor Broomfield-McHugh are published in a new book by Oxford University Press – The Grand Parade: Meredith Willson’s musicals from “The Music Man” to “1491. The book is available in the US and UK.