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So what the heck

You're welcome

Join us at the picnic

You can eat your fill

Of all the food you bring yourself.

You really ought to give

Iowa

A try.
—River Citizens, 'Iowa Stubborn'

The Music Man is a Tony award winning Broadway musical. Long considered one of the classics of the genre, the theatrical version has been a staple of Summer Stock, High School and Community theatre productions for more than 50 years. There is a classic 1962 film version starring Robert Preston of the original 1957 production, and also a 2003 Disney remake starring Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth.

The story involves a con artist rolling into a small town in Iowa, where the people are generally staunch and cynical of any stranger. Using his charm, "Professor" Harold Hill introduces himself as a music teacher, here to organize the easily corrupted youth of the town into a band to keep them out of trouble. His plan is basically charging them through the roof for instruments and the costs of being a teacher, only to run off when the time comes to actually make good on his offer. Unfortunately for him, he starts to get too into the role and gains an attraction to the feisty and independent Marian, the local librarian, who is quick to see through his deception.

Set in 1912, The Music Man misses The Gay Nineties, but not by much, and demonstrates the same nostalgic treatment, while (at least in the film version) lampshading it.


This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • American Gothic Couple: In 'Iowa Stubborn'
  • Author Avatar: River City is based on Meredith Willson's hometown of Mason City, Iowa.
  • The Barnum: Professor Harold Hill, until his Heel Face Turn.
  • Becoming the Mask: Professor Harold Hill.
  • Beta Couple: Great Honk! Tommy Djilas and Zaneeta Shinn. Ye Gods!
  • Brainy Blonde: Though Marian does get misty-eyed in the second act.
  • The Charmer: Harold Hill, especially with Marian; he practically works Charm Person on her.
  • Crowd Song: "Iowa Stubborn"
  • Curse of the Ancients: "Jeely Cly!" onstage and "Great Honk!" in the movie
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Marian, with Harold as her defroster.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: In the "You Got Trouble" number, Harold Hill whips the crowd into a panic about the fallout about a pool table being available for play. While we know this is a scam, it's still amusing to see the locals get agitated about their kids using language that we consider perfectly innocuous like "Swell" and "So's your old man!"
  • Duet Bonding
  • Final Love Duet: "Till There Was You"
  • Genre Motif: Showtunes, anyone?
  • Girlish Pigtails: Amaryllis.
  • Gossipy Hens: Mrs. Shinn's Ladies Classical Dance Group (AKA the "pickalittle" ladies). Their signature song even has them making birdlike sounds. Lampshaded in the movie with Robert Preston: after the ladies start singing (pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little, cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more), the camera switches to a view of their bobbing heads—and then to a group of chickens with the same colors as the ladies’ feathered hats.
  • Grande Dame: Eulalie McKecknie Shinn.
  • Hot Librarian: For the civilized world accepts as unforgivable sin/Any talking out loud with any librarian/Such as Ma-a-a-a-a-a-a-Rian!
  • I Have No Son: I never said you did!
  • Incessant Chorus: The town gossips. "Pickalittletalkalittlepickalittletalkalittle..."
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Inverted when Hill claims to be a graduate of Gary Music Conservatory, gold medal, class of Aught-Five.
  • Insane Troll Logic: "You got trouble, and that starts with T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for pool!"
  • "I Want" Song: "My White Knight" and its Spear Counterpart, "The Sadder but Wiser Girl for Me".
    • A characteristic piece of brilliance when you realize that the two songs are (musically) counterpoints to each other.
  • Irrelevant Act Opener: Not only does "Shipoopi" have nothing to do with the plot, it's a word Meredith Willson invented for the show.
  • Karma Houdini: Harold Hill is about to be punished for the crimes of tricking the town out of all their money, and making their children look like idiots by not teaching them how to play their instruments at all. All of this is true, but because the kids, for no reason whatsoever, can suddenly play their instruments fantastically (at least in the original adaption, most newer adaptions play it as the kids playing terribly but the parents don't know the difference, only that their kid is playing in a band), Hill gets away with it all.
    • Actually, even the original script has the kids playing extremely clumsily. The score is even written to be played off-key and raggedly. Of course, the miracle is that the kids can play at all ....
  • Kiss of Distraction: Marian Paroo plants one on anvil-salesman Charlie Cowell, in an attempt to keep him from delivering documents that would discredit Harold Hill.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Harold, with Marian.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: And taking her glasses off, too.
  • Literal Genie: A minor example:

 Harold Hill: Excuse me, do you know where I could find a good hotel?

River City Resident: Try the Palmer House, Chicago.

  • Love Epiphany: Harold has his shortly after Marian reveals that she knew his true identity all along and could have ratted him out at any time, but chose not to.
  • Loveable Rogue: Professor Hill. And given how much actual good he does -- with Winthrop, Zaneeta and Tommy, and the School Board to name three -- he earns the adjective even more than the noun.
  • Major Minor Inconvenience: The new pool table, owned by Mayor Shinn. You've got trouble, my friends!
  • Make-Out Point: Cars aren't widespread enough for this trope to be played straight, but the youngsters can still go to "the footbridge" to kiss. Marian even Lampshades the fact that it's taken her so long to meet a guy there.
  • Malaproper: The Mayor is a goldmine of these.
  • Malt Shop
  • Moral Guardians: Mocked. Professor Hill uses his Everyone Is Satan in Hell arguments to pad out his con.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: Inverted repeatedly by Professor Hill who distracts the School Board from seeking his credentials by forming them into a barbershop quartet.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: In "The Sadder But Wiser Girl for Me," Harold sings about how he prefers to date girls who've been around the block. Ironically, he ends up falling for Marian.
  • The New Rock and Roll: "Ragtime/shameless music" and a whole host other things. Ya got trouble I say!
    • With a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for "pool!"
  • The Not-Secret: At the end, Harold tries to confess his true identity to Marian, only for her to tell him she's known all along.
  • Not Staying for Breakfast
  • Old Maid: Marian. Amaryllis also fears becoming one of these.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Shipoopi
  • Refuge in Audacity: Harold Hill's stock in trade.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: The aforementioned Prof. H. Hill.
  • Sweetheart Sipping: Even though it's not The Fifties. Weird.
  • Take It to the Bridge: It's indecent to meet boys at the footbridge.
  • Tar and Feathers: The anvil salesman refers to tar and feathers, but since this is 1912 one wonders if he was simply being facetious.
    • Not hardly. If you check out The Other Wiki's article on the subject, you will see photos of a man who was tarred and feathered in 1917.
    • Not to mention being ridden out of town on a rail.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: "Shipoopi". Again.
    • Also "Lida Rose", although all Harold Hill has to do is get the song started and the school board takes it from there.
  • Title Drop: "He's a music man/and he sells clarinets", although slightly later the Professor points out that he hasn't dropped his name, at least.
  • Verbal Tic: Zaneeta, ye Gods!
    • And Tommy, great honk / Jeely cly!
    • And Mayor Shinn, watch your phraseology!
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Where Marian keeps the incriminating page.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Nobody mentions anything about the pool table anymore . . .
  • With a Capital T: Trope Namer. The show-stopper "Ya Got Trouble".
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