The television production, which was broadcast by ABC on the February 16, 2003 edition of The Wonderful World of Disney, is based on the book of the 1957 stage musical by Meredith Wilson, which was based on a story by Willson and Franklin Lacey. It was adapted for television by Sally Robinson.
The three-hour presentation was watched by 13.1 million viewers, with a 3.8 rating/9 share in adults aged 18–49. It finished second in the first two hours and fourth in the final hour.
Professor Harold Hill (Matthew Broderick), a con artist who makes a living by selling instruments and uniforms to aspiring musicians he fails to teach once they are delivered, sets his sights on the naive citizens of River City, Iowa as his latest targets. Harold is sitting on a train in the first scene, playing cards while listening to the passengers on the train talk about him and his cons (Rock Island). Before getting off at River City, an anvil salesman named Charlie realizes it is him, but fails to catch him when Harold gets off the train. Charlie yells out the window of the train "I won't forget your face, Hill!" before the train travels on, while Harold is stepping on to the fresh soil of Iowa.
Harold walks up to two men of the city on a ladder, asking where and if there was a hotel anywhere ("Iowa Stubborn"). Hill moves on to find the hotel, and meets up with his former sidekick Marcellus Washburn, who now is living in the rural town and manages the hotel himself. Harold tells Marcellus of his new pitch, being a music professor. Marcellus warns Harold that he won't be able to sell the stubborn Iowans any instruments, partly because of the town's current music teacher, Marian, who also happens to be the librarian (Kristin Chenoweth). Harold tells Marcellus that he plans to get Marian off-balanced and then tell the town how he was going to save them from terrible trouble. Marcellus tells him the town is in no trouble, and h replies that he will "just have to make some." He convinces the residents their only hope of saving their sons from the corruption of the local pool hall is to allow him to create a marching band and help them develop their musical talents ("Ya Got Trouble").
Marian happens to walk by the pool hall while this is going on and Marcellus points her out to Harold. Harold abruptly leaves and follows Marian in attempts to flirt with her in order to "throw her off balance." Marian cuts him short and walks into her house to continue a piano lesson with her pupil, Amaryllis. Her mother, Mrs. Paroo (Debra Monk), scolds her for being out so late and says that she didn't remember the library being open for so late in the summer. Marian tells her mother about Harold following her, but while she thinks it is horrid, her mother opposes ("If You Don't Mind Me Saying So"). Marian's younger brother, Winthrop (Cameron Monaghan), runs in the house with the dog shadow. Amaryllis walks in asking if he would like to come to a party that she is hosting. Winthrop declines but refuses to say her name because of his lisp, and it has an S in it. Their mother makes him say it, causing Amaryllis to giggle and Winthrop to get upset and run off. Amaryllis feels bad and confesses her feelings about Winthrop to Marian. Marian just smiles and tells her to play her crosshand piece. Amaryllis smiles and plays her piece while Marian sings of her unknown love ("Goodnight, My Someone").
The next day in the town hall the mayor (Victor Garber) and citizens are attending flag exercises led by the mayor's wife, Eulalie Shinn (Molly Shannon), when Harold walks in talking about the trouble River City is in front of the mayor ("Ya Got Trouble" reprise/"Seventy-Six Trombones"). The mayor instantly despises Harold and sends the School Board to get his credentials, which do not exist. Harold then stands in the entrance of the hall gathering five dollars from the boys' mothers who want to sign them up for the band. Then, Tommy, (Clyde Alves) a local bad boy, falls down some stairs trying to get away from the mayor. The mayor catches him and scolds him for hanging around his daughter, Zaneeta. Harold takes Tommy under his wing and gives him money to take Zaneeta out for ice cream, unbeknownst to him that she is the mayor's daughter.
Walking out of the town hall in hopes to flirt with Marian again, he is stopped by the four feuding school board members, who ask for Harold's credentials. Harold pulls them into the ice cream parlor and has them each sing, turning them into the a barbershop quartet ("Sincere"). With the School Board out of the way, Harold continues to pursue Marian. He catches up to her and confidentially tells her that he has a degree from the Gary Conservatory of Music, "Class of Aught Five (1905)" which she instantly doubts. She cuts him off abruptly and leaves.
Back at the hotel Harold confides in Marcellus about his plan to not only buy instruments, but uniforms and instruction booklets as well, which supposedly should take three weeks instead of the planned ten days. Marcellus debates with Harold that he can't teach the boys to play since he doesn't even know one note from the other. Harold tells Marcellus that he created a revolutionary system that you can use to play music, calling it the Think System, where you only need to think of a note to play it. Marcellus warns Harold that in three weeks is the Fourth of July Social, and the town will want to hear music. Harold says that once the uniforms arrive, the town will forget about the music, at least long enough for him to skip out of town with the money. Marcellus talks to Harold about setting him up with his fiancee's sister, but he doesn't want to settle down with someone who "teaches Sunday school" ("The Sadder But Wiser Girl").
Harold walks by the hat shop where the mayor's wife, Eulalie, and a gang of other women are gathered trying on hats. The women pull him into the shop, asking his opinion on their hats and gossiping. In attempts to distract Eulalie, he asks her to be the head of their dance committee. They begin to gossip about Marian once Harold brings her up ("Pick-a-Little Talk-a-Little"/"Goodnight Ladies"). They tell Harold how they shun Marian due to her relationship with the man who left the library to the town but all its contents to Marian ("Old Miser Madison").
Suspicious of Harold's claim that he has a degree from the Gary Conservatory of Music, Class of '05, Marian begins to investigate him. She is interrupted when Harold walks in and tries again to woo her ("Marian the Librarian").
Harold attempts to get Winthrop to join the band while talking to Mrs. Paroo at her home. He successfully cons her into buying an instrument. Winthrop is eavesdropping in his treehouse through the window, and falls. Harold gets him down from the tree, making Mrs. Paroo only admire him more. Harold tells Winthrop about how great his uniform will look, but fearing more laughs from his lisp, Winthrop just runs off. Mrs. Paroo tells Harold that he doesn't speak more than three words a day to anyone, so he shouldn't feel upset. They walk inside and Mrs. Paroo asks where Harold is from ("Gary, Indiana"). Marian walks in to find Harold and immediately gets upset because she still doesn't trust him.
The film was shot in Millbrook, Milton, Uxbridge, and Toronto in Ontario, Canada.
- Matthew Broderick as Professor Harold Hill
- Kristin Chenoweth as Marian Paroo
- Debra Monk as Mrs. Paroo
- Cameron Monaghan as Winthrop Paroo
- Clyde Alves as Tommy Djilas
- Cameron Adams as Zaneeta Shinn
- Megan Moniz as Amaryllis
- Linda Kash as Alma
- Victor Garber as Mayor Shinn
- Molly Shannon as Eulalie Shinn
- David Aaron Baker as Marcellus Washburn
- Patrick McKenna as Charlie Cowell
- "Rock Island"
- "Iowa Stubborn"
- "Ya Got Trouble"
- "Piano Lesson"
- "Goodnight, My Someone"
- "Got Trouble (Reprise)/Seventy-Six Trombones"
- "The Sadder But Wiser Girl"
- "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little/Goodnight Ladies"
- "Marian the Librarian"
- "Gary, Indiana"
- "My White Knight"
- "Wells Fargo Wagon"
- "It's You"
- "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little (Reprise)"
- "Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You"
- "Gary, Indiana (Reprise)"
- "Till There Was You"
- "Seventy Six Trombones (Reprise)/Goodnight, My Someone (Reprise)"
"My White Knight", which had been replaced by "Being in Love" in the 1962 film, was reinstated for the television production.
Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle called it "passable entertainment" with "strong production values, excellent costumes and art direction, and a rich color palette that conjures cozy notions of small-town America in the early 20th century," but he felt it "never matches the 1962 film with its classic performance by the late Robert Preston. It was Preston . . . who galvanized The Music Man with his vibrant, masculine authority . . . Broderick, by comparison, is cute, wide-eyed, a bit squishy and about as dynamic and intimidating as Winnie the Pooh. His singing is adequate, his dancing heavy and forced . . . Meron and Zadan, who also produced the successful TV version of Annie in 1999 and the excellent Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows in 2001, have developed a winning formula for quality television movies with bigger-than-usual budgets. The Music Man, handsome but misbegotten, doesn't match their usual standard." 
Writing for the New York Times, Michele Willens noted, "In The Music Man, Ms. Chenoweth finally gets a television part worthy of her talent," and she called the dances choreographed by Kathleen Marshall "inventive." 
Awards and nominations
The film was nominated for five Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Choreography and Music Direction and Outstanding Art Direction, Costumes, and Single Camera Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie.
Jeff Bleckner was nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing - Television Film but lost to Mike Nichols for Angels in America.
Walt Disney Home Entertainment released the film in anamorphic widescreen format on Region 1 DVD on November 11, 2003. Bonus features include interviews with members of the cast and creative team.
- Kristen Chenoweth and Victor Garber had earlier appeared in another Disney telefilm adaptation of a stage musical, that one being Annie.
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