Excerpts of a few of the musical numbers from The Music Man are shown below.
The year is 1912. Eight traveling salesmen aboard the Rock Island Railroad perform the wonderfully effective opening number, "Rock Island" which is delivered in speech-rhythm as they journey to their destinations. Meredith Willson has whipped out an entire first choral scene without any singing.
The words of the salesmen, their hands their knees, and the rocking Rock Island roadbed do all the work. In a syncopated conversation the salesmen gossip about the value of cash as opposed to giving credit for their merchandise.
Cash for the merchandise, cash for the button hooks
Cash for the cotton goods, cash for the hard goods
Cash for the fancy goods
Cash for the noggins and the piggins and the frikins
Cash for the hogshead, cask and demijohn.
Cash for the crackers and the pickles and the flypaper.
The salesmen gossip about Harold Hill. "Never saw him in my life but I know this much - he's giving every one of us a black eye! After he's worked a town over, the next salesman to arrive gets automatically tarred and feathered and rode out to the city limits on a rail". They soon discover that the irrepressible traveling salesman Harold Hill was the stranger in their midst. The Stranger flashes his suitcase which bears the name Prof Harold Hill. Together they steam into the fictional town of River City, Iowa.
Ever meet a fellow by the name of Hill?...
He's a fake, and he doesn't know the territory!...
He's a music man and he sells clarinets to the kids
in the town with the big trombones and the rat-a-tat drums,
big brass bass, big brass bass, and the piccolo, the piccolo with uniforms,
too with a shiny gold braid on the coat and a big red stripe runnin'...
Professor Hill arrives at River City Iowa's main street and the stubborn Iowa townspeople are out in force celebrating the 4th of July. Harold Hill meets up with an old friend Marcellus who warns "You'll never get anywhere in the band business with these stubborn Iowans. Besides we got a stuck-up-piano teacher here who'll expose you before you get your grip unpacked."
Harold Hill attacks the town's new pool hall as a sign of depravity creeping into the community. His argument is convincing, but it turns out the pool hall is owned by Mayor Shinn who orders the school board to check out Harold's credentials.
Well, Ya got trouble, my friend -
I say, trouble right here in river city
Why sure, I'm a billiard player
Certainly might-y proud,
I say, I'm always mighty proud to say it...
And the next thing you know
Your son is playin' fer money
In a pinch-bck suit,
And list'nin' to some big, out-a-town jasper,
Hearing' him tell about horse-race gamblin'
Ya got trouble.
Right here in river city
Trouble, with a capital "T"
And that rhymes with "P"
And that stands for pool!
Now I know all you folks
Are the right kind a' parents