‘The Music Man’ Done Right In River City

Music Man Square in Mason City showcases a replica of the 1912 streetscape created for the film “The Music Man,” including characters in costumes. Photo: Travel Mason City

Writer: Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs

If you just can’t wait to see Hugh Jackman take on the title role in “The Music Man” this winter on Broadway, keep your chin up. There’s plenty of music right here in the real-life River City, otherwise known as Mason City.

The hometown of the famous composer Meredith Willson brings in top-notch talent for free public concerts in the Footbridge Concert Series at Music Man Square, where you can hear David Lang play a few tunes on his euphonium (like a tuba, but smaller) at 4 p.m. Sept. 19. The retired band director from Independence has won just about every award a bandmaster can win and toured Europe 10 times as a euphonium soloist with the Iowa Ambassadors of Music. (Not even Harold Hill could claim that.)

While you’re in town, explore Music Man Square to see a replica of the 1912 streetscape that Hollywood created for the 1962 movie, then see the house next door where Willson grew up.

You can also take a peek at the almost-finished Principal Performing Arts Pavilion, an indoor-outdoor space that is scheduled to officially open in October and serve as the new home of the Mason City Municipal Band. It’s the latest piece of the River City Renaissance, a transformation of the downtown mall and surrounding area into a hot spot for new shops, restaurants and housing. The neighborhood is one of 13 Iowa Cultural and Entertainment Districts, and the city itself is an Iowa Great Place, designated by the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs.

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