Name some of the actors who, in your opinion, should NEVER play Professor Harold Hill in a stage production of The Music Man. Robert De Niro immediately comes to mind, right? And if Jeff Goldblum made your list, I'm not surprised. However, that’s just what he attempts to do in Pittsburgh, a comedy also starring Illeana Douglas, Ed Begley Jr. and Catherine Wreford. This amusing behind-the-scenes look at what happens to Goldblum after making such a decision is a treat for viewers who enjoy watching the tall, dark and handsome actor no matter what he does -- as well as for fans of musical theater.
Why would Goldblum agree to drop everything -- even potential offers from Michael Bay in connection with a major motion picture similar to Independence Day -- and star in a regional production of this classic Broadway musical? Blame it on Cupid. Goldblum falls for a young actress from Canada (Wreford) with Green Card problems who’s offered the role of Marion the Librarian in the Pittsburgh production of The Music Man. Because she has a work visa, the actress accepts the part. Goldblum, of course, doesn’t want to be away from his lovely lady. Besides, he was born in Pittsburgh and hasn’t seen his mother lately, so he tosses out the idea of playing the Harold Hill role, which sends his manager into a tizzy.
Filmed in a kind of mock documentary style, Pittsburgh follows Goldblum as he tries to make the best of this strange career move. He recruits friends Illeana Douglas and Ed Begley Jr., who have problems of their own, to join him in the Pittsburgh adventure, then suffers humiliation by stage director Richard Sabellico during rehearsals.
“We need you at 100 percent, but you’re at 25 percent,” Sabellico tells his frustrated star. And, in all fairness, it’s easy to see why the director has trouble seeing Golblum, known for his slow, quirky delivery and eccentric intellectual roles, as the over-confident, fast-talking Harold Hill.
Naturally, Goldblum also struggles with the song-and-dance routines, but he practices as much as he can -- and many of his efforts look quite entertaining to me. In fact, my only complaint involves not getting to see him in any of the full musical numbers on opening night. Snippets of "76 Trombones," "Trouble in River City," and the finale are shown, but I wanted more!
Was Goldblum a successful Harold Hill? His proud mother and most of Pittsburgh probably think so, but you’ll have to see Pittsburgh and judge for yourself. To me, the real charm of this movie lies with Goldblum’s willingness to take a chance on something different and the way he overcomes criticism and self-doubt to stick with it.
(Pittsburgh, a ROAR production, was included in the Starz Cinema World Television Premiere Weekend of August 24-26, and the film is scheduled for release on DVD by Starz Home Entertainment on September 18, 2007.)