The year 2000 marks the hundredth birthday of theater and opera composer Kurt Weill (1900-1950). In celebration of this occasion, 100 Years of Kurt Weill features recently rediscovered and previously untranslated dramatic works by Weill and critical essays and articles reflecting on his legacy and influence. Reviews and reports on centenary productions from around the world are included along with panel discussions by directors and musicians on Weill’s cultural identity. 100 Years of Kurt Weill makes a notable addition to the commemoration of the anniversary with the English-language publication of two major Weill librettos, both translated and introduced by international opera director Jonathan Eaton. Written in 1925, Royal Palace is a one-act opera with a libretto by surrealist/expressionist poet-playwright Yvan Goll. It was one of the first operas to incorporate film. The other work, Die Bürgschaft (The Pledge), was inspired by a dark social parable by Johann Gottfried von Herder and written in collaboration with Caspar Neher. The piece was banned in 1933 by the Nazi regime because of its controversial content and was not restaged in its original form until Eaton’s 1998 and 1999 productions in Bielefeld, Germany, and at the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. This special issue specifically addresses the theatrical context of Weill’s music, exploring new perspectives on the artist and his work and on recent developments in Weill scholarship. These articles, combined with the previously unpublished works, make 100 Years of Kurt Weill a considerable and unique contribution to the centenary commemoration of his birth.
Musical theater has captivated American audiences from its early roots in burlesque stage productions and minstrel shows to the million-dollar industry it has become on Broadway today. What is it about this truly indigenous American art form that has made it so enduringly popular? How has it survived, even thrived, alongside the technology of film and the glitz and glamour of Hollywood? Will it continue to evolve and leave its mark on the twenty-first century?
Bringing together exclusive and previously unpublished interviews with nineteen leading composers, lyricists, librettists, directors, choreographers, and producers from the mid-1900s to the present, this book details the careers of the individuals who shaped this popular performance art during its most prolific period. The interviewees discuss their roles in productions ranging from On the Town (1944) and Finian's Rainbow (1947) to The Producers (2001) and Bounce (2003).
Readers are taken onto the stage, into the rehearsals, and behind the scenes. The nuts and bolts, the alchemy, and the occasional agonies of the collaborative process are all explored. In their discussions, the artists detail their engagements with other creative forces, including such major talents as Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, Liza Minnelli, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Jule Styne, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Alan Jay Lerner, Zero Mostel, and Gwen Verdon. They speak candidly about their own work and that of their peers, their successes and failures, the creative process, and how a show progresses from its conception through rehearsals and tryouts to opening night.
Taken together, these interviews give fresh insight into what Oscar Hammerstein called "a nightly miracle"—the creation of the American musical.
Broadway Rhythm is a guide to Manhattan like nothing you've ever read. Author Dominic Symonds calls it a performance cartography, and argues that the city of New York maps its iconicity in the music of the Broadway songbook. A series of walking tours takes the reader through the landscape of Manhattan, clambering over rooftops, riding the subway, and flying over skyscrapers. Symonds argues that Broadway's songs can themselves be used as maps to better understand the city though identifiable patterns in the visual graphics of the score, the auditory experience of the music, and the embodied articulation of performance, recognizing in all of these patterns, corollaries inscribed in the terrain, geography, and architecture of the city.
Through musicological analyses of works by Gershwin, Bernstein, Copland, Sondheim and others, the author proposes that performance cartography is a versatile methodology for urban theory, and establishes a methodological approach that uses the idea of the map in three ways: as an impetus, a metaphor, and a tool for exploring the city.
The 1957 classic American musical West Side Story has been staged by countless community and school theater groups, but none more ambitious than the 2000 production by MacMurray College, a small school in Jacksonville, Illinois. Diane Brewer, the new drama head at the college, determined to add an extra element to the usual demands of putting on a show by having deaf students perform half of the parts. Deaf Side Story presents a fascinating narrative of Brewer and the cast's efforts to mount this challenging play.
Brewer turned to the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) to cast the Sharks, the Puerto Rican gang at odds with the Anglo Jets in this musical version of Romeo and Juliet set in the slums of New York. Hearing performers auditioned to be the Jets, and once Brewer had cast her hearing Tony and deaf Maria, then came the challenge of teaching them all to sing/sign and dance the riveting show numbers for which the musical is renowned. She also had to manage a series of sensitive issues, from ensuring the seamless incorporation of American Sign Language into the play to reassuring ISD administrators and students that the production would not be symbolic of any conflict between Deaf and hearing people.
Author Mark Rigney portrays superbly the progress of the production, including the frustrations and triumphs of the leads, the labyrinthine campus and community politics, and the inevitable clashes between the deaf high school cast members and their hearing college counterparts. His representations of the many individuals involved are real and distinguished. The ultimate success of the MacMurray production reverberates in Deaf Side Story as a keen depiction of how several distinct individuals from as many cultures could cooperate to perform a classic American art form brilliantly together.
Mark Rigney is a writer whose stories have appeared in THEMA and The Bellevue Review, and whose plays have been staged at the Foothill Theatre Company, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and the Alleyway Theatre. He lives in Evansville, IN.
ISBN 1-56368-145-5, 6 x 9 softcover, 232 pages
How Sondheim Found His Sound
Steve Swayne University of Michigan Press, 2005 Library of Congress ML410.S6872S93 2005 | Dewey Decimal 782.14092
"The research is voluminous, as is the artistry and perceptiveness. Swayne has lived richly within the world of Sondheim's music."
---Richard Crawford, author of America's Musical Life: A History
"Sondheim's career and music have never been so skillfully dissected, examined, and put in context. With its focus on his work as composer, this book is surprising and welcome."
---Theodore S. Chapin, President and Executive Director, The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization
"What a fascinating book, full of insights large and small. An impressive analysis and summary of Sondheim's many sources of inspiration. All fans of the composer and lovers of Broadway in general will treasure and frequently refer to Swayne's work."
---Tom Riis, Joseph Negler Professor of Musicology and Director of the American Music Research Center, University of Colorado
Stephen Sondheim has made it clear that he considers himself a "playwright in song." How he arrived at this unique appellation is the subject of How Sondheim Found His Sound---an absorbing study of the multitudinous influences on Sondheim's work.
Taking Sondheim's own comments and music as a starting point, author Steve Swayne offers a biography of the artist's style, pulling aside the curtain on Sondheim's creative universe to reveal the many influences---from classical music to theater to film---that have established Sondheim as one of the greatest dramatic composers of the twentieth century.
Sondheim has spoken often and freely about the music, theater, and films he likes, and on occasion has made explicit references to how past works crop up in his own work. He has also freely acknowledged his eclecticism, seeing in it neither a curse nor a blessing but a fact of his creative life.
Among the many forces influencing his work, Sondheim has readily pointed to a wide field: classical music from 1850 to 1950; the songs of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and Hollywood; the theatrical innovations of Oscar Hammerstein II and his collaborators; the cinematic elements found in certain film schools; and the melodramatic style of particular plays and films. Ultimately, Sondheim found his sound by amalgamating these seemingly disparate components into his unique patois.
How Sondheim Found His Sound is the first book to provide an overview of his style and one of only a few to account for these various components, how they appear in Sondheim's work, and how they affect his musical and dramatic choices.
With their lavish costumes and sets, ebullient song and dance numbers, and iconic movie stars, the musicals that mgm produced in the 1940s seem today to epitomize camp. Yet they were originally made to appeal to broad, mainstream audiences. In this lively, nuanced, and provocative reassessment of the mgm musical, Steven Cohan argues that this seeming incongruity—between the camp value and popular appreciation of these musicals—is not as contradictory as it seems. He demonstrates that the films’ extravagance and queerness were deliberate elements and keys to their popular success.
In addition to examining the spectatorship of the mgm musical, Cohan investigates the genre’s production and marketing, paying particular attention to the studio’s employment of a largely gay workforce of artists and craftspeople. He reflects on the role of the female stars—including Judy Garland, Debbie Reynolds, Esther Williams, and Lena Horne—and he explores the complex relationship between Gene Kelley’s dancing and his masculine persona. Cohan looks at how, in the decades since the 1950s, the marketing and reception of the mgm musical have negotiated the more publicly recognized camp value attached to the films. He considers the status of Singin’ in the Rain as perhaps the first film to be widely embraced as camp; the repackaging of the musicals as nostalgia and camp in the That’s Entertainment! series as well as on home video and cable; and the debates about Garland’s legendary gay appeal among her fans on the Internet. By establishing camp as central to the genre, Incongruous Entertainment provides a new way of looking at the musical.
Frank Galati's dramatic adaptation of Gertrude Stein's texts begins with Stein at age 60 as she is lecturing at the University of Chicago in 1934. She starts to speak about her writing, specifically her use of repetition, and to connect this idea with her own life experiences. A young Gertrude then appears to guide the audience through her memories of her life as a student, falling in love with Alice B. Toklas, their time together in France and Alice's account of Stein's final day. These vignettes, each culminating in a song (music by Stephen Flaherty), adeptly encapsulate the joy and passion of Stein's life and work, and the depth and complexity of a lesbian romance. Galati sheds new light on Stein's views on language, communication, and ideas by emphasizing how her art evolved from her fascination with the repetition of human behavior-as Stein sings to the audience "Loving repeating is one way of being."
Andrea Most Harvard University Press, 2004 Library of Congress ML1711.M74 2004 | Dewey Decimal 782.14089924073
From 1925 to 1951--three chaotic decades of depression, war, and social upheaval--Jewish writers brought to the musical stage a powerfully appealing vision of America fashioned through song and dance. It was an optimistic, meritocratic, selectively inclusive America in which Jews could at once lose and find themselves--assimilation enacted onstage and off, as Andrea Most shows. This book examines two interwoven narratives crucial to an understanding of twentieth-century American culture: the stories of Jewish acculturation and of the development of the American musical.
Here we delve into the work of the most influential artists of the genre during the years surrounding World War II--Irving Berlin, Eddie Cantor, Dorothy and Herbert Fields, George and Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein, Lorenz Hart, and Richard Rodgers--and encounter new interpretations of classics such as The Jazz Singer, Whoopee, Girl Crazy, Babes in Arms, Oklahoma!, Annie Get Your Gun, South Pacific, and The King and I. Most's analysis reveals how these brilliant composers, librettists, and performers transformed the experience of New York Jews into the grand, even sacred acts of being American. Read in the context of memoirs, correspondence, production designs, photographs, and newspaper clippings, the Broadway musical clearly emerges as a form by which Jewish artists negotiated their entrance into secular American society. In this book we see how the communities these musicals invented and the anthems they popularized constructed a vision of America that fostered self-understanding as the nation became a global power.
Table of Contents:
1. Acting American: Jews, Theatricality, and Modernity 2. Cantors' Sons, Jazz Singers, and Indian Chiefs: The Invention of Ethnicity on the Musical Comedy Stage 3. Babes in Arms: The Politics of Theatricality during the Great Depression 4. "We Know We Belong to the Land": The Theatricality of Assimilation in Oklahoma! 5. The Apprenticeship of Annie Oakley: Or, "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly" 6. "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught": The Politics of Race in South Pacific
Coda: "I Whistle a Happy Tune"
Notes Credits Index
Reviews of this book: For lovers of musical comedy as well as those interested in Jewish contributions to the cultural life of America, this well-researched effort is an invaluable read. --Publishers Weekly
Reviews of this book: One of the major strengths of the book is that Most is an excellent social historian. Between her analyses of musicals, she deftly and economically chronicles an American living and changing from the Roaring Twenties to the Depression, World War II, and social upheavals of the post-war years. --Tom Tugend, Jerusalem Post
Reviews of this book: Andrea Most, in her perceptive new book Making Americans, answers the question of how Jewish immigrants and their sons created the iconic myths of an America they never intimately knew...Most examines the images and songs in such classics as Oklahoma!, Annie Get Your Gun, Babes in Arms and South Pacific to show how Jewish immigrants imagined America on the musical stage. Demonstrating how musicals shaped and were shaped by the shifting status of immigrants assimilating into a new culture, Most makes a case that the American musical was really a means by which the authors attempted to forge a new, accepting community...This book enlarges the perspective of anyone interested in the history of the American musical. --Wendy Wasserstein, American Theatre
I think I argued with the author, Andrea Most, on just about every page of Making Americans and came away richer for the experience. What a stimulating book! --Sheldon Harnick, author of the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof
Andrea Most's book makes the case for the core of the American musical. She outlines and illustrates how specific images of difference are translated, flattened, and transformed to create an America in which the ethnic becomes American. What 'becoming American' means--she shows with intelligence and panache--changes from the 1920s to the 1950s. And she illustrates this change with singular ability based on readings of the major musicals of the day. --Sander Gilman, author of Jewish Frontiers and Jewish Self-Hatred
Making Americans is a groundbreaking work that will redefine the study of America's most popular and distinctive form of theatre, the Broadway musical. Andrea Most brilliantly analyzes the cultural struggles taking place in and around the musical during its golden age and demonstrates its indispensability for any analysis of American culture. --David Savran, author of A Queer Sort of Materialism: Recontextualizing American Theatre
It has been long understood that the classic musical is virtually a Jewish-American art form, and Most lays the historical and theoretical foundations for this understanding with expert authority. --Stephen Banfield, author of Sondheim's Broadway Musicals
Hands down, the most incisive and original analysis of American musical theater yet published. Who says brilliant writing can't be compulsively readable? Lovers of musicals won't want this book to end. Students will thank their teachers for assigning it. The entire landscape of American culture looks different through the lens of this book. No one who reads it will ever again dismiss the Broadway musical as trivial. --Rose Rosengard Subotnik, Specialist in American Musical Theatre, Brown University
In Making Light Raymond Knapp traces the musical legacy of German Idealism as it led to the declining prestige of composers such as Haydn while influencing the development of American popular music in the nineteenth century. Knapp identifies in Haydn and in early popular American musical cultures such as minstrelsy and operetta a strain of high camp—a mode of engagement that relishes both the superficial and serious aspects of an aesthetic experience—that runs antithetical to German Idealism's musical paradigms. By considering the disservice done to Haydn by German Idealism alongside the emergence of musical camp in American popular music, Knapp outlines a common ground: a humanistically based aesthetic of shared pleasure that points to ways in which camp receptive modes might rejuvenate the original appeal of Haydn's music that has mostly eluded audiences. In so doing, Knapp remaps the historiographical modes and systems of critical evaluation that dominate musicology while troubling the divide between serious and popular music.
Movie musicals are among the most quintessentially American art forms, often celebrating mobility, self-expression, and the pursuit of one’s dreams. But like America itself, the Hollywood musical draws from many distinct ethnic traditions. In this illuminating new study, Desirée J. Garcia examines the lesser-known folk musicals from early African American, Yiddish, and Mexican filmmakers, revealing how these were essential ingredients in the melting pot of the Hollywood musical.
The Migration of Musical Film shows how the folk musical was rooted in the challenges faced by immigrants and migrants who had to adapt to new environments, balancing American individualism with family values and cultural traditions. Uncovering fresh material from film industry archives, Garcia considers how folk musicals were initially marginal productions, designed to appeal to specific minority audiences, and yet introduced themes that were gradually assimilated into the Hollywood mainstream.
No other book offers a comparative historical study of the folk musical, from the first sound films in the 1920s to the genre’s resurgence in the 1970s and 1980s. Using an illustrative rather than comprehensive approach, Garcia focuses on significant moments in the sub-genre and rarely studied films such as Allá en el Rancho Grande along with familiar favorites that drew inspiration from earlier folk musicals—everything from The Wizard of Oz to Zoot Suit. If you think of movie musicals simply as escapist mainstream entertainment, The Migration of Musical Film is sure to leave you singing a different tune.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints adopted the vocal and theatrical traditions of American musical theater as important theological tenets. As Church membership grew, leaders saw how the genre could help define the faith and wove musical theater into many aspects of Mormon life. Jake Johnson merges the study of belonging in America with scholarship on voice and popular music to explore the surprising yet profound link between two quintessentially American institutions. Throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Mormons gravitated toward musicals as a common platform for transmitting political and theological ideas. Johnson sees Mormons using musical theater as a medium for theology of voice--a religious practice that suggests how vicariously voicing another person can bring one closer to godliness. This sounding, Johnson suggests, created new opportunities for living. Voice and the musical theater tradition provided a site for Mormons to negotiate their way into middle-class respectability. At the same time, musical theater became a unique expressive tool of Mormon culture.
The Movie Musical
Desirée J. Garcia Rutgers University Press, 2021 Library of Congress PN1995.9.M86G374 2021 | Dewey Decimal 791.436
The movie musical is often regarded as a classic Hollywood genre whose heyday was long in the past. In reality, however, musicals remain a vital part of both Hollywood and world cinema, and the genre continues to evolve in fascinating ways.
Spotlighting iconic musicals like Singin’ in the Rain and La La Land alongside smaller films like La Bamba, Once, and Dancer in the Dark, this book demonstrates the flexibility and durability of the genre, as it takes steps to preserve its relevance for new generations and new cultures. Putting Asian and European movie musicals in conversation with their Hollywood counterparts, it examines how the genre references its own history while mediating between a nostalgic impulse and an embrace of new technologies. It also challenges stereotypes of the musical as merely a form of escapism by examining how many of these films engage with social issues and foreground the experiences of women, immigrants and people of color.
This broad-ranging study of the genre helps to explain why the movie musical still gets audiences across the world tapping their feet and singing along.
At a critical, transitional moment in the history of Broadway—and, by extension, of American theatre itself—former Broadway stage manager Steven Adlerenlists insider perspectives from sixty-six practitioners and artists to chronicle the recent past and glimpse the near future of the Great White Way. From marquee names to behind-the-scenes power brokers, Adler has assembled a distinctly knowledgeable cast of theatre’s elite, including Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents, Des McAnuff, Frank Rich, Robin Wagner, Rocco Landesman, Robert Longbottom, Todd Haimes, Bernard Gersten, and Alan Eisenberg.
On Broadway: Art and Commerce on the Great White Way spotlights the differing vantage points of performers, artists, writers, managers, producers, critics, lawyers, theatre owners, union leaders, city planners, and other influential players. Each details his or her firsthand account of the creative and economic forces that have wrought extraordinary changes in the way Broadway theatre is conceived, produced, marketed, and executed. Once the paramount site of American theatre, Broadway today is becoming a tourist-driven, family-friendly, middle-class entertainment oasis in Midtown, an enterprise inextricably bound to the larger mosaic of national and international professional theatre.
Accounting for this transformation and presaging Broadway’s identity for the twenty-first century, Adler and his interviewees assess the impact of the advent of corporate producers, the ascendance of not-for-profit theatres on Broadway, and the growing interdependence between regional and Broadway productions. Also critiqued are the important roles of the radical urban redevelopment staged in Times Square and the changing demographics and appetites of contemporary theatre audiences in New York and around the globe.
Actors and administrators, performers and producers, theatre students and theatregoers will all benefit from the perceptive insights in this authoritative account of theatre making for the new millennium.
Our Musicals, Ourselves is the first full-scale social history of the American musical theater from the imported Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas of the late nineteenth century to such recent musicals as The Producers and Urinetown. While many aficionados of the Broadway musical associate it with wonderful, diversionary shows like The Music Man or My Fair Lady, John Bush Jones instead selects musicals for their social relevance and the extent to which they engage, directly or metaphorically, contemporary politics and culture. Organized chronologically, with some liberties taken to keep together similarly themed musicals, Jones examines dozens of Broadway shows from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present that demonstrate numerous links between what played on Broadway and what played on newspapers’ front pages across our nation. He reviews the productions, lyrics, staging, and casts from the lesser-known early musicals (the “gunboat” musicals of the Teddy Roosevelt era and the “Cinderella shows” and “leisure time musicals” of the 1920s) and continues his analysis with better-known shows including Showboat, Porgy and Bess, Oklahoma, South Pacific, West Side Story, Cabaret, Hair, Company, A Chorus Line, and many others. While most examinations of the American musical focus on specific shows or emphasize the development of the musical as an art form, Jones’s book uses musicals as a way of illuminating broader social and cultural themes of the times. With six appendixes detailing the long-running diversionary musicals and a foreword by Sheldon Harnick, the lyricist of Fiddler on the Roof, Jones’s comprehensive social history will appeal to both students and fans of Broadway.
From its Broadway debut to the Oscar-winning film to countless amateur productions, West Side Story is nothing less than an American touchstone—an updating of Shakespeare vividly realized in a rapidly changing postwar New York.
That vision of postwar New York is at the heart of Julia L. Foulkes’s A Place for Us. A lifelong fan of the show, Foulkes became interested in its history when she made an unexpected discovery: scenes for the iconic film version were shot on the demolition site destined to become part of the Lincoln Center redevelopment area—a crowning jewel of postwar urban renewal. Foulkes interweaves the story of the creation of the musical and film with the remaking of the Upper West Side and the larger tale of New York’s postwar aspirations. Making unprecedented use of director and choreographer Jerome Robbins’s revelatory papers, she shows the crucial role played by the political commitments of Robbins and his fellow gay, Jewish collaborators, Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents. Their determination to evoke life in New York as it was actually lived helped give West Side Story its unshakable sense of place even as it put forward a vision of a new, vigorous, determinedly multicultural American city.
Beautifully written and full of surprises for even the most dedicated West Side Story fan, A Place for Us is a revelatory new exploration of an American classic.
Subverting assumptions that American musical theater is steeped in nostalgia, cheap sentiment, misogyny, and homophobia, this book shows how musicals of the 1950s and early 1960s celebrated strong women characters who defied the era's gender expectations. A Problem Like Maria reexamines the roles, careers, and performances of four of musical theater's greatest stars-Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Julie Andrews, and Barbra Streisand-through a lesbian feminist lens. Focusing on both star persona and performance, Stacy Wolf argues that each of her subjects deftly crafted characters (both on and offstage) whose defiance of the norms of mid-twentiethcentury femininity had immediate appeal to spectators on the ideological and sexual margins, yet could still play in Peoria.
Chapter by chapter, the book analyzes the stars' best-known and best-loved roles, including Martin as Nellie in South Pacific, Merman as Momma Rose in GypsyAndrews as Eliza in My Fair Lady and Guinevere in Camelot, and Streisand as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. The final chapter scrutinizes the Broadway and film versions of The Sound of Music, illuminating its place in the hearts of lesbian spectators and the "delicious queerness" of Andrews's troublesome nun. As the first feminist and lesbian study of the American Broadway musical, A Problem Like Maria is a groundbreaking contribution to feminist studies, queer studies, and American studies and a delight for fans of musical theater.
Stacy Wolf is Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance, University of Texas, Austin.
Sondheim's Broadway Musicals
Stephen Banfield University of Michigan Press, 1995 Library of Congress ML410.S6872B3 1993 | Dewey Decimal 782.14092
With thirteen Broadway musicals to his credit, Stephen Sondheim's career in the musical theater has outdistanced those of most of his contemporaries. Each of his shows has presented new challenges to audiences, and each has cast fresh perspectives on the nature and potential of the American musical, as well as probing deeply, often painfully, into the nature of our culture.
Sondheim's Broadway Musicals is the first book to take an in-depth look at Sondheim's work. Stephen Banfield examines each of Sondheim's musicals for Broadway, from West Side Story and Gypsy to the 1987 musical Into the Woods, and includes A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Company, Follies, Anyone Can Whistle, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Merrily We Roll Along, Sweeney Todd, and Sunday in the Park with George. Banfield also discusses Sondheim's other work, such as the 1991 show Assassins and his music for the 1990 film Dick Tracy--for which "Sooner or Later" won him an Academy Award for Best Song.
"Banfield seems almost to hear Sondheim's music with Sondheim's ears. This extremely valuable work discusses Sondheim's early training and subsequent career, his general compositional concerns, and his style. The meat of the book is a musical-dramatic analysis of his musicals . . . . For each musical, Banfield places the work and its components in a historical and typological text. He also treats in welcome detail the musical profile or universe of each show: Sondheim's use of generative intervals or interval complexes as source material, motifs that reappear in various guises in various songs, the sound world that defines the musical's emotional mind. The book will be as useful to those who are cool to Sondheim's work as to his fans." --Choice
Musicals, it is often said, burst into song and dance when mere words can no longer convey the emotion. This book argues that musicals burst into song and dance when one body can no longer convey the emotion. Rogers shows how the musical’s episodes of burlesque and minstrelsy model the kinds of radical relationships that the genre works to create across the different bodies of its performers, spectators, and creators every time the musical bursts into song. These radical relationships—borne of the musical’s obsessions with “bad” performances of gender and race—are the root of the genre’s progressive play with identity, and thus the source of its subcultural power. However, this leads to an ethical dilemma: Are the musical’s progressive politics thus rooted in its embrace of regressive entertainments like burlesque and minstrelsy?
The Song Is You shows how musicals return again and again to this question, and grapple with a guilt that its joyous pleasures are based on exploiting the laboring bodies of its performers. Rogers argues that the discourse of “integration”—which claims that songs should advance the plot—has functioned to deny the radical work that the musical undertakes every time it transitions into song and dance. Looking at musicals from The Black Crook to Hamilton, Rogers confronts the gendered and racial dynamics that have always under-girded the genre, and asks how we move forward.
Soundies Jukebox Films and the Shift to Small-Screen Culture is the first and only book to position what are called “Soundies” within the broader cultural and technological milieu of the 1940s. From 1940 to 1946, these musical films circulated in everyday venues, including bars, bowling alleys, train stations, hospitals, and even military bases. Viewers would pay a dime to watch them playing on the small screens of the Panoram jukebox. This book expands U.S. film history beyond both Hollywood and institutional film practices. Examining the dynamics between Soundies’ short musical films, the Panoram’s film-jukebox technology, their screening spaces and their popular discourse, Andrea J. Kelley provides an integrative approach to historic media exhibition. She situates the material conditions of Soundies’ screening sites alongside formal considerations of the films and their unique politics of representation to illuminate a formative moment in the history of the small screen.
In Stagestruck noted novelist and outspoken critic Sarah Schulman offers an account of her growing awareness of the startling similarities between her novel People in Trouble and the smash Broadway hit Rent. Written with a powerful and personal voice, Schulman’s book is part gossipy narrative, part behind-the-scenes glimpse into the New York theater culture, and part polemic on how mainstream artists co-opt the work of “marginal” artists to give an air of diversity and authenticity to their own work. Rising above the details of her own case, Schulman boldly uses her suspicions of copyright infringement as an opportunity to initiate a larger conversation on how AIDS and gay experience are being represented in American art and commerce. Closely recounting her discovery of the ways in which Rent took materials from her own novel, Schulman takes us on her riveting and infuriating journey through the power structures of New York theater and media, a journey she pursued to seek legal restitution and make her voice heard. Then, to provide a cultural context for the emergence of Rent—which Schulman experienced first-hand as a weekly theater critic for the New York Press at the time of Rent’s premiere—she reveals in rich detail the off- and off-off-Broadway theater scene of the time. She argues that these often neglected works and performances provide more nuanced and accurate depictions of the lives of gay men, Latinos, blacks, lesbians and people with AIDS than popular works seen in full houses on Broadway stages. Schulman brings her discussion full circle with an incisive look at how gay and lesbian culture has become rapidly commodified, not only by mainstream theater productions such as Rent but also by its reduction into a mere demographic made palatable for niche marketing. Ultimately, Schulman argues, American art and culture has made acceptable a representation of “the homosexual” that undermines, if not completely erases, the actual experiences of people who continue to suffer from discrimination or disease. Stagestruck’s message is sure to incite discussion and raise the level of debate about cultural politics in America today.
Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants brought a rich heritage of musical expression to the United States. On Manhattan's Lower East Side, a thriving Yiddish theater scene developed, and a new, distinctly Jewish American songcraft began to emerge. Mark Slobin's ethnographic study of the music and culture of the time traces the development of Yiddish popular song in America, delving into melodies, sheet music, and printers' iconography to bring alive a time and place that, while almost forgotten, still exercises an enormous effect on American popular culture.
The tumultuous decade of the 1960s in America gave birth to many new ideas and forms of expression, among them the rock musical. An unlikely offspring of the performing arts, the rock musical appeared when two highly distinctive and American art forms joined onstage in New York City. The Theater Will Rock explores the history of the rock musical, which has since evolved to become one of the most important cultural influences on American musical theater and a major cultural export. Packed with candid commentary by members of New York's vibrant theater community, The Theater Will Rock traces the rock musical's evolution over nearly fifty years, in popular productions such as Hair, The Who's Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Little Shop of Horrors, Rent, and Mamma Mia!---and in notable flops such as The Capeman.
"A much-needed study of the impact of rock music on the musical theater and its resulting challenges, complexities, failures, and successes. Anyone interested in Broadway will learn a great deal from this book."
---William Everett, author of The Musical: A Research Guide to Musical Theatre
"This well-written account puts the highs and lows of producing staged rock musicals in New York City into perspective and is well worth reading for the depth of insight it provides."
---Studies in Musical Theatre
Elizabeth L. Wollman is Assistant Professor of Music at Baruch College, City University of New York.
In this fresh approach to musical theatre history, Bruce Kirle challenges the commonly understood trajectory of the genre. Drawing on the notion that the world of the author stays fixed while the world of the audience is ever-changing, Kirle suggests that musicals are open, fluid products of the particular cultural moment in which they are performed. Incomplete as printed texts and scores, musicals take on unpredictable lives of their own in the complex transformation from page to stage.
Using lenses borrowed from performance studies, cultural studies, queer studies, and ethnoracial studies, Unfinished Show Business: Broadway Musicals as Works-in-Process argues that musicals are as interesting for the provocative issues they raise about shifting attitudes toward American identity as for their show-stopping song-and-dance numbers and conveniently happy endings. Kirle illustrates how performers such as Ed Wynn, Fanny Brice, and the Marx Brothers used their charismatic personalities and quirkiness to provide insights into the struggle of marginalized ethnoracial groups to assimilate. Using examples from favorites including Oklahoma!, Fiddler on the Roof, A Chorus Line, and Les Misérables, Kirle demonstrates Broadway’s ability to bridge seemingly insoluble tensions in society, from economic and political anxiety surrounding World War II to generational conflict and youth counterculture to corporate America and the “me” generation. Enlivened by a gallery of some of Broadway’s most memorable moments—and some amusing, obscure ones as well—this study will appeal to students, scholars, and lifelong musical theatre enthusiasts.