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American Musicals

Powerful Essays
American Musicals

From the ‘American Dream’ to the ‘Rock-Opera’. 1950 to 1978 were the hopeless years for the musical. American musical theatre had been showing signs of exhaustion. This most seemingly illogical of genres carries its own ‘ideological project’. Before this, musicals not only demonstrated singing and dancing; they were about singing and dancing, explaining the importance of that experience. Not only did musicals give the most intense pleasure to their audience but also supplied a good reason for that pleasure. With the increase in number of radio stations and the availability of portable radios, recorded music was in high demand; people wanted more.

With the arrival of the Beatles in 1964, Rock music exploded across the land sending other musical trends into hibernation. The occasional attempt to start something new was unsuccessful and led nowhere. The shows were deprived of tune and were unmelodic and formless. With rare exceptions, audiences rarely left the theatre singing the show tunes. Rock and roll couldn’t be assimilated in a dramatic structure. The songs just didn’t tell a story. It was not until 1960 that Broadway faced up to the rising trend. Finally, musical theatre accepted rock music into its production. Never will audiences see new musicals in the style of Oklahoma!, Brigadoon and South Pacific. These musicals were never boring because someone was always bursting into song about how every thing ‘was looking just swell’. The musical not only wanted to sing away your troubles, but your thoughts as well.

The ‘old style’ musical theatre had no social conscience. Always presented in the traditional proscenium arch, the musical isolated the audience from new ideas and innovations. Due to televis...

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...c Theatre, New York, 17th October 1967 Shaftsbury Theatre, London, 27th September 1968 D - Jesus Christ Superstar Mark Hellinger Theatre, New York, 12th October 1971 Longacre Theatre, London, 23rd November 1977 E - Evita Prince Edward Theatre London, 21st June 1978 Broadway Theatre, New York, 25th September 1979 F - Les Miserables RSC’s Barbican Theatre London, 1985

Bibliography

Acting out America Lahr J. (1972) Penguin Books American Musical Comedy - A Chronicle Bordman G. (1978) Oxford University Press Changing Stages Eyre R. & Wright N (2000) Bloomsbury Ganzl’s book of the Musical Theatre Ganzl K. (1988) The Bodely Head Oh, What a Circus Rice T. (1999) Coronet The Hollywood Musical Feuer J.(1982) The Macmillan Press The making of West Side Story Garebian K. (1995) ECW Press The Twentieth Century Performance Reader ed. Huxley M. & Witts N. (1996) Routledge
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