Essay on American Musicals

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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…show more content…
Today’s audiences can almost find it abhorrent. They are socially aware and informed of current affairs. Musical theatre has advanced technically, intellectually, is universally popular and overflowing with cultural relativism. From 1960 onwards, Broadway came to rely more on its directors, librettists and lyricists. The emphasis of importance being on the directors. Tom O’Horgan, Gower Champion, and most of all, Bob Fosse gave the period some of its sustained achievements. These musicals are one of the most collaborative of art forms. Actors no longer had chunks of dialogue interspersed with musical interludes. The musical became seamless, with characters singing when their emotions became too overbearing for speech. The songs encouraged the musical to move forward and not stand still whilst the ‘star’ sang their showstopper! Stephen Sondheim advocated the “conceptual musical”. He subordinated every aspect of the work to his personal vision. As a result increasing intellectualised musicals confronted audiences that had frequented the theatre as a means of escape. When a writer is responsible for the book and the lyrics - as, for example, Oscar Hammerstein and Alan Jay Lerner, were - that writer may be more able to regularly address the same concerns than a composer-lyricist can. Nonetheless, Sondheim has managed to create a body of work that is clearly of a piece, despite the fact that many of the shows

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