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20th Century Musical Theatre
Transcript of 20th Century Musical Theatre
dancing play an essential part.
Musicals developed from light opera in the late 19th and early 20th century. When looking at musical theatre of the 1900's, it is easy to specify the musicals as simply entertainment. It lacked a gripping and serious tone. It could most easily be described as "Happy-Go-Lucky." Its music is the same. At this time there were only 3 types of stage shows: plays , musicals, and operettas. Musicals and operettas were the only 2 dealing with musical performance. "An operetta is a stage performance with which the show is carried by the music. In operetta, there is often little dialogue. What would've been lines in a normal show are now musical segments." Syncopation is the musical term for stressing off beats in music that normally wouldn't have been stressed. For example...... "ONE and TWO and THREE and FOUR and" may become "ONE and two AND three and FOUR and" This was a very busy decade for Broadway. Through the ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), in 1924, composers in theatre were finally granted permission to have more independence and control with the creation of their scores. With this new artistic freedom, the music grew to become more diverse. This is also one of the first times that the music of theatre started being composed to go specifically with the dancing. Tap dancing became fairly popular in the 20's (what with the flappers and all) and so it was incorporated in the scores. In this decade, composers broke from tradition and created new ideas. the public was becoming bored with revivals of the same old shows. Musical theatre music of the 1910's didn't change too drastically since the 1900's. Victor Herbert and George M. Cohan were big composers of Broadway show tunes since the start of the century ,and they were still producing the same sort of works. In fact, when it came to Broadway, foreign European shows became quite and hit and were reproduced in the U.S. However, many of these operettas and musicals (operettas more commonly) were German and WWI served a fatal blow to their popularity in New York. on the other hand, in 1911 a vaudeville composer named Irving Berlin emerged. His introduction of syncopation to the world set a new tone in pop culture and became widely popular. 'Show Boat' was a very prominant show that came about in the 20's. It broke away from the unrealistic and sappy views of the past and put a more realistic spin on things. The entire show itself is about the life of stagehands, performers, and dockworkers on a ship. Musical Theatre music of the 1930's The 1930's became the decade of the Gershwins. This dynamic duo of composers put some of the most diverse Broadway music yet to the stage. 'Porgy and Bess', for example, was unmistakably American. The lyrics aren't proper like in most shows at that time. In fact, the lyrics consisted of the southern black dialect of America. Not only was the dialect different, but it brought about a genre of musical theatre known as Jazz Opera. On the contrary, in the 30's there came a clear break from the opera origins of Musical Theatre. Broadway Stars like Ethel Merman were known for their ability to belt out any song, which is far from operatic. Musical Theatre music of the 1940's With the arrival of the second world war, comedy was becoming big on the stage in NYC. Irving Berlin created a show making fun of the trials and tribulations of everyday life in the army called 'This is the Army'. The show starred army personnel themselves. The music had truley become all about entertainment again. In the midst of war, the public needed comedy to bring up spirits, so the music of the shows on Broadway became much more simplistic and easy to interprate/ sing.
Also Rogers and Hammerstein had a large influence on the musical theatre. They took the compositions and not only wrote for entertainment, but for character development. The music was no longer about prettiness. It was about emotion. Side Note: Rogers and Hammerstein Rogers and Hammerstein are 2 big names in the Broadway world. They were the first composers to take a "lyrics-first" approach to composition, as apposed to the melody of the song being written before the words. This was considered a daring proposition by most composers of the 1940's. Hammerstein was the lyricist and took the risky liberty of giving the characters "controversial" lyrics as to specifically fit their characters. This production, 'Ohklahoma', became the first "Musical Play". (every bit of the shpw contributes to moving the story forward) Musical Theatre music of the 1950's Composers of the 50's were now finally starting to use different styles of music in the same show. 'The Music Man' became a famous show of this decade. It featured barber shop quartets, marches, and smooth ballads. Two break-out composers of the 1950's were Lerner and Loewe. They are supposedly even more successful than Rogers and Hammerstein with thier hit 'My Fair Lady'. Their story- song interpretations were amazing. The musical numbers didn't just emerge out of nowhere. There was always a story line catalyst for every number. George M. Cohan Victor Herbert Musical Theatre music of the 1960's Musical theatre music took a turn for the cultural aspects of life with shows like 'Fiddler on the Roof' and 'Man of La Mancha'. The music of these shows had to take on the sound of their setting. Fiddler songs were unmistakably Jewish sounding and La Mancha songs had a Spanish vibe to them. In 1968 however, there emerged a musical called 'Hair'. The show itself barely had a plot, and its music consisted on rock and roll. Musical Theatre music of the 1970's Following the example of 'Hair', rock musicals flourished at the beginning of the 70's. However, over time, they became looked upon as childish and many of them failed. After the rock fad faded, there came a genre of musical theatre known as a "concept musical". This means that there is an underlying metaphor behind the story that is more important than the actual story itself. Steven Sondheim became an influential composer of this genre. He focused his entire score around a constant theme of the show. 'A Chorus Line' however was the climax of concept musicals. There are no leads in this show which is interesting. The show is actually an audition for the ensemble of a show. Throughout the story you learn about the individual stories of every performer, but in the end they become one unit and perform together in the famous number named "One". Side Note: Sondheim vs. Webber Both Andrew Lloyd Webber and Steven Sondheim churned out a big broadway hit in 1979.
Sondheim: Sweeny Todd
Evita was regarded as more of a pop culture icon, but Sweeny Todd brought something to the stage that hadn't been seen too often before. They included the audience somewhat in their show, accusing them of being ruthless murderers, writhing with hate. Needless to say, this made some sudience members uncomfortable, but many loved it. Musical Theatre music of the 1980's This decade experienced a large array of musical styles. There was everything ranging from rock to opera. 'Little Shop of Horrors', 'Barnum', and 'Sunday in the Park With George' are just a few of the big name musicals of the 80's. Side Note: Sondheim vs. Webber part 2. In the same season, both men again turned out amazing hits.
Webber: Phantom of the Opera
Sondheim: Into the Woods
Both were honorably recognized at the Tony awards. 'Phantom' won best overall musical while 'Into the Woods' won best score. Muscial Theatre music of the 1990's In the 90's broadway was overshadowed by Disney. Trying to make more money, the classic tales of 'Beauty and the Beast' and 'Lion King' were put on stage. These were corporate musicals, which had become quite popular. Even shows like Rent were corporate shows. However a very talented composer by the name of Frank Wildhorn came out of this decade. He composed the music for 'Jekyll and Hyde' and 'The Scarlet Pimpernel'. The music for these shows were diverse. Some pieces were classical sounding and some were pop.