• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Outline the main changes and developments in American Stage Music from “Showboat” to “West Side Story”.

Extracts from this document...


Outline the main changes and developments in American Stage Music from "Showboat" to "West Side Story". Choose appropriate musicals to support your argument. The modern musical has been an important form of entertainment throughout the 20th century, still enjoying a good degree of popularity now. In its earlier days, a musical was often simply viewed as "something to fill the void between dinner and the call for last orders at the bar". There was no link between each piece of music; the shows were structured more like variety shows than actual stories. It was in the mid 1920's that significant change in American stage music began. In a genre so great in its content, it is difficult to pinpoint which shows really changed the direction of the American musical, but in order to answer this question I will identify and examine which productions were principally responsible for altering the audiences' perception of issues that affected them at the time, and also the shows that revolutionised musical content and appear years later, as fresh as they were when first drafted. These will be examined later in the essay, along with other productions that changed the direction of the musical in different ways, such as "Oklahoma!" with its innovative writing technique. A good starting point for this study is "Showboat"; a production, which just about every stage music enthusiast has agreed, redefined the genre. ...read more.


The American musical took another great step forward in 1935, when George Gershwin composed "Porgy & Bess". He took the elements of the New York 'street' sound consisting of blues, jazz, and ragtime and fused them into a newer, more popular art. Gershwin was by no means a newcomer to the scene; he had spent many years working on "Porgy & Bess" and had enjoyed success with productions such as "Of Thee I Sing" and "Girl Crazy". Along with his brother Ira, Gershwin made the production a success with his musical-dramatic instincts and varied tunes and melodies. These aspects coupled with Ira's compassionate lyrics made the transition from play to musical a success for "Porgy & Bess", but not immediately. An interesting development to come form this show was that Gershwin had the lyrics for 'I Got Plenty o' Nuttin' written first, something that would later become standard practice in the wake of "Oklahoma"! Gershwin described his work as a 'folk-opera', something that was rejected by many, who simply perceived his work with contempt for depicting out-dated, stereotypical views. Some claimed it gave 'a white man's view of the Negro' and 'was not free of some of the stereotypes associated with that view.' One critic challenged Gershwin's work, claiming "Folk-lore subjects recounted by an outsider are only valid as long as the folk in question is unable to speak for itself." ...read more.


Having studied under Hammerstein for a few years, Sondheim had the knowledge to write good, entertaining storylines and lyrics. Bernstein's influences came from his love of jazz, which he integrated with classical styles. The theme of racism is central to the plot and illustrated a problem that had received a great deal of recognition in previous shows. It didn't cause the controversy that "Showboat" and "Porgy & Bess" did, but still raised similar issues such as the white man's view of supremacy over coloured people. It contained a fair representation of the divide between black and white, more so than the white man's view of Negro life that had weighed down the other productions. Much change and development occurred after the watershed production of 1927. The American Musical has undergone many musical fashions and trends, some of which passed without significance, others leaving the blueprints for future shows and hits. It has blurred the edges between popular and classical music, with form and devices from all musical periods. Through the power of these shows, composers can amend our perception of subjects and educate the masses as well as entertain. Development and change have forever be a part of the genre; they went hand-in-hand and have never been separated. This has been shown by newer composers taking the ideas of the older generation and modifying them for the issues of the day, while adding ideas of their own at the same time. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Miscellaneous section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Miscellaneous essays

  1. Planning, Design and Production Phases of the Construction Industry

    > Clear the Site The chemical factory has to be demolished, for this a specialist contractor such as CAJ Services Ltd, (see their website http://www.cajservices.co.uk/Demolition_Services.shtml), will be employed to demolish the factory they will aslo strip the contaminated topsoil down to a depth of approximately 3m using mechanical aids such as scrapers.

  2. Investigating The Use of Pectinase

    be restored back to its optimum pH where normal activity will resume. However, an extreme pH may cause an irreversible alteration to the enzyme. This may be a change in its protein structure, causing binding problems between substrate and enzyme.

  1. Compare the styles and effectiveness of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King

    racism, something that Van Djik himself believes media elites have a large part to play in the "reproduction of racism". Djik claims: "They are the ones who control or have access to many types of public discourse, have the largest stake in maintaining white group dominance, and are usually also most proficient in persuasively formulating their ethnic opinions."

  2. Personal Statement to study Music

    Some of these skills that I have learnt are using Pro LOGIC software to develop music further. During my performance lessons I have done a number of recordings over the 2 years which included covers, interpretations and original material. To do this I learnt to use the Analogue studio.

  1. Ownership of the T & T industry

    have great history), Castles (there are many different popular castles located around the UK an example would be Leeds Castle) also there are Stately Homes that are commonly visited (Like the Banqueting House in London or Hampton Court Palace in Surrey)

  2. Links between the art forms

    and then developed it slowly. Then we listened to three different pieces of music and picked one to fit our dance round. My group picked the last piece of music played because it emphasised a particular point in our dance which needed to be.

  1. Creative Piece - Cheating Death

    Untrue to the world, there are no essential extensions beyond the blank colour of living. Nothingness...Empty. Thus what fact of life presents the immortal eternity of insipid day? The burning wish for the vile expressions to disappear, tortured my thoughts.

  2. Explain why blacks disagreed in the 1960s about the best way to gain civil ...

    Luther Kings ignorance, as they occurred after the Voting Act was passed, and undermined Kings non violent policies.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work