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

The Development of Music and Dance as Storytelling Devices in American Musical Theatre

Extracts from this document...


The Development Of Music and Dance as Storytelling Devices in American Musical Theatre Before Oklahoma hit the Broadway stage, "musical comedies" as they were then known consisted of songs written mostly to become hits or to sell tickets, as shown by the universal appeal of many showstoppers by Lorenz Hart and Cole Porter, for example. After Oklahoma, the composers and lyricists suddenly became dramatists as well as songwriters, and everything that was included and incorporated into the musical had to serve a purpose in relation to the story. Therefore, not only did the shows need big hits to become big successes, but their hits needed to have an actual purpose and function to tell the story of the musical. In Oklahoma's case, this was the story of "Green Grow The Lilacs", a play written by Lynn Riggs. The influence of Oklahoma on the development of music in American musical theatre is far-reaching in its importance and impact. It was a landmark for its time, shown immediately from having its opening curtain rise not to a flock of chorus girls, but to a woman churning butter and the simple, unaccompanied opening lines of "Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'" sung offstage (figure 1). ...read more.


Oklahoma ran for 2,212 performances; all musicals before then had only ran for a maximum of 500. The use of dance to push the story onwards was also pioneered in Oklahoma by American ballet choreographer Agnes DeMille. DeMille choreographed and created dances that utilised the plot and characters, and fused together the songs and the libretto of the musical to use dance as a storytelling tool, rather than a distraction from the actual story. Quentin Crisp, a social commentator at the London premiere of Oklahoma, wrote "when I was young, a musical had a love-misunderstanding-reunion storyline enacted by a pretty boy and girl while behind them a line of chorus boys and girls did nothing more than link arms and kick their height. When Oklahoma! arrived, the theatre - nay, the whole city - shook." (- Quentin Crisp, as quoted by Max Wilk in OK: The Story of Oklahoma (New York: Grove Press, 1993), p. 245.) This is representative of the impact that DeMille's choreography had on audiences around the world. Michael Kidd, another Broadway choreographer, said that "The dream ballet, Laurey's dream, had never been seen on a Broadway stage, because the dancing became storytelling." ...read more.


This is probably due to his blend of classical, jazz and popular music styles which so appealed to its citizens. Songs like "Maria" (figure 4) and "Somewhere" were sweeping and almost operatic in style, to compliment and emphasise the emotional importance of the lyrics according to the plot and characters. "America" (figure 5) and "Dance at the Gym" (figure 3) both showed off Bernstein's Latin and jazz influences respectively. With Jerome Robbins as director and choreographer, "something as prosaic as a gang walking down a street became an excuse for dance that strengthened the plot and developed individual characters." (- John Kenrick, www.musicals 101.com, 1997) Figure 3 - "Dance At The Gym - 4c. Cha-Cha" Figure 4 - "Maria" Figure 5 - "America" These multiple variations from the Broadway mould which appealed to audiences even whilst entering new territory dramatically and musically meant that "West Side Story" became one of the most successful and frequently produced musicals of all time. Dance and music as storytelling devices grew most prominently with Oklahoma! and West Side Story. For the first time, dance was being used to portray feelings, emotions and ideas, and music was chosen and written purely to tell the story, not to sell tickets. ...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 Music 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 Music essays

  1. Compare the decades 1910-1920 and 1930-1940 in the development of Jazz music.

    Morton played many different styles, for example rags, blues, as well as selections from light opera, popular songs, and dances. He claimed to have invented Jazz in 1902, being one of the first pianists to transform ragtime into a more linear jazz style.

  2. Vespers choreographed by Ulysses Dove.

    The dancers seem to snatch the chair of each other quite often and this could mean they are trying to portray that their relationship is not very strong.

  1. Consider historically and critically a chosen genre of popular music - Rap music.

    As L. L Cool J describes it, I write all my songs down by hand. Each song starts with a word, like any other sentence, and becomes a manuscript."17 From its inception, rap endured a lot of hostility from listeners- many, but not all, White- who found the music too harsh, monotonous, and lacking in traditional melodic values.

  2. Free essay

    Changes and Developments In Te Use Of Tonality In Musicals From Showboat to Sondheim

    A tritone is an interval of a diminished fifth (or augmented fourth), and the two notes are seen as the most distant notes from each other in any scale, as one of the notes is exactly halfway between an octave of the other note, and this is why Bernstein chose

  1. Renaissance Music, music of Europe during the period known as the Renaissance. In musical ...

    the activities of contemporary musicians: Mass settings for the liturgy; motets for liturgical, para-liturgical, or devotional use; songs to vernacular texts (Italian and English madrigals, French chansons, the German Lied, the Spanish villancico); and music for one or more instruments (lute, harpsichord, recorders, viols)

  2. What is musical genius?

    providing a child with a musical upbringing and surrounding them with music of all forms would ensure the formation of a musical ability. However, a famous study of children adopted soon after birth, the Colorado Adoption Project, found no correlation between a child's personality and ability and those of his

  1. Outline characteristics of musicals composed by Rodgers and Hammerstein

    Billy?s soliloquy from ?Carousel? is also a key example of musical integration as the music reveals so much about him, and his relationship with Julie. It is integrated into the music as spoken language turns into recitative before song to allow it to emerge from the drama seamlessly.

  2. Explain how music was used to reveal characters' personalities in the Broadway Musicals

    ?Gittin? no rest til? de judgement day? and of a work song, ?lif? dat bale, tote dat barge?, both of which are suited to Joe?s character as a black worker. The narrow range of notes in this section symbolises Joe?s tiredness due to the strain and monotony of his work.

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