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The Development Of The American Musical.

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` The Development Of The American Musical. The American musical was a main type of entertainment in the twentieth century. They were always full of lively plots, remarkable songs. The musical provided a way of escaping from everyday life into a world of fantasy, especially during the sombre days of world war two. Musicals today are different today the issues, orchestration style etc have changed dramatically over the years by looking at a variety of shows we can see exactly how they have changed. First I will look at 'SHOWBOAT'. Showboat was written in 1927 by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, and was described as "Perhaps the most successful and influential Broadway musicals" It was the first novel to be turned into a musical making a stamp in the history of American Musical history. The novel was originally written by Edna Ferber about the lives of the people who lived on the Mississippi and was already a success, kern and Hammerstein were able to place songs into it that would help to clarify and jazz up the plot Kern said " songs must be suited to the action and mood of the play" and in showboat his songs helped us to see certain aspects of the characters and also to create certain moods during the play. ...read more.


Thus meaning in the future composers could not simply be musicians but also had to be dramatists. Music became an essential part to a strong plot. In 1950s, they turned down the opportunity to write a musical based on the play Pygmalion, this offer was soon accepted by another team Alan Jay Lerner and Fredrick Loewe, and created the musical " My fair lady". This was described as one of the most " Perfect musicals ever written". Much of the libberatto is from the original show play, but the music and songs combined created a seamless whole. One critic said that Lerner " Didn't make Pygmalion into a musical, he made a musical into Pygmalion." My Fair Lady was the first musical to have no obvious love plot but instead dealt with more serious issues of society and class. These issues are intergrated into the music an example of this are in the two songs "Why can't it be English?" (Higgins) and "Wouldn't it be lovely?" (Eliza) Eliza's song is lively and dreamlike this helps to reflect her cockney optimism it is also dreamlike as she is of low class and imagining what it would be like, where Higgins song is about language and intellect and has a classical feel showing how he is of a higher class. ...read more.


Another great composer of the American musical was Stephen Sondheim, he used music to represent the different characters and the atmosphere on the stage, an example of this is the character Dot in Sunday in the park with George. This show was based on a neo-impressionist painting by George Seurat. The character is musically illustrated by singular dots of sound. Also the atmosphere of the painting is shown by detached melodic phrases and arpeggios. The critics had different views and some heavily criticised Sondheim for "his apparent disinclination to fill his shows with hummable tunes" on the other had, others thought it had a "lovely, widely inventive score" and said it was the most "daring and surprising musical that the American musical stage had seen for some time". Sondheim's music is too unusual for many so it has a limited audience. His music is extremely different from the music from shows such as my fair lady. Even today the American musical is still developing and people are still experimenting with new ideas. Even though we have new musicals, shows such as West Side Story, Showboat, My Fair Lady, are still as popular as they were, and will continue to be with the place of the musical assured its place in musical theatre. ...read more.

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