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

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Explain how music was used to reveal characters’ personalities in the Broadway Musical.

The Broadway musical was a time of innovation in the world of musical entertainment as it integrated music into the plot in order to advance it, reveal character, or create mood. Before this, forms of entertainment were provided for amusement only, however, with the Broadway musical came the theme of more serious issues that made audiences think and consider the world in which they lived. ‘Showboat’ has been suggested as being the first Broadway musical.

Kern uses a perfect 4th to represent the Mississippi River in the musical ‘Showboat’, which is arguably the protagonist of the entire show. In giving it a leitmotif of its own, Kern establishes its dominance in the musical. However, a triton is employed for Parthy’s motif in order to show her hatred and hostility toward the river. In the opening number, ‘Niggers All Work’, hollow chords are used to provide a lack of warmth to the piece. This, along with the detached style of notes shows the hostility the black workers felt toward their white bosses. This is juxtaposed against the long, smooth, upbeat music which is then sung by the white chorus in ‘Cotton Blossom’.

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The song, ‘Old Man River’ is in the popular song style of ABAB. Section A is legato and the music to the lyrics word paint the gentle lilt of the river by ascending and descending gently. This changes however in Section B when the lyrics change as he subject has; section B speaks of the work and the hard life the black workers must endure, ‘Tired o’ livin’, and scared of dying’.’ This section also contains aspects of a Spiritual, ‘Gittin’ no rest til’ de judgement day’ and of a work song, ‘lif’ dat bale, tote dat barge’, both of ...

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