Musical I INTRODUCTION George Gershwin American pianist, songwriter, and composer George Gershwin was one of the most important figures in popular song in the 1920s and 1930s. In collaboration with his brother Ira, Gershwin wrote songs for such musical comedies as Lady Be Good (1924) and Funny Face (1927) as well as the opera Porgy and Bess (1935). The Gershwins' Of Thee I Sing (1931) was the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize. Globe Photos, Inc. Musical or Musical Comedy, theatrical production in which songs, instrumental accompaniments, and often dance are integrated into a dramatic plot. The musical has been influenced by a variety of dramatic forms through the centuries, with the modern version emerging in the United States and Britain in the second half of the 20th century. Today, the stage musical is one of the most popular forms of live entertainment. II ORIGINS There are a variety of types of entertainment over the history of Western music that paved the way for the development of the modern musical. The use of musical interludes to enliven plays dates back to the Europe of the Middle Ages. By the 19th century the European comic opera--opera buffa in Italian, singspiel in German--was a popular art form that interspersed songs with a humorous plot. The modern musical also was influenced by such largely American forms as the minstrel show, burlesque, pantomime, extravaganza, operetta, and vaudeville. A Minstrel Shows The minstrel show originated among black slaves of the American South as a means of entertaining their white masters. This type of entertainment, which first appeared in the early 1800s, consisted of musical acts involving songs, dances, and humor inspired by African American culture. It was quickly adopted by white performers, who would blacken their faces and act out racial stereotypes of black people in a form of entertainment that came to be known as blackface. Many popular American songs emerged out of the minstrel show, including "Dixie" (1859), a song written by Daniel Emmett for the Virginia Minstrels that became the unofficial anthem of the American Confederacy; the works of James A. Bland ("Carry Me Back to Old Virginny," 1878); and songs by composer Stephen Foster ("Camptown Races," 1850). B Burlesque Burlesque In the United States burlesque shows were particularly popular in the 1920s and 1930s. One of the most famous burlesque performers, Gypsy Rose Lee, is shown appearing at a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, nightclub in 1946. The Everett Collection, Inc. The burlesque of the early 19th century--not to be confused with later presentations that exploited sex and the female figure--was a show that mocked the melodramas of the day. Burlesque shows were performed between "olios," or variety shows, where comedians flapped around brandishing fright wigs, pistols, and slapsticks (two slats of wood that made a loud noise when used to swat a person's rear end). In 1828 John Poole presented a burlesque of Hamlet in New York, and its success prompted the creation of other shows based on William Shakespeare plays. By the early decades of the 20th century a bawdier form of burlesque had developed. A typical burlesque show of 1910 began with a blare from a band in the stage pit as the curtain rose and chorus girls burst from the wings. After the opening number of song and dance, the leading lady (called a soubrette) was introduced. A comedian then barreled on stage and began a comic sketch. A skit might follow parodying a tragedy by playwright Eugene O'Neill or a similar work. The second olio might feature songs and dances. This alternation of story and song became a vital part of early musicals. C Extravaganzas Another predecessor of musical comedy, the extravaganza, evolved soon after the American Civil War (1861-1865) from traditional English pantomime. Extravaganzas were typically based on fairy tales and Mother Goose. They introduced some of the elements--songs, dances, and comedy combined with spectacular stage sets and effects--that American musical comedy later became known for. The first and most famous extravaganza show was The Black Crook (1866), often described as America's first musical comedy. It consisted of a five-hour series of spectacles, ballets, and elaborate stage effects with a flimsy plot to tie the whole thing together. Beautiful women were continually on display in suggestive dance numbers. The Black Crook became the most successful play in the United States up to that time, running for nearly 500 performances and earning a profit of about $1 million. The earliest American show directly referred to as a musical comedy was the popular extravaganza The Brook. The show was presented by producer Nate Salisbury in 1879. It was also one of the earliest works on the American stage to use an integrated plot, in this instance a picnic, and to coordinate text, comedy, song, and dance. Other popular extravaganzas included Wang (1891), The Isle of Champagne (1892), The Wizard of Oz (1903), and Babes in Toyland (1903). D Operettas In the late 19th century operettas from Vienna, Austria, composed by Johann Strauss the Younger and Franz Lehár; London, by Sir Arthur Sullivan with librettos by Sir William S. Gilbert; and Paris, by Jacques Offenbach were popular with American audiences. In the years before World War I (1914-1918), several young operetta composers emigrated from Europe to the United States. They included Victor Herbert, Rudolf Friml, and Sigmund Romberg. Herbert's Naughty Marietta (1910), Friml's The Firefly (1912), and Romberg's Maytime (1917) were representative of a new genre: American operetta, with simple music and librettos and memorable songs. E Honky-Tonk and Vaudeville W. C. Fields American actor W. C. Fields was known for his portrayal of irascible, irresponsible characters struggling to keep one step ahead of the law. Fields began his career as a vaudeville performer before landing a role on the New York stage in 1915. He went on to make motion pictures that remain popular today. American Stock/Archive Photos An essential ingredient of today's musical theater came from two 19th-century working-class entertainments, honky-tonk and vaudeville. These racy "girlie" shows emerged as popular attractions in beer halls after William Valentine opened the first New York variety theater in 1840. A typical honky-tonk (or "free and easy") performance began with a chorus line of four attractive young women in corsets and bloomers. A song-and-dance act might follow, then a singing quartet or a comedian. A dramatic sketch might come next, then perhaps a singer. As many as 15 acts followed, sometimes stretching the show until dawn. More saloon than theater, honky-tonks were an instant success and soon appeared in storefronts across the country. Vaudevilles were variety shows that developed as a counterpart of minstrel shows. The vaudeville show emerged in the early 1870s when H. J. Sargent organized Sargent's Great Vaudeville Company in Louisville, Kentucky. The word vaudeville dates to the 15th century and may relate to the French phrase voix de ville (voice of the city) or vaudevire (referring to the Valley of Vire, a French region noted for satirical folk songs). Vaudeville shows eventually eclipsed honky-tonks by offering less bawdy acts and more family-style entertainment. A key figure in this transition was entrepreneur Tony Pastor, who took a cue from the tremendous success of P. T. Barnum and his popular shows featuring giants, midgets, bearded ladies, armless wonders, and other bizarre characters. Vaudeville shows became the dominant form of entertainment in the United States by the early 20th century. Popular vaudeville acts included an array of great comedians, such as Will Rogers, W.C. Fields, Milton Berle, Fred Allen, Jack Benny, and George Burns and Gracie Allen; female singers such as Nora Bayes, Anna Held, Sophie Tucker, and Eva Tanguay; madcap acts such as the Marx Brothers; magicians like Harry Houdini; dancers such as Fred Astaire and Vernon Castle; and an endless variety of novelty acts such as Swain's Cats and Rats, where rats raced around a track astride cats. The frenetic spirit and music of vaudeville shows strongly influenced modern musical theater. III THE MODERN MUSICAL As if by grand design--out of an improbable mix of the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, low-down honky-tonks, minstrel shows, extravaganzas, operettas, the rambunctious clowning of burlesques, and the song and dance of vaudeville shows--there emerged in the early 20th century a new kind of theater: the musical comedy. IV 1900 TO WORLD WAR II A Cohan, Kern, and Wodehouse George Cohan American George M. Cohan was a popular singer and dancer during the 1920s. He wrote several well-known tunes such as "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Grand Old Flag." CORBIS-BETTMANN The first four decades of the 20th-century musical featured brilliant composers and lyricists who were instrumental in the rise of the modern musical. One of the progenitors of this new musical theater was George M. Cohan, whose early works include Little Johnny Jones (1904), Forty-Five Minutes from Broadway (1906), and George Washington, Jr. (1906). The popular music of the time included the tuneful but uninspired "She's Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage" and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." Theater music of this period was typically modeled after operetta, in the manner of the tremendously popular 19th-century works of Gilbert and Sullivan. Even Cohan's songs ("Give My Regards to Broadway," "You're a Grand Old Flag") were musically forthright in the manner of operetta. Another important early figure in musical theater was American composer Jerome Kern. Along with his two prime collaborators, Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse, Kern turned out a series of shows that integrated song, dance, humor, and lyrics in a way that was far different from extravaganza, vaudeville, and other previous styles. Kern's shows were called the Princess musicals because they were produced in the intimate Princess Theater on Broadway, the New York City street that had become one of the world's major entertainment thoroughfares in the mid-19th century. The most successful of the Princess shows, such as Very Good Eddie (1915), Oh, Boy! (1917), and Oh Lady, Oh Lady (1918), introduced a type of musical comedy stripped of the heavy scenery and the large casts of operetta. In 1927 Kern wrote the music and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the libretto (words and lyrics) for Show Boat. The show became a seminal work, helping establish the musical as a form of entertainment capable of conveying dramatic truth, authentic characterization, and effective atmosphere. Based on the Edna Ferber novel, Show Boat was Broadway's first musical drama. It dealt seriously, rather than satirically, with thorny social issues such as racism and intermarriage. Hammerstein's lyrics were set in the style of dialogue, allowing him to use songs such as "Ol' Man River," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," and "Why Do I Love You?" to define the characters and further the plot. Although elements of operetta structure have always been important to musicals, the musical formula changed considerably after Show Boat. Instead of complicated but light plots, composers used sophisticated lyrics and streamlined librettos; underscoring (music played as background to dialogue or movement); and new types of American music such as jazz and blues. In addition, the acting demands on singers increased considerably. Adapting popular works for musicals also became standard after Show Boat; today, many hit musicals are based on successful books, plays, or motion pictures. B Irving Berlin Russian-born American composer Irving Berlin began writing for musical revues in the early 1920s, eventually producing hits for shows such as As Thousands Cheer (1933) and This Is the Army (1942). Later in his career, when the revue era came to an end after World War II (1939-1945), Berlin switched to writing songs for the modern musical. His greatest success was Annie Get Your Gun (1946), which included the Berlin songs "The Girl that I Marry," "Doin' What Comes Naturally," and "There's No Business Like Show Business" (which became the unofficial anthem of the musical theater). A prolific composer, Berlin penned about 1,500 songs during his long career. C Rodgers and Hart The composer Richard Rodgers and the lyricist-librettist Lorenz Hart combined to provide the tunes for a number of musical successes, including Jumbo (1935), On Your Toes (1936), Babes in Arms (1937), and Pal Joey (1940). Their songs included such captivating melodies as "My Funny Valentine," "My Heart Stood Still," and "The Lady Is a Tramp." Their works even provided Broadway audiences with relaxed introductions to classical ballet--George Balanchine choreographed the electrifying "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" ballet for On Your Toes--and the drama of William Shakespeare, as with The Boys From Syracuse (1938), based on The Comedy of Errors. D George Gershwin American composer George Gershwin, who wrote most of his songs to the lyrics of his brother Ira, made his mark with musical comedies such as Lady Be Good (1924), Oh, Kay (1926), Funny Face (1927), Rosalie (1928), and Girl Crazy (1930). The political satire Of Thee I Sing (1931), with a Gershwin score and a book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind, became the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Gershwin's operatic Porgy and Bess (1935), a folk play with music based on the novel by DuBose Heyward, is considered one of the great works of musical theater. E Cole Porter Cole Porter American composer and lyricist Cole Porter became known for his witty, sophisticated songwriting. His musicals include Kiss Me, Kate (1948) and Can-Can (1953). His most popular songs include "Night and Day," "I Get a Kick Out of You," and "You're the Top." Culver Pictures American songwriter Cole Porter was the sophisticated musical composer among the giants of the era. Porter's musical comedies--Gay Divorcee (1932), Anything Goes (1934), and Red, Hot and Blue! (1936), for example--were smart in tone and featured his smooth and inventive music and lyrics. Among Porter's most enduring songs are "Begin the Beguine," "Anything Goes," "Night and Day," "You're the Top," and "I Get a Kick Out of You." His masterpiece, Kiss Me, Kate (1948), is a "show within a show" about an acting troupe's production of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. It features songs that range from the operatic "Wunderbar" and "So in Love" to the finger-snapping "Too Darn Hot." V POST-WORLD WAR II TO 1990 As the nation emerged from the austerity of World War II (1939-1945), entertainment became a growing part of the American lifestyle. With television still in its infancy during the late 1940s and 1950s, live theater played a major role in the entertainment industry. Some of the most memorable shows of the century were produced during this period, musicals that not only drew huge audiences to the theater but also spawned hit recordings and successful film versions. A Rodgers and Hammerstein Richard Rodgers American composer Richard Rodgers collaborated on many outstanding musical productions. Two of his collaborations with Oscar Hammerstein II, Oklahoma (1943) and South Pacific (1949), won Pulitzer prizes. Culver Pictures One of most successful teams in musical history emerged during the 1940s and reigned through the 1950s. Although Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II had successfully teamed with other partners between the two world wars, their collaborative efforts would have a significant and lasting impact on musical theater. Beginning with the 1943 smash Oklahoma! ("Oh! What a Beautiful Morning," "People Will Say We're in Love"), Rodgers and Hammerstein endowed the musical stage with cohesive writing and composing, poetic imagination, a deeply felt humanism, and a new level of artistic integrity. The pair's works--which also included Carousel (1945), Allegro (1947), South Pacific (1949; "Bali Ha'i"), The King and I (1951; "Getting to Know You"), and The Sound of Music (1959; "My Favorite Things," "Maria")--were lauded as integrated musicals, in which a dramatic plot is interwoven with songs reflecting the characters' thoughts and emotions. Oklahoma! was the first musical to be recorded for an original cast album and the first to make a national tour. It was also the first so-called blockbuster, with hard-toget tickets that required purchases well in advance. The show ran for an unprecedented five years and was publicized across the United States and in Europe, taking the musical theater beyond New York's Broadway and making it part of the international culture. Oklahoma! also solidified the importance of musical choreography, with ballets directed by Agnes de Mille as an integral part of the plot. The role of the choreographer-director was eventually to become vastly influential on the shape and conception of the American musical. B Lerner and Loewe Scene from My Fair Lady In the musical My Fair Lady Rex Harrison played Henry Higgins, the professor of linguistics who turned Cockney-speaking flower seller Julie Andrews into an elegant lady. The Broadway musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe was based on the comedy Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. Getty Images/Museum of the City of New York / Archive Photos Another major American musical partnership during this time was made up of lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe. Among the pair's popular shows were Brigadoon (1947), My Fair Lady (1956, based on British playwright George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion ), and the oft-revived Camelot (1960). They also wrote the musical film Gigi (1958), which collected nine Academy Awards, including best picture and best director (Vincente Minnelli). C The Concept Musical Jerome Robbins Dancer and choreographer Jerome Robbins is known for the broad range of his creative work, which encompassed both ballet and musical theater. In his career-long involvement with the New York City Ballet, as well as in his work with other ballet companies, he produced some of the most noted ballets of the 20th century. His choreography for musical theater productions, such as Peter Pan, Fiddler on the Roof, and West Side Story, has been equally well received. Here, Robbins, center, works with George Chakiris, left, in rehearsal for the 1961 motion picture version of West Side Story. Archive Photos The electrifying West Side Story (1957) stands as a landmark of musical theater, representing a new phase known as the concept musical. This is a show where the style of presentation is as important as the material itself, if not more important. The primary vision is generally that of the director, who often began as a dancer or choreographer. After West Side Story, choreographers became not only the musical theater's leading directors but also its chief creators. No longer was it the director's task to merely stage the work of the authors--the director's stage visions were rather being served by the composers and story writers. Choreographer Bob Fosse American choreographer Bob Fosse won recognition for his work both on stage and in films with overstated presentations and unusual configurations. He received Tony Awards for Pajama Game (1953) and Damn Yankees (1955). The motion pictures Cabaret (1972) and All That Jazz (1980) both won Academy Awards. Globe Photos, Inc. Choreographer and director Jerome Robbins won a Tony Award for his work on West Side Story, a modern retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in which the dancing was a major element of the overall production. The movie version of West Side Story (1961) was a smash hit, collecting ten Academy Awards, including that for best picture. Robbins later directed and choreographed two of musical theater's most celebrated hits of the period, Gypsy (1959) and Fiddler on the Roof (1964), after which he devoted his energies to classical ballet. Other major choreographers of the 1960s and 1970s included Bob Fosse (Sweet Charity, 1966; Chicago, 1975), Michael Bennett (A Chorus Line, 1975), Gower Champion (Bye Bye Birdie, 1960; Hello, Dolly!, 1964), and Tommy Tune (Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, 1978). D Stephen Sondheim West Side Story also contained the first flowering of the musical theater career of lyricist Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim's lyrics for West Side Story--in songs such as "Tonight" and "America"--perfectly complemented the music written by composer Leonard Bernstein. A classically trained musician, Sondheim looked upon a show's music as not a series of songs but as a unit. By 1970 Sondheim was creating his own musicals. Some of his important works include Company (1970), A Little Night Music (1973), Pacific Overtures (1976), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), and Into the Woods (1987). E Diverse Voices Scene from Hair When the musical Hair opened in 1967, it was described as an "American tribal love-rock musical." This photo is from a 1993 revival of Hair. Fritz Curzon/Performing Arts Library In the 1960s and after a larger variety of musicals began to find audiences, especially in the smaller theaters of New York known as "off-Broadway." Some of these successes included Your Own Thing (1968), Godspell (1971), Grease (1973), and The Little Shop of Horrors (1982). Many of these hits went on to have substantial runs on Broadway as well. The influence of the counterculture in the late 1960s was felt in musical theater with Hair, which opened on Broadway in 1968. Dubbed a "tribal-rock musical," the show had a rambling, unfocused plot but also youthful exuberance, ingenious theatricality, and a rock music theme that helped attract younger audiences to the theater. African American productions also experienced success during this time, including The Wiz (1975, adapted from the 1900 book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum), Ain't Misbehavin' (1978, spotlighting the songs of Fats Waller), and Sophisticated Ladies (1981, with the music of Duke Ellington). F Andrew Lloyd Webber Andrew Lloyd Webber The musicals of British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, which blend classical and rock-and-roll styles, have been extremely popular. Here, cast members of the Los Angeles production of Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera honor the composer after the closing performance in August 1993. Huynh Cong/AP/Wide World Photos Beginning in the 1970s one of the musical theater's leading voices was that of British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Webber's shows were notable in that they are continuously sung (or "through composed") musicals--works with minimal dialogue. His hits included the "rock opera" Jesus Christ Superstar (1971), Evita (1978), the long-running Cats (1981, featuring the song "Memory"), and Phantom of the Opera (1986). Cats and Phantom of the Opera featured spectacular sets created by British producer Cameron Mackintosh, who also presented the acclaimed Les Misérables (1985) and Miss Saigon (1989). VI 1990S TO TODAY The Lion King Actors and dancers from the musical The Lion King perform at the 1998 Tony Awards. The Walt Disney Company based the Broadway musical on its popular 1994 animated film. The elaborate musical, which broke records with a reported price tag of about $20 million, won six Tonys, including an award for its colorful and creative costumes. Jeff Christensen/REUTERS In the 1990s the musical theater took on an increasingly international flavor, with popular shows like Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera playing simultaneously on stages throughout the world. On Broadway, the cost of mounting a musical had skyrocketed, prompting producers to revive tried-and-true properties like Grease and Damn Yankees. Some revivals, however, such as a lavish restoration of Show Boat (1994) and a fast-moving version of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1994), were lovingly reimagined rather than simply redone. Some of the musicals of the 1990s were responsive to the issues of the day. Jonathan Larson's musical Rent (1996) became a latter-day rallying cry for youth, with themes echoing Hair but also reflecting the hardened realities of American life 30 years after the "summer of love." Ragtime (1998), explored African American culture after the racially polarizing Los Angeles riots and O. J. Simpson murder case earlier in the decade. The musical theater at the turn of the century featured both large-scale adaptations of earlier works and creative originality, sometimes in the same show. The Broadway version of the Disney film The Lion King (1997) was notable for the inventive combination of actors and puppetry created by designer Julie Taymor. Elton John and Tim Rice, who wrote the music for The Lion King, had another musical hit with Aïda (2000), adapted from the 1871 opera by Italian composer Giuseppi Verdi. Other musicals based on motion pictures continued to find commercial and critical success. The Producers (2000), adapted by Mel Brooks from his 1968 motion picture of the same name, swept the 2001 Tony Awards with a record 12 wins. Hairspray (2002), an upbeat adaptation of a 1988 film by John Waters, won eight Tonys, including best musical and best director. Original musical hits included Urinetown - The Musical (2001), a satirical examination of both human waste and dramatic structure; Avenue Q (2003), which used both human actors and adult puppets in a show about adjusting to life's various choices; and Caroline, or Change (2004), a look at the intersection of African American and Jewish culture during the American civil rights movement by playwright Tony Kushner. Reviewed By: Ronald Wainscott Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.