Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater

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A definitive, accessible, and comprehensive history of the Broadway musical.
Here for the first time is the whole history of the musical, on Broadway and off. Stempel combines original research—including a wealthy of primary sources and archival holdings—with deft and insightful analysis, and explores the rich strands of musical theater by genre and type, looking at not only how musicals work but also how they serve as barometers of social concerns and bearers of cultural values.
Beginning with the scandalous Astor Place Opera House riot of 1849, Stempel traces the growth of musicals from minstrel shows and burlesques, through the golden age of Show Boat and Oklahoma!, to such groundbreaking works as Company and Rent. Stempel examines musicals in their cultural and historical context and includes detailed portraits of all the influential figures—the creators, directors, and performers—who made it all possible.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Large in spirit as well as scope, and as precise, humble, and wise as that Sondheim lyric with which it begins.— Lloyd Rose
Lloyd Rose - The Washington Post
“Large in spirit as well as scope, and as precise, humble, and wise as that Sondheim lyric with which it begins.”
Kim Kowalke
“This book is a home run: it is by far the best book ever written about Broadway, a magisterial critical history which will be required reading for virtually anyone interested in musical theater.”
Rose Rosengard Subotnik
“Stempel has hit the trifecta: for academics, it’s a definitive work of scholarship; for students, it’s the perfect textbook; for ordinary lovers of musical theater, it’s a treat to savor at the end of a long day.”
Richard Crawford
“A substantial work of American music history. Scrupulous but not fussy, learned but not pedantic, Stempel is a fine storyteller who delights in clarity and knows a good joke when he sees one. The precision of his thinking and writing gives the book an aura of authority keenly attuned to the tradition he critiques and celebrates.”
Lloyd Rose
…Stempel spent so many years researching and writing this book that a reader might reasonably anticipate a trip with one of those obsessives who produce a lot of thin air, along with the occasional brilliant flash of insight. Well, this is a brilliant book, all right, but there's nothing narrow or eccentric about it. Showtime is large in spirit as well as scope, and as precise, humble and wise as that Sondheim lyric with which it begins.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Stempel, an associate professor of music at Fordham University, was a member of Lehman Engel's BMI Musical Theater Workshop in the late 1970s, where he first set out on his 25 years of research to compile this comprehensive survey of Broadway musicals. Spanning more than 150 years, the hefty history is divided into three sections: "Out of the 19th Century," "Into the 20th Century," and "Toward the New Millennium." He opens with the 1853 musical adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin and the aerial ballerinas of The Black Crook (1867), followed by the Gilded Age, with its minstrels, vaudeville, and comic operas. As George M. Cohan expanded his skits into "plays with music," writing 500 songs, the turn-of-the-century rise of Tin Pan Alley coincided with the relocation of New York's entertainment district to Times Square, placing Al Jolson at center stage. Covering musical milestones from Irving Berlin and Florenz Ziegfeld to Oklahoma!, Sondheim, and Fosse, Stempel shows how generic songs could be "shoehorned into a story" and details the antagonistic tensions that arose between performers, lyricists, and librettists. Throughout, as Stempel traces the evolution with exhaustive archival research, he offers a penetrating and illuminating analysis of various musical forms and influences. Many of the 105 carefully selected b&w illustrations are surprising and revelatory. Theater buffs will be delighted to find that this scholarly, definitive work is also a hugely entertaining read. 16 color pages. (Sept. 6)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393929065
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/3/2011
  • Edition description: College Edition
  • Pages: 846
  • Sales rank: 200,632
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Larry Stempel, an associate professor of music at Fordham University and a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, was a member of Lehman Engel's BMI Musical Theater Workshop. He lives in Mount Vernon, New York.

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