Musical Theater and American Culture

Musical Theater and American Culture


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Musical Theater and American Culture by David Walsh, Len Platt

Though there have been many histories of the theater and specifically the theatrical musical, none has done quite what Musical Theater and American Culture achieves: it explores how the musical emerged in the late-18th and 19th centuries as a specifically American form of entertainment and went on to become a powerful medium of popular and political collective expression, articulating the tensions and reconciliations of everyday relations between individuals and society. Intimately related to the forging of social, cultural, and political American identities, the musical—often dismissed as merely entertainment—is tied inextricably to America's sense of itself as a New World, a land of opportunity, and above all, the emblem of modern culture. Including material on genres ranging from minstrel shows to melodrama to the development of the contemporary book musical and the megamusical, Musical Theater and American Culture delves into such important shows as Anything Goes, West Side Story, Evita, and Rent; it represents the first sustained analysis of this medium as a social and political vehicle.

Authors David F. Walsh and Len Platt further consider how the current condition of the musical, the emergence of specialist musicals, revivals, and blockbuster musicals intended for a globalized audience relate both aesthetically and culturally to their Broadway progenitors. Tackling the much broader question of what the fragmentation of this popular culture now indicates about contemporary America, they forge a new and unique study sure to appeal to both scholars of the theater and fans of its ongoing and always -fascinating new forms.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780275980573
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/30/2003
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

DAVE WALSH is Senior Lecturer in the Sociology Department of Goldsmiths College at the University of London. He publishes and teaches in the area of sociological theory with particular emphasis, in recent years, on the sociology of music and music theater.

LEN PLATT is Senior Lecturer at the University of London, where he runs a part-time undergraduate program in cultural and social studies. He has published widely on literary cultures of the early 20th century, and is currently advisory editor of The James Joyce Quarterly. He is the author of Joyce and the Anglo-Irish: A Study of Joyce and the Literary Revival and Aristocracies of Fiction: The Idea of Aristocracy in Late-Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth Century Literatures.

Table of Contents


A Note on the Text

Introduction: Analyzing the Musical Sociology

American Popular Culture and the Genesis of the Musical

Broadway: The Roaring Twenties, Black Culture, and the Song-and-Dance Musical

Depression and the Broadway Musical

Broadway: The Book Musical and the End of Ideology

After Broadway: The Fragmentation of the Musical

Globalization and the Megamusical

On and Off Broadway: A Postscript

Musicals Referred to in the Text


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