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Influences on the development of American Musical Theater

Greek Chorus
Opera and Operetta
Vaudeville and Burlesque

How Greek Chorus is like today's Musical Theater Chorus

both provide exposition, foreshadowing and reflect the audience's emotion

Origin of Opera

Italians thought they were recreating classics of Greek times set of music like the Greeks had


sung dialogue/dialogue spoken on pitch (becomes dialogue later on)


extended portions of score that are sung (becomes musical standards later on)

the Black Crook

first "accidental musical" in 1866

Gilbert and Sullivan

Operetta - British team that wrote light-hearted song and dance/story format with spoken dialogue
Invented patter songs

George M. Cohan

first great American song-and-dance man from vaudeville who wrote earliest American musicals

performance style developed by Cohan

athletic performance style

structure invented by Cohan


Cohan's most famous songs

Yankee Doodle Dandy
Give My Regards to Broadway

Showboat 1927

first American book musical
performers on MS showboat displaying all taboos
deals with racism, mixed marriage and marital abandonment

Tin Pan Alley

Collection of NYC music publishers and songwriters who dominated popular music. Located on West 28th Street between Broadway and Sixth Avenue

Book Musical

narrative driven, strong story and characters

Concept Musical

theme or idea driven - atmosphere more important than plot

Ziegfeld Follies

an audience-pleasing combination of creative spectacle, topical comedy and beautiful girls, musical revue

Eugene Sandow

In 1893 Ziegfeld's father opened this nightclub with mix of classical music and variety acts. When it was failing, Florenz booked strongman Eugene Sandow and staged massive publicity campaign

Billie Burke

Ziegfeld met and eventually married Billie Burke. (She starred as Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz) in 1914. Burke remained faithful to Ziegfeld till his death in 1932, in spite of his continuous philandering.

Ziegfeld's legacy

musical revues with comic sketches, songs/dances, and lavish spectacles. This combination is part of the musical tradition

Irving Berlin's music

social barometer for much of 20th century America

How Irving Berlin started out

worked odd jobs in Tin Pan Alley, then as a lyricist for a music firm

Berlin's unique musical technique

only played the black keys

Berlin's legacy

musical revues that featured multiple musical standards
wrote quintessentially American songs ("Puttin' on the Ritz," "God Bless America," and "There's no Business like Show Business")

Cole Porter's changes

set new standards for sophistication and wit - made theater safe for sex

Golden Age of Broadway Musicals

1940s to 1960s - era of great book musicals
comedy took a step towards maturity
song-and-dance production was equipped with "living characters behaving like human beings"

Rodgers and Hammerstein

greatest composer/lyricist duo in US musical history
"Oklahoma," "Carousel," "Sound of Music," "The King and I," "South Pacific," etc.)

Stephen Sondheim and Hammerstein

Sondheim was friends with Hammerstein's son, Hammerstein became a father figure and gave him an apprenticeship

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