American Musicals Performance Revision

A detailed booklet covering the main points, key features and social, historical and cultural features on 7 american musicals. These helped a lot during exam so use if you are looking for a good piece of help.

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Performance Studies Revision
Key: Dance, Drama, Music elements will be written in the colour of subject.
Key Info will be highlighted.
Showboat (1927)
Music by Jerome Kern
Book & Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Lyrical Masterpiece which explores love and the lives of show folk on the
Mississippi in Chicago and on Broadway
Showboat brings together the elements of dance, drama and music to
tell the story of a young girl called Magnolia who dreams to be a star.
Along her path to stardom she falls in love with what she believes to be
her perfect man. Magnolia and Gaylord's adventure unfolds and we see
the likes of heartbreak and their downfall of their relationship to the likes
of gambling and other taboo issues such as racial segregation and
miscegenation. It displays these taboo issues on a wider stage and
exploits them in front of an audience for the first time.
Main Points
Magnolia aspires to be an actress like her friend Julia
Julie has a black mother ­ Julie classed as a half Negro
Julie married white man and was accused of miscegenation
Gaylord gambles ­ known for it
Social, Historical & Cultural features
Vocal style similar to the style of Operetta
Operetta was big at the time everyone aspired to sing like that
Negros weren't accepted back in that time
Established the Musical as a `Serious Art Form'
It was entertaining as well as relevant as it engaged with the nature of society at the time
Continuous piece of narrative theatre ­ songs reinforce the drama
Dealt specifically with American Issues (previously most things were influenced by Europe)
Deals with the racial issues felt in the South of America
Accepted that showboat was the very first musical to engage sensitively with MultiRacial
cast ­ Both black & white performers on stage at the same time.
Mixed race marriage was a punishable offence

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Links to the slave trade that happened ­ black slaves shipped across countries ­ sold to
work ­ kidnapped from homes ­ white people seen black people as slaves
Key Features
Plot has a logical and a believable through line
Threedimensional, believable characters (stereotyped in Revue's and Minstrel shows)
Sense of Sentimentatility ­ Romance (Operetta)
Bold treatment of dramatic subjects that were Taboo in 1927: Gambling, Racism, Integrated
Hammerstein may have believed in a Racially Integrated Society
The songs reveal thoughts and feelings of…read more

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Social, Historical & Cultural Features
Showboat and Oklahoma! Both set in the same Historical period so Hammerstein can easily
use references from Showboat and integrate them with Oklahoma!
Social Commentary ­ Class issues raised ­ Jud is a farm hand, lower form of status to Curley
who is a cowboy (compared to the race issues raised in Showboat)
Sentimental meaning due to use of Operetta ­ helped to signify the influence of musical
styles in the musical ­ Truly established the importance of narrative
Key…read more

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Songs almost more important than the plot in carrying the action forward.
Powerful and Dynamic songs and dances due to partnership ­ Bernstein & Robbins
In the song `New York, New York' the atmosphere of the city is captured through a strong
bass line giving the sense of moving purposefully around the city
Times Square Ballet ­ use of blue notes in songs and syncopated jazz rhythms and sharp
orchestrations reflect lively imaginative dance sequences.…read more

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Key Features
Drama arises from clash within cultures
Theme of love developed from this conflict
Hammerstein's musical developed on conflict
Death of King known as Cathartic (relieve) ­ he is aware of his human failings and frailties ­
dies knowing he cannot come to terms with them
Dance used as a cultural phenomenon ­ `Uncle Tom's Cabin' combines a western story with
an eastern dance `Siamese' style ­ shows two cultures coming together.…read more

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Key Features
Instrumental Prologue ­ Started with Chorus girls ­ Oklahoma! Shows a lone cowboy ­ WSS
is purely instrumental (shows the importance of the music ­ no words need to be said to see
the tension between the gangs.
Significant amount of confrontational dialogue is spoken over orchestral accompaniment ­
helps to create tension
Sense of unease between the gangs is captured through the music ­ regular syncopated
chords lead into Jazz inspired spectacular, gives way to the Jet's song ­ waltz type melody.…read more

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Key Features
Lyrics reflect charity's hopes in life and the dancing helps illustrate her character
Now a pure entertainment factor brought back in dance
Fosse has strong ideas about physique and costume ­ wants dancers to cut a sharp
image(focus on hips, knees, elbows, wrists) ­ plays a vital part in developing a jagged
impression of the body
Precise poses ­ sharp movements ­ impression that they are strong and in control (women
equal rights)
Jazz styled dance ­ shoulder rolls ­ splayed hands ­…read more


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