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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2008

T C 357 • Musical Theater in American Culture

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43730 TTh
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
WAG 112

Course Description

This seminar will explore one of the most quintessentially "American" forms of performance - the Broadway musical theatre - in the context of mid-to-late 20th-century U.S. culture. How do the different elements of the musical - script, blocking (stage movement), casting, acting (characterization, gesture, voice), music, lyrics, choreography, and design - work together to create a performance? What are the conventions of the musical, and how did they develop over the course of the later 20th century? Why have musicals been an important part of U.S. culture? What is their relationship to other entertainment media? What kinds of messages about gender, race and ethnicity, sexuality, and the meaning of America have musicals conveyed? Why do musicals continue to be popular, and what is significant about their popularity? How do they function as a form of art, culture, and entertainment today? Which musicals should be revived and how should they be performed? How can a critical approach to musicals both make them more pleasurable and increase the audience's awareness of their meanings? To consider these and other questions, we will begin with 1943 and the Golden Age of the Broadway musical, move through the so-called death of the musical in the later 1960s, and end with contemporary musicals. In addition to the musicals' librettos and cast albums, we will examine historical and analytical studies of musicals, cultural history, and reception theory. We will also view film versions and perform (if desired) excerpts from musicals.


Musicals include:
Oklahoma!; South Pacific; My Fair Lady; West Side Story; Gypsy; Cabaret; Sweeney Todd; Phantom of the Opera; Rent; Caroline, or Change; and others according to students' interests
Criticism and History include selections from:
John Bush Jones; Our Musicals, Ourselves: A Social History of the American Musical Theatre
Gerald Mast, Can't Stop Singin': The American Musical of Stage and Screen
Geoffrey Block, Enchanted Evenings: The Broadway Musical from Show Boat to Sondheim
Ethan Mordden, Coming Up Roses: The Broadway Musical in the 1950s
Scott Miller, From Assassins to West Side Story: A Director's Guide to the Musical
Keith Garebian, The Making of Cabaret
Mary E. Williams, ed., Readings on West Side Story
William A. Everett and Paul R. Laird, eds., The Cambridge Companion to the Musical
Essays by Andrea Most, Susan Douglas, David Savran, Timothy Donovan, and Stacy Wolf


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