Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater
Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater
Publisher's Hardcover56.67
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Annotation: Presents the history of Broadway musicals over the past 150 years, examining their cultural context and historical significance, from the Astor Place Opera House riot of 1849 through the golden age of Show Boat and Oklahoma! and modern-day Rent.
Genre: [Performing arts]
Catalog Number: #4435267
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition Date: 2010
Pages: xx, 826 pages (16 pages of plates)
Availability: Available
ISBN: 0-393-06715-7
ISBN 13: 978-0-393-06715-6
Dewey: 792.609747
LCCN: 2010019704
Dimensions: 25 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Kirkus Reviews
A comprehensive critical analysis of significant Broadway shows from the 18th century to The Lion King and beyond. Stempel (Music/Fordham Univ.) realized he had a near-impossible task, since early documentation is fragmented and that establishing firm categories for shows is difficult, even foolish. Yet he persevered, producing a volume that is informative, enlightening and entertaining. In the beginning, all American productions came from England; not until the late 19th century did a distinctly American musical-theater tradition began to emerge. The author takes a close look at some early productions—e.g., Uncle Tom's Cabin —then examines the transition from minstrel shows to vaudeville. He spotlights the careers of some significant partnerships, many of whose names are largely forgotten today—e.g., Edward Harrigan, Tony Hart, Joseph Weber and Lew Fields—and turns his attention to the twin influences of operettas and light opera on popular theater in America. Stempel lingers in the 20th century, an undoubtedly fecund period, revisiting Tin Pan Alley and the careers of the superstars, including Al Jolson, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Flo Ziegfeld, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Loewe. The author establishes useful distinctions between the revue, the musical play, opera on Broadway and the Broadway opera, and he crowns Guys and Dolls (1950) as musical comedy's "masterpiece." He takes swift glances at Off Broadway, Off-Off Broadway and alternative musicals, with particular attention to the record-setting The Fantasticks . He examines how Off Broadway productions began moving to Broadway and explores the careers and influences of Sondheim and the so-called "superdirectors" (like Bob Fosse and Michael Bennett). Ending with a consideration of the British invasion and with a category he calls the "movical" ( Beauty and the Beast ), Stempel stresses that Broadway still has a future. Not just a catalog or reference book, but a highly astute, integrative cultural history.
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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Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Reading Level: 7.0
Interest Level: 9+

Showtime brings the history of Broadway musicals to life in a narrative as engaging as the subject itself. Beginning with the scandalous Astor Place Opera House riot of 1849, Larry 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 describes the Broadway stage with vivid accounts of the performers drawn to it, and detailed portraits of the creators who wrote the music, lyrics, and stories for its shows, both beloved and less well known. But Stempel travels outside the theater doors as well, to illuminate the wider world of musical theater as a living genre shaped by the forces of American history and culture. He reveals not only how musicals entertain their audiences but also how they serve as barometers of social concerns and bearers of cultural values.Showtime is the culmination of decades of painstaking research on a genre whose forms have changed over the course of two centuries. In covering the expansive subject before him, Stempel combines original research--including a kaleidoscope of primary sources and archival holdings--with deft and insightful analysis. The result is nothing short of the most comprehensive, authoritative history of the Broadway musical yet published.


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