The American Musical and the Performance of Personal Identity

Princeton University Press
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The American musical has long provided an important vehicle through which writers, performers, and audiences reimagine who they are and how they might best interact with the world around them. Musicals are especially good at this because they provide not only an opportunity for us to enact dramatic versions of alternative identities, but also the material for performing such alternatives in the real world, through songs and the characters and attitudes those songs project.

This book addresses a variety of specific themes in musicals that serve this general function: fairy tale and fantasy, idealism and inspiration, gender and sexuality, and relationships, among others. It also considers three overlapping genres that are central, in quite different ways, to the projection of personal identity: operetta, movie musicals, and operatic musicals.

Among the musicals discussed are Camelot, Candide; Chicago; Company; Evita; Gypsy; Into the Woods; Kiss Me, Kate; A Little Night Music; Man of La Mancha; Meet Me in St. Louis; The Merry Widow; Moulin Rouge; My Fair Lady; Passion; The Rocky Horror Picture Show; Singin' in the Rain; Stormy Weather; Sweeney Todd; and The Wizard of Oz.

Complementing the author's earlier work, The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity, this book completes a two-volume thematic history of the genre, designed for general audiences and specialists alike.

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About the author

Raymond Knapp is professor of musicology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the author of The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity (Princeton), winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. He has also published books on Brahms and Mahler.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jun 21, 2010
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Pages
480
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ISBN
9781400832682
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Language
English
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Genres
Music / Genres & Styles / Musicals
Music / History & Criticism
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Raymond Knapp
The Oxford Handbook of The American Musical offers new and cutting-edge essays on the most important and compelling issues and topics in the growing, interdisciplinary field of musical-theater and film-musical studies. Taking the form of a "keywords" book, it introduces readers to the concepts and terms that define the history of the musical as a genre and that offer ways to reflect on the specific creative choices that shape musicals and their performance on stage and screen. The handbook offers a cross-section of essays written by leading experts in the field, organized within broad conceptual groups, which together capture the breadth, direction, and tone of musicals studies today. Each essay traces the genealogy of the term or issue it addresses, including related issues and controversies, positions and problematizes those issues within larger bodies of scholarship, and provides specific examples drawn from shows and films. Essays both re-examine traditional topics and introduce underexplored areas. Reflecting the concerns of scholars and students alike, the authors emphasize critical and accessible perspectives, and supplement theory with concrete examples that may be accessed through links to the handbook's website. Taking into account issues of composition, performance, and reception, the book's contributors bring a wide range of practical and theoretical perspectives to bear on their considerations of one of America's most lively, enduring artistic traditions. The Oxford Handbook of The American Musical will engage all readers interested in the form, from students to scholars to fans and aficionados, as it analyses the complex relationships among the creators, performers, and audiences who sustain the genre.
Steven Levenson
Winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Musical

“Dear Evan Hansen lodges in your head long after you’ve seen it or heard it or read it. It feels like a pure expression from young writers at a crossroad of coming to terms with who they are and what they want to say about the world. Its honesty and truths haunt and ultimately open us up to ask the same question, no matter what our age or crossroad: What are the lies we tell ourselves?” –James Lapine (from the Foreword)

“A gorgeous new musical. Rarely—scratch that—never have I heard so many stifled sobs and sniffles in the theater. For those allergic to synthetic sentiment, rest assured that the show, with a haunting score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, matched by a book of equal sensitivity by Steven Levenson, doesn’t sledgehammer home its affecting story. On the contrary, the musical finds endless nuances in the relationships among its characters, and makes room for some leavening humor too. The musical is ideal for families looking for something more complex than the usual sugary diversions. But then it should also appeal to just about anyone who has ever felt, at some point in life, that he or she was trapped “on the outside looking in,” as one lyric has it. Which is just about everybody with a beating heart.” –Charles Isherwood, New York Times

“Ravishingly bittersweet... A marvelous score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and an equally accomplished book by Steven Levenson...Dear Evan Hansen rolls onto some highly sensitive terrain—the writers are taking a serious look here at the ways in which we a s a culture exploit others’ misfortunes, a phenomenon abetted by the high-speed interventions of social media. The delight here is that Pasek, Paul, and Levenson do understand how to make this seemingly unmusical idea sing, and sing grandly.” –Peter Marks, Washington Post

“So fine in its craft and rich in its themes that, like the best works of any genre, it rewards being seen again—and again.” –Jesse Green, New York Magazine

“Terrific, gripping, and heartfelt. With a gorgeously melodic score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and a smart and soulful book by the playwright Steven Levenson, Dear Evan Hansen feels like a theatrical beachhead planted by (and, partly, for) millennials.” –Adam Green, Vogue

“Dear Evan Hansen is smartly crafted, emotionally open-hearted, and ideally cast. It has been embraced by millennials—yet its appeal is universal. Whatever your age, you’ll watch Dear Evan Hansen with the shock of recognition, and be touched by the honesty with which it portrays the smothering sensation of being an adolescent misfit, an awkward loser trapped in an indifferent world of self-assured winners.” –Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal

A letter that was never meant to be seen, a lie that was never meant to be told, a life he never dreamed could be his. Evan Hansen is about to get the one thing he’s always wanted: a chance to belong. Deeply personal and profoundly universal, Dear Evan Hansen is a groundbreaking American musical about truth, fiction, and the price we’re willing to pay for the possibility to connect.

*This publication includes the book and lyrics to the musical, as well as a foreword by James Lapine. Please note that it does not include the musical score.*

Steven Levenson is the book writer for Dear Evan Hansen. His plays include If I Forget, The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin, Core Values, The Language of Trees, and Seven Minutes in Heaven. A graduate of Brown University, he served for three seasons as a writer and producer on Showtime’s Master of Sex.

Benj Pasek & Justin Paul are the song-writing team behind Dear Evan Hansen. Previous musicals include A Christmas Story: The Musical, Dogfight, James and the Giant Peach, and Edges. Their film projects include La La Land (for which they won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “City of Stars,” with composer Justin Hurwitz), Trolls, Snow White, and The Greatest Showman. Their television credits include The Flash, Smash, and Johnny and the Sprites. Both are graduates of the University of Michigan Musical Theatre Program and members of the Dramatists Guild of America, Inc.

Ethan Mordden
Ethan Mordden has been hailed as "a sharp-eared listener and a discerning critic," by Opera News, which compares his books to "dinner with a knowledgeable, garrulous companion." The "preeminent historian of the American musical" (New York Times), he "brings boundless energy and enthusiasm buttressed by an arsenal of smart anecdotes" (Wall Street Journal). Now Mordden offers an entirely fresh and infectiously delightful history of American musical theatre. Anything Goes stages a grand revue of the musical from the 1700s through to the present day, narrated in Mordden's famously witty, scholarly, and conversational style. He places us in a bare rehearsal room as the cast of Oklahoma! changes history by psychoanalyzing the plot in the greatest of the musical's many Dream Ballets. And he gives us tickets for orchestra seats on opening night-raising the curtain on the pleasures of Victor Herbert's The Red Mill and the thrill of Porgy and Bess. Mordden examines the music, of course, but also more neglected elements. Dance was once considered as crucial as song; he follows it from the nineteenth century's zany hoofing to tap "combinations" of the 1920s, from the injection of ballet and modern dance in the 1930s and '40s to the innovations of Bob Fosse. He also explores the changing structure of musical comedy and operetta, and the evolution of the role of the star. Fred Stone, the avuncular Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, seldom varied his acting from part to part; but the versatile Ethel Merman turned the headlining role inside out in Gypsy, playing a character who was selfish, fierce, and destructive. From "ballad opera" to burlesque, from Fiddler on the Roof to Rent, the history and lore of the musical unfolds here in a performance worthy of a standing ovation.
Brian Yorkey
Winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

“Rock is alive and rolling like thunder in Next to Normal. It’s the best musical of the season by a mile...an emotional powerhouse with a fire in its soul and a wicked wit that burns just as fiercely.”—Rolling Stone

“No show on Broadway right now makes as a direct grab for the heart—or wrings it as thoroughly—as Next to Normal does. . . . [It] focuses squarely on the pain that cripples the members of a suburban family, and never for a minute does it let you escape the anguish at the core of their lives. Next to Normal does not, in other words, qualify as your standard feel-good musical. Instead this portrait of a manic-depressive mother and the people she loves and damages is something much more: a feel-everything musical, which asks you, with operatic force, to discover the liberation in knowing where it hurts.”—Ben Brantley, The New York Times

Winner of three 2009 Tony Awards, including Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre, Next to Normal is also available in an original cast recording. It was named Best Musical of the Season by Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times.

Brian Yorkey received the 2009 Tony Award for Best Original Score for his work on Next to Normal and was also nominated for Best Book of a Musical. His other credits include Making Tracks and Time After Time.

Tom Kitt received two 2009 Tony Awards for Best Original Score and Best Orchestrations for Next to Normal. He also composed the music for High Fidelity and From Up Here. His string arrangements appear on the new Green Day album 21st Century Breakdown, and he is the leader of the Tom Kitt Band.

Jack Viertel
A New York Times Bestseller

For almost a century, Americans have been losing their hearts and losing their minds in an insatiable love affair with the American musical. It often begins in childhood in a darkened theater, grows into something more serious for high school actors, and reaches its passionate zenith when it comes time for love, marriage, and children, who will start the cycle all over again. Americans love musicals. Americans invented musicals. Americans perfected musicals. But what, exactly, is a musical?

In The Secret Life of the American Musical, Jack Viertel takes them apart, puts them back together, sings their praises, marvels at their unflagging inventiveness, and occasionally despairs over their more embarrassing shortcomings. In the process, he invites us to fall in love all over again by showing us how musicals happen, what makes them work, how they captivate audiences, and how one landmark show leads to the next—by design or by accident, by emulation or by rebellion—from Oklahoma! to Hamilton and onward.

Structured like a musical, The Secret Life of the American Musical begins with an overture and concludes with a curtain call, with stops in between for “I Want” songs, “conditional” love songs, production numbers, star turns, and finales. The ultimate insider, Viertel has spent three decades on Broadway, working on dozens of shows old and new as a conceiver, producer, dramaturg, and general creative force; he has his own unique way of looking at the process and at the people who collaborate to make musicals a reality. He shows us patterns in the architecture of classic shows and charts the inevitable evolution that has taken place in musical theater as America itself has evolved socially and politically.

The Secret Life of the American Musical makes you feel as though you’ve been there in the rehearsal room, in the front row of the theater, and in the working offices of theater owners and producers as they pursue their own love affair with that rare and elusive beast—the Broadway hit.

Raymond Knapp
The Oxford Handbook of The American Musical offers new and cutting-edge essays on the most important and compelling issues and topics in the growing, interdisciplinary field of musical-theater and film-musical studies. Taking the form of a "keywords" book, it introduces readers to the concepts and terms that define the history of the musical as a genre and that offer ways to reflect on the specific creative choices that shape musicals and their performance on stage and screen. The handbook offers a cross-section of essays written by leading experts in the field, organized within broad conceptual groups, which together capture the breadth, direction, and tone of musicals studies today. Each essay traces the genealogy of the term or issue it addresses, including related issues and controversies, positions and problematizes those issues within larger bodies of scholarship, and provides specific examples drawn from shows and films. Essays both re-examine traditional topics and introduce underexplored areas. Reflecting the concerns of scholars and students alike, the authors emphasize critical and accessible perspectives, and supplement theory with concrete examples that may be accessed through links to the handbook's website. Taking into account issues of composition, performance, and reception, the book's contributors bring a wide range of practical and theoretical perspectives to bear on their considerations of one of America's most lively, enduring artistic traditions. The Oxford Handbook of The American Musical will engage all readers interested in the form, from students to scholars to fans and aficionados, as it analyses the complex relationships among the creators, performers, and audiences who sustain the genre.
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