My New Book!

My New Book!
My New Book!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

September 17-18, 2016: Crowd-sourced MusicalStudying

[September 12th marked the 150th anniversary of the first performance of The Black Crook, generally considered the first stage musical (although opinions vary). So this week I’ve AmericanStudied both Crook and other exemplary stage musicals, leading up to this crowd-sourced post, featuring the responses and thoughts of fellow AmericanStudiers—add your overtures in comments!]
Responding to Thursday’s post, Irene Martyniuk writes, “As someone who teaches Modern Drama and a seminar on Literature and Pandemics, I would really push that Angels in America was the moment. This is not to vote off Rent or anything, but Angels won two Tony Awards--for Parts I and II and made the American art world a clear forum for the acknowledgement of HIV/AIDS. The historical elements of the play accurately convey President Reagan's non-response to HIV/AIDS and while, indeed, Cohn's character is fictionalized, the litany of his rulings, as well as facts from his private life, are not. Furthermore, I would argue that the plays are truly American. Kushner has talked about why he used Mormon characters--it is an American indigenous religion. It is also, as you noted, both lewd and ridiculously hilarious. And finally, in my Modern Drama class, I regularly have on the final exam a question that asks students to choose one of the plays we've read and explain why, in an essay, it will still be in the anthology in 100 years. Overwhelmingly, the answers are divided between two plays--Angels and Waiting for Godot. So, yes, Rent is important and has much to say, but Angels, to my mind, broke the door open so that Rent could exist.”
Following up Friday’s post, Rob Bartolome writes, “I saw 1776 on Broadway when I was around 10. It's pretty dry, and noticeably white even for a 10-year-old. I remember liking it, but not sure why -- I only remember a painfully long scene where a self-loathing Thomas Jefferson paces back and forth, singing each and every draft of the Declaration before he rips it up and starts the song over for the fifth time. But long story short, I couldn't help but think of Hamilton as The Wiz of Founding Father musicals. But I realized, as Hamilton embraces culture and diversity and different styles of music, it's become way more American than 1776 will ever be.”
Other MusicalStudying:
Andrea Grenadier highlights, “The quintessential Jewish musical (by Jerry Herman) Milk and Honey!,” adding, “it wouldn't be politic to perform it now, but the music is splendid!”
Sunny Stalter-Pace writes, “Aside from the one I'm talking about this weekend? (Hamilton, that is.) I've taught Day of Atonement and The Jazz Singer.”
And Seferine Baez adds, “Not sure if anyone's brought up Les Mis yet but how could it be left out. Thinking of it in the context of any work that tries to display a version or specific perspective of a historical event it may not be as great. It is largely drawn from a single tiny battle in the grand scheme of the French Revolution (which I believe there were actually multiple of); as a lover of the musical though it often does not matter. It may be misleading in this way but it still deals with social and economic class, government corruption, poverty, and many more themes successfully. That last remake was a real masterpiece but there's something to be said about sort of cult classics and their significance. To make the jump from a lengthy and largely historical novel/memoir (kind of) to movies and musicals and musical movies and to show no signs of slowly down or stopping in popularity specifically in those last two forms is a real accomplishment! I would gladly spend some big bucks to see it again and own two different cast versions.”
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Other musicals you’d highlight and analyze?

1 comment:

  1. Andrea Grenadier adds:

    "Okay, so here's my take, if it's not too late!
    I have always loved musicals, and it seems they were always playing in our house when I was growing up in the 5os and 60s. We had all of them: Lerner & Lowe, Meredith Willson, Rogers & Hammerstein. But the one that would be considered a complete anachronism today is Jerry Herman's 1961 "Milk and Honey." The story centers on a busload of American widows hoping to catch husbands while touring Israel, and it's set against the backdrop of the country's struggle for recognition as an independent nation. It was Herman's first Broadway musical. You can see from the plot how this would be like a huge mess if they tried to stage it today. But it had some of the most beautiful and complex music, and the cast, as many casts did back then, featured opera singers in lead roles.
    I found myself thinking about the long, lyrical line when seeing "Hamilton," and how much I missed it. Hip-hop is great and all that, but in a lot of places, "Hamilton," as highly entertaining as it was, fell over and impaled itself on its own cleverness sometimes.
    And hey, Robert! I also loved "1776"!"