The Musical: A Concise History

Kurt Ganzl, Author Northeastern University Press $50 (480p) ISBN 978-1-55553-311-3
Now that the musical play is suitable for scholarly study, theater disciples are rushing to compile dictionaries, encyclopedias and other reference texts on almost everyone's favorite theatrical form. It will be hard for latecomers to beat Ganzl's exhaustive guidebook to 300 years of musicals, both romantic and comedic, which spans the early 18th to the late 20th centuries, and covers the theatrical scenes in America, Europe and Australia. Dividing the epochs into manageable bits, Ganzl breezily skips from the development of the naughty French opera bouffe in the mid-19th century to the pretty, romantic operettas of early 20th-century Vienna. Swinging from sentimental romances to cheerful burlesques and back again, the musical made full use of the space between the dainty and musically demanding operetta and the energetic, if more vulgar, vaudeville. The creative energy--much of it Jewish--that nourished the musical theater moved around from Paris to London to Vienna and back to England and the U.S., until the post-war years saw it hunker down on Broadway and produce most of the musicals seen around the world. Ganzl has carefully chosen those shows that were successful worldwide for his thoughtful, sometimes revisionist analysis (e.g., Oklahoma! isn't so much a revolutionary departure as a better conceived continuation of the romantic musical tradition), and provided detailed synopses of plots, as well as the names of characters, songs and particulars of the original productions. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-1-84222-240-9
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