cover image Sing for Your Supper: The Broadway Musical in the 1930s

Sing for Your Supper: The Broadway Musical in the 1930s

Ethan Mordden / Author Palgrave MacMillan $26.95 (270p) ISBN 9

The Great Depression not only stifled the U.S. economy, it slowed down the innovation of the Broadway musical. Despite that, and despite the fact that this era left behind few remnants for future generations, master theater historian Mordden cobbles together a breezy but comprehensive sixth edition to his series (from the 1920s to the 1970s) on the Golden Age of the Broadway musical. While economic woes forced many producers to turn to seemingly safe star vehicles and extravagant revues, Mordden points out that some notable artists commanded attention. Cole Porter's bewitching music and witty lyrics shone in 1934's Anything Goes. The following year George and Ira Gershwin elevated the black musical to new heights with Porgy and Bess. Rodgers and Hart showed their versatility with such shows as On Your Toes and The Boys from Syracuse. Agnes de Mille and George Balanchine led the integration of dance into story. And The Band Wagon, starring Fred and Adele Astaire, was responsible for an innovative scenic design element, the double revolve, which sped up scenery changes and revolutionized the way musicals could be staged. Sure, the era may best be remembered for political musicals, ranging from Marc Blitzstein's The Cradle Will Rock to the jaunty satire Of Thee I Sing, but Mordden points out that these were just one dish in a gigantic buffet of musical styles. Mordden is an encyclopedia of knowledge about the Broadway musical. Fortunately, his information is so well organized and his conversational writing style so smooth that this tome never feels like a mere onslaught of facts. Those who are devoted to musical theater will love this comprehensive historical look, but those with only a passing interest may be overwhelmed. 8 pages of b&w photos.