The Rebirth Of American Musical Theatre Essay

8 August 2017

, Research Paper

Two great authors of American musical theater, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, had one thought in common. They wanted to show to the American populace a new and radical musical that would stand out above the remainder. They wanted to do an impact on the societies of the epoch. They wanted to be originative and do something that was considered rebellious. When they eventually combined their thoughts together they created an American chef-d’oeuvre in musical theater: Sooner state! . It was the first Rodgers and Hammerstein coaction, get downing the most successful originative partnership in the history of American musical theater.

Harmonizing to Joseph Swain in his book The Broadway Musical: A Critical and Musical Survey, there are a figure of grounds why a peculiar work of art might be considered a milepost in the history in its genre. It might present inventions of technique and manner so converting that they may go highly influential. It might pull such broad acclamation that it can non be ignored by the creative persons who come after, even if the acclaimed celebrity finally fades with clip. It could stand as the first work of an of import series. Or possibly, it sets a new criterion of prowess. ( 73 ) For whatever factors that influenced the authors to make the plants they did, they produced some of the most successful and improbably influential plants of musical theater in their clip.

In the old ages before Oklahoma! was created, Broadway was deceasing. New and bracing musicals were a rare juncture and when an creative person tried to make something that he hoped his audience would wish, he was unhappily defeated. Broadway was enduring from a deficiency of what it was revered for: astounding dramas and musicals. Its clip of glamor and flashiness was about forgotten, and was in demand of being saved. That is why Oklahoma! is considered a metempsychosis of the American musical theater at the clip. It brought Broadway back to life, make fulling theaters seats with enthusiastic audiences who embraced the alterations of this new theatre musical with unfastened weaponries and made it a fable. Oklahoma! put new criterions for authoritative American theater by presenting new techniques of showing the musical to the audience, presenting a new genre of music into the theater, and strayed off from the usual authoritative signifier and construction of a musical that audiences had grown used to. It was a clip of alteration, a clip of exhilaration, and a clip of puting criterions for the hereafter.

About from the first public presentation at the St. James Theatre on March 31, 1943, Oklahoma! has been recognized as a new sort of musical drama that denied its Broadway audiences many of their most cherished traditions, says David Ewen in American Musical Theatre. There was no gap chorus line, no chorus until midway through the first act, in fact. There was instead a serious concert dance and other serious overtones, including a violent death in act two. The narrative, which was so simple, seemed to prosecute the audience in more than mere flushing recreation. ( 248 ) These alterations, far from let downing to viewing audiences, were upheld by a success that had ne’er been seen in the history of musical theater.

He continued to state that with their first coaction, Rodgers and Hammerstein ushered in a new epoch for the musical theater. This beautiful common people drama realized to the full that which the earlier Rodgers and Hart musicals had been endeavoring to obtain: a synchronism of all the elements of the musical theater into a individual entity. At best Sooner state! could put legitimate claim to hold carefully woven a new component, dance, into the disingenuous cloth of the modern musical. No longer would singers sing and so travel into their dance, a strictly cosmetic dance at that. ( 248 )

Dance was non a new component in the theatre kingdom. It had been used for old ages as a manner of reading of feelings of a character that the author or manager wanted the audience to experience visually. Through motion, look of those feelings was portrayed and helped the audience to somewhat experience that individual emotion of fright, hatred, love, or guilt right along with the character on phase. But what was usual was that it was ne’er brought together with the music and vocalizing. The vocal was normally followed by the cosmetic dance. A vocal followed by a dance would normally lost the audience? s attending, or even if the dance was excessively long or did non match to the vocal or narrative line what so of all time. Rodgers and Hammerstein set a criterion that incorporated the two elements ( music/song and dance ) so that the audience would happen more logic in the dance. It would hold a significance and a intent in the drama and rise the exhilaration in the musical. And in many cases, it would farther the secret plan or at best aid the audience to to the full understand the single character? s feelings at that point in the musical. David Ewen uses the illustration of Agnes de Mille & # 8217 ; s ( choreographer of Oklahoma! ) concert dance, which brought to life the heroine & # 8217 ; s dream and provided her motivation for declining the hero & # 8217 ; s invitation to a box particular. it was portion of the narrative. ( 248 )

Harmonizing to Gerald Bordman, the writer of American Musical Comedy, the thought that integrating was something new and urgently needed took clasp of Broadway & # 8217 ; s believing. In fact, it became so stylish to incorporate dance into the musical, that it was sometimes injected when it served no dramatic intent, and sometimes even when it hindered the flowering of the narrative. ( 160 ) After awhile dance became overused, which seemed to destroy what Roadgers and Hammerstein had set out to make ( the incorporation of dance to rise the significance of the musical ) . Other authors or choreographers who inserted dance were non adding it when it would assist the musical. Directors came to believe that dance was a necessity in a musical, for it was one of the cardinal grounds why Oklahoma! was so successful. So the add-ons were made, but were non truly thought about their intent when they were added. What was forgotten was the obvious demand for the dance at all. Dance was thought to be a privation of the audience, non taking into consideration if the musical even required the dance at all. So, this job developed into an? interpolation craze? , adding dance merely for the mere spectacle of it.

But in Oklahoma! , everything tantrum into its topographic point. For the first clip, non merely were the vocals and narrative inseparable, but the dances heightened the play by uncovering the frights and desires of the taking characters. Harmonizing to Bordman, Richard Rodgers one time said,

when a show works absolutely, it & # 8217 ; s because all the single parts complement each other and fit together & # 8230 ; in a great musical, the orchestrations sound the manner the costumes look. That & # 8217 ; s what made Oklahoma! work & # 8230 ; it was a work created by many that gave the feeling of holding been created by one. ( 160 )

Dance was non the lone thought that Rodgers and Hammerstein brought into their new coaction. Joseph Swain adds that much was made at the clip of the hero & # 8217 ; s killing the scoundrel on phase in Oklahoma! . This excessively was non new. But while the claim to originality was one time once more overdone, Oklahoma! by virtuousness of its immense popularity, a popularity in no manner reduced by an unpleasant scene, did unfastened doors. ( 74 ) Sooner state! was in fact in the genre of Musical Comedy, and many critics felt that scoundrels and slaying were non elements that should look in a comedy. It was thought that such points would turn audiences away from Oklahoma! , holding the thought of traveling to see a comedy and go forthing experiencing like they had seen a slaying enigma, and non express joying at all was non the chief aim of comedy theater. But one time once more, these elements were a cardinal portion of the musical. David Ewen pointed out in The Story of America? s Musical Theatre that the original drama had both scoundrels and a slaying, and Rodgers and Hammerstein had no purpose of taking them from their musical. Ewen quotes Hammerstein stating,

We realized that such a class was experimental, amounting about to the breach of an implied contract with the musical-comedy audience. I can non state truthfully that we were worried by the hazard. Once we had made the determination everything seemed to work right and we had the interior assurance people feel when they have adopted the right and honest attack to a job. ( 180 )

But one time the doors opened and tickets began to sell and shows finally became sold out, Rodgers and Hammerstein truly did non hold anything to fear. Their show shortly showed itself to be a success, even with a scoundrel and a slaying. The audiences were at first disturbed to see these elements in a comedy, but shortly came into understanding with these new add-ons and liked its originality and creativity. Besides if these two elements had been removed, it would hold disturbed the synchronism and brotherhood of all the other elements of vocal, dance and secret plan in the musical, which was what the authors were seeking to avoid at all costs.

Merely like the dance component, the scoundrel and the slaying were a cardinal portion of the narrative line, and to take them merely to do the audience feel more comfy would in bend shake the foundation of the secret plan. This was a opportunity Rodgers and Hammerstein were willing to take ; a hazard that proved to be a wise one to take in the terminal. Audiences found alleviation in the violent death of the scoundrel and a certain justness in the decision of the musical. The? bad cat? had lost and? justness reigned supreme? .

In The Story of America? s Musical Theatre, Ewen states that there were? no tickets

? . Sooner state! had proved, on opening dark, a arresting phase experience such as one does non frequently encounter in a life-time of drama traveling. From the minute the drape rose and the first lines of the first vocal were Sung, down to the concluding scene with the presentation of the rubric figure, the audience sat spellbound as a new sort of phase art unfolded with uncomparable beauty and stateliness. ( 181 )

Along with dance and scoundrels, Rodgers and Hammerstein besides took on a new attack to organizing the music that they included in the musical. In Gerald Bordman? s 2nd book American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle, he stated that long before they wrote their first words to & # 8220 ; Oh What A Beautiful Mornin & # 8217 ; & # 8220 ; , Rodgers and Hammerstein had arrived at an all important determination. The & # 8220 ; jetsam and jetsam & # 8221 ; of musical comedy would hold to be abandoned in interpreting a sensitive, poetic common people drama for the musical theater. Musical comedies traditionally opened with a large, crowded phase scene. Sooner state! would get down merely: a individual character would be seen on the phase ( a adult female churning butter ) , and from off-stage would come the strains of the first vocal. Musical comedies normally started with a eye-popping line of chorus misss from the phase aprons early in the production, but Rodgers and Hammerstein decided to detain its visual aspect until midway through the first act. ( 535 )

Audiences had become accustomed to the expansive gap figure and chorus. It did convey a certain charming and exultant beginning to a musical, get downing with exhilaration and volume. This was besides criticized, many experiencing an audience would non stand for their most cherished properties of a drama being taken off. But Rodgers and Hammerstein one time once more took another hazard, and it proved to be a hazard that was non excessively bad to take. Audiences were at first disappointed with the omission of the gap chorus, but finally excused it, for they fell in love with the manner of musical that Rodgers and Hammerstein were showing to them. The drama grew from a simple gap to a expansive coda, which built the exhilaration of the audience and kept them stimulated and interested in the flowering of the musical until the concluding chorus line and drape call. It built suspense and a combustion for more. Rodgers and Hammerstein evidently knew what they were making, even if the critics thought they did non.

Bordman besides noted that the show & # 8217 ; s musical manager, Jay Blackton, appreciating the work & # 8217 ; s nature, discarded the common musical comedy pattern of holding the full chorus sing merely songs & # 8217 ; tunes. Alternatively, he reverted to the tradition of light opera and amusing opera by spliting his vocalists and delegating them assorted parts, non ever the chief melodious line. ( 535 ) Once once more, Oklahoma! was doing breakthrough inventions in the universe on Musical Theatre. A denial of basic features of the original musical comedy could hold upset the audience, and push Sooner state! into an country of friendless musicals that all authors fear. But Rodgers and Hammerstein? s thoughts were undeniably reviewing to the American audiences.

Rodgers & # 8217 ; music besides marked a new way for the author in Oklahoma! . He reinvented his manner of music from what he knew was popular to the audience to a rugged two-dimensionality. Davis Ewen besides states in his book The Story of America? s Musical Theatre, that most musical comedies expected the music to be written before the wordss, since the wordss were something functional tacked on to the tune. But the authors were so determined to do each word an indispensable portion of the text that they agreed at one time for Hammerstein to compose the wordss foremost, and Rodgers would compose the music from the wordss. ( 180 )

Bordman reiterates that it is sometimes difficult to recognize that & # 8220 ; Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin & # 8217 ; & # 8221 ; is a walk-in. The tune of & # 8220 ; The Surry With The Fringe On Top & # 8221 ; captures the clip-clop of a Equus caballus drawing the vehicle. Rodgers & # 8217 ; long-sustained gap note of his rubric vocal coupled with the driving tune that follows was of the freshest innovations of the kind and the faultless blending of words and music in & # 8220 ; Peoples Will Say We & # 8217 ; re In Love & # 8221 ; justifiably made it the most popular of the twelvemonth. Much proclaiming ensued over how good the vocals and secret plan were integrated. ( 535 )

This coordination of musical beat and words was astonishing. They were able to catch simple sounds of the actions on phase and integrate them into the vocal, as if the lives of the characters could merely last with the music. This combination of music, sound, and phase motion is an indispensable key in musical theater. The audience must be made to believe that the character? s life is a vocal. It is indispensable that the character make the audience feel like the music is non merely a cockamamie add-on to the development secret plan, but an bing point that has and will ever be at that point in clip. The audience must be pulled into the universe of the musical, non merely merely entertained. And one time once more, Rodgers and Hammerstein had achieved that end. The integrating was complete to the? T? . They were good on their manner to making a musical that was so seamless that pull outing one minor item of it would throw the whole work of art off. It was a work of complete brotherhood and an achievement that was in no manner easily to make in the first topographic point.

One factor in the success of Oklahoma! that can non be overlooked was the attitude of the American people at the clip it was presented. In The World of Musical Comedy, Stanley Green adds that World War II was more than a twelvemonth old when the musical opened, and those who remained at place were going progressively cognizant of the heritage they enjoyed as a free people. Sing the happier, sunnier yearss that were so much a portion of this heritage gave audiences both an flight from day-to-day headlines and a feeling of optimism for the hereafter. ( 212 ) In American Musical Comedy, Bordman believed that Oklahoma! & # 8217 ; s importance ballad elsewhere. The show made the American musical theater expression at America & # 8217 ; s ain heritage for inspiration. Members of the American yesteryear afterlife provided a fertile field for librettists. ( 160 ) Playwrites were get downing to acknowledge the huge sum of inspiration the American state could supply for the new revolution of musicals. During the clip of and after World War II, pride in America was deriving strength and so was the involvement of composing dramas and musicals that showed that pride of how great America was. Oklahoma! in bend brought more than merely new inventions of vocal, music, and dance to the phase, but a love for musicals that showed how beautiful older American civilization was. Oklahoma! was a musical of America? s enlargement into the western forepart and the western civilization. In more ways that one, Oklahoma! was a manner for metropolis inhabitants in New York City who sat in the audience to happen their manner to the West without of all time go forthing the metropolis. Rodgers and Hammerstein had experienced accomplishment when they could state a narrative through vocal and dance and transport the audience into the scene of the musical. Playgoers would go forth the theater experiencing like they had merely returned from an escapade out West, which is a playwrite? s sole aim when making a drama. The audience must be made to believe that they are sing the secret plan right along with the histrions on phase. Thus is the chief aim of theater in general ; to capture the audience and convey them to a different topographic point and clip where the secret plan of the drama is the lone battle in the universe at the clip. Rodgers and Hammerstein captured the kernel of the musical art in Oklahoma! . The audience was able to see the sounds and gestures of the West through the characters, music, wordss, costumes, sets, and dance of the musical. All facets had been woven together to organize a? musical comforter? that attracted a spectrum of attending and astonishment like no other drama or musical had done earlier.

Bordman writes in American Musical Theatre: A History that what started in 1927 was perfected in 1943 when Oklahoma! premiered. It is considered by many to be the first musical comedy to hold a secret plan, musical mark and dances that were necessary ingredients to progress the narrative line. ( 536 ) It is merely just to hold with him. Rodgers and Hammerstein added the exact? ingredients? to make a charming and seductive musical that riveted audiences and even continues to pull audiences all over the universe to this twenty-four hours. Although Oklahoma! premiered some 40 old ages ago, and its manner of music and dance have grown old with the passing of clip, it still demands regard for its combination and inventive thoughts that revolutionized the musical industry at the clip. Rodgers and Hammerstein were the dominate force in musical comedy in the 1940 & # 8217 ; s and 50 & # 8217 ; s. Even their floating-point operations had noteworthy vocals. Several of their shows became successful movies. Oklahoma! & # 8217 ; s importance in opening a new epoch in the American Musical Theatre will ne’er be challenged. It has become an American classic that society will forever hoarded wealth for its beautiful integrating of vocal and dance.

Works CitedBordman, Gerald. American Musical Comedy. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986.

& # 8212 ; . American Musical Theater: A Chronicle. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1986.

Ewen, David. American Musical Theater. New York: Henry Holt, 1959.

& # 8212 ; . The Story of America? s Musical Theater. New York: Chilton, 1968.

Green, Stanley. The World of Musical Comedy. Washington, DC: Da Capo, 1980.

Swain, Joseph P. The Broadway Musical: A Critical and Musical Survey. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990.

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