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How Musicals Work

Author: Julian Woolford
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Musicals are the most popular form of stage entertainment today, with the West End and Broadway dominated by numerous long-running hits. But for every Wicked or Phantom of the Opera, there are dozens of casualties that didn’t fare quite so well. In this book, Julian Woolford explores the musical-theatre canon to explain why and how some musicals work, why some don’t, and what you should (and shouldn’t) do if you’re thinking of writing your own. Drawing on his experience as a successful writer and director of musicals, and as a lecturer in writing musicals at the University of London, Woolford outlines every step of the creative process, from hatching the initial idea and developing a structure for the work, through creating the book, the music and the lyrics, and on to the crucial process of rewriting. He then guides the reader through getting a musical produced, with invaluable advice about generating future productions and sustaining a career. The book includes dozens of exercises to assist the novice writer in developing their craft, and detailed case studies of well-known musicals such as Les Misérables, The Sound of Music, Miss Saigon, Little Shop of Horrors, Godspell and Evita. An essential guide for any writers (or would-be writers) of musicals, How Musicals Work is a fascinating insight for anyone interested in the art form or who has ever wondered what it takes to get from first idea to first night. ‘A comprehensive and thoughtful guide to everything one must consider in order to write a successful musical. It would take at least a decade to learn all of this on one’s own. Invaluable.’ David Zippel (lyricist of City of Angels and The Woman in White) ‘If anyone knows how musicals work (I’m not sure I do), this highly entertaining dissection of every aspect of that bewildering art form reveals that Julian Woolford does.’ Tim Rice


The Rough Guide to Film Musicals

Author: David Parkinson
Publisher: Penguin
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The perfect companion to cinema's most spectacular genre, The Rough Guide to Film Musicals reveals how an escapist entertainment became Hollywood's most ingenious art form. From such enduring classics as Singin' In The Rain and West Side Story to recent successes like Evita and Chicago, this book reviews 50 essential musicals, including several forgotten gems. There are profiles of musical icons such as Fred Astaire, Judy Garland and George Gershwin and details of musicals from around the world. Complete with a list of the best soundtracks, websites and books for further reading, this Rough Guide takes a behind the scenes look at this magical movie genre.


The Oxford Handbook of the British Musical

Author: Robert Gordon
Publisher: Oxford University Press
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The first comprehensive academic survey of British musical theatre from its origins, The Oxford Handbook of the British Musical offers both a historical account of musical theatre from 1728 and a range of in-depth critical analyses of key works and productions that illustrate its aesthetic values and sociocultural meanings.


Hollywood Musicals

Author: Steven Cohan
Publisher: Routledge
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Hollywood Musicals offers an insightful account of a genre that was once a mainstay of twentieth-century film production and continues to draw audiences today. What is a film musical? How do musicals work, formally and culturally? Why have they endured since the introduction of sound in the late 1920s? What makes them more than glittery surfaces or escapist fare? In answering such questions, this guidebook by Steven Cohan takes new and familiar viewers on a tour of Hollywood musicals. Chapters discuss definitions of the genre, its long history, different modes of analyzing it, the great stars of the classic era, and auteur directors. Highlights include extended discussions of such celebrated musicals from the studio era as The Love Parade, Top Hat, Holiday Inn, Stormy Weather, The Gang’s All Here, Meet Me in St. Louis, Cover Girl, Mother Wore Tights, Singin’ in the Rain, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Band Wagon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Jailhouse Rock as well as later films such as Cabaret, All that Jazz, Beauty and the Beast, and La La Land. Cohan brings in numerous other examples that amplify and extend to the present day his claims about the musical, its generic coherence and flexibility, its long and distinguished history, its special appeal, and its cultural significance. Clear and accessible, this guide provides students of film and culture with a succinct but substantial overview that provides both analysis and intersectional context to one of Hollywood’s most beloved genres.


Stephen Sondheim and the Reinvention of the American Musical

Author: Robert L. McLaughlin
Publisher: Univ. Press of Mississippi
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From West Side Story in 1957 to Road Show in 2008, the musicals of Stephen Sondheim and his collaborators have challenged the conventions of American musical theater and expanded the possibilities of what musical plays can do, how they work, and what they mean. Sondheim's brilliant array of work, including such musicals as Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods, has established him as the preeminent composer/lyricist of his, if not all, time. Stephen Sondheim and the Reinvention of the American Musical places Sondheim's work in two contexts: the exhaustion of the musical play and the postmodernism that, by the 1960s, deeply influenced all the American arts. Sondheim's musicals are central to the transition from the Rodgers and Hammerstein-style musical that had dominated Broadway stages for twenty years to a new postmodern musical. This new style reclaimed many of the self-aware, performative techniques of the 1930s musical comedy to develop its themes of the breakdown of narrative knowledge and the fragmentation of identity. In his most recent work, Sondheim, who was famously mentored by Oscar Hammerstein II, stretches toward a twenty-first-century musical that seeks to break out of the self-referring web of language. Stephen Sondheim and the Reinvention of the American Musical offers close readings of all of Sondheim's musicals and finds in them critiques of the operation of power, questioning of conventional systems of knowledge, and explorations of contemporary identity.


The Oxford Handbook of The American Musical

Author: Raymond Knapp
Publisher: Oxford University Press
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The Oxford Handbook of the American Musical presents keywords and critical terms that deepen analysis and interpretation of the musical. 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 Great White Way

Author: Warren Hoffman
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
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Broadway musicals are one of America’s most beloved art forms and play to millions of people each year. But what do these shows, which are often thought to be just frothy entertainment, really have to say about our country and who we are as a nation? The Great White Way is the first book to reveal the racial politics, content, and subtexts that have haunted musicals for almost one hundred years from Show Boat (1927) to The Scottsboro Boys (2011). Musicals mirror their time periods and reflect the political and social issues of their day. Warren Hoffman investigates the thematic content of the Broadway musical and considers how musicals work on a structural level, allowing them to simultaneously present and hide their racial agendas in plain view of their audiences. While the musical is informed by the cultural contributions of African Americans and Jewish immigrants, Hoffman argues that ultimately the history of the American musical is the history of white identity in the United States. Presented chronologically, The Great White Way shows how perceptions of race altered over time and how musicals dealt with those changes. Hoffman focuses first on shows leading up to and comprising the Golden Age of Broadway (1927–1960s), then turns his attention to the revivals and nostalgic vehicles that defined the final quarter of the twentieth century. He offers entirely new and surprising takes on shows from the American musical canon—Show Boat (1927), Oklahoma! (1943), Annie Get Your Gun (1946), The Music Man (1957), West Side Story (1957), A Chorus Line (1975), and 42nd Street (1980), among others. New archival research on the creators who produced and wrote these shows, including Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, and Edward Kleban, will have theater fans and scholars rethinking forever how they view this popular American entertainment.


The Literary Review

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The Secret Life of the American Musical

Author: Jack Viertel
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
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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.


Creating the new musical

Author: Armin Geraths
Publisher: Peter Lang Pub Inc
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This volume is a contribution to the aesthetics of the « new musical, which has developed into a high art form over the last thirty years. The decisive breakthrough occurred with Bernstein's West Side Story in 1957. It was the producer of this show, Harold Prince, whose subsequent epoch-making directorial and conceptual work created the basis on which the individual work of Kander, Sondheim and Lloyd Webber reached a unified level of the highest quality. The « new musical and its creator Harold Prince were the subjects of a symposium held at the Neukollner Oper in Berlin a few days after the World Premiere of Bounce in the presence of the Broadway Master. Contributors were academics and theatre practitioners offering a double perspective modeled on the outstanding example of the collaboration set by Foster Hirsch and Harold Prince.


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