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The Broadway Musical
A Critical and Musical Survey
by Joseph P. Swain
- Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
- Genres: musicals, music
- Author: Joseph P. Swain
- ISBN: 9780195054347 (0195054342)
- Release date: May 24, 1990
- Format: hardcover, 400 pages
- Language: english
About The Book
The Broadway musical, one of America’s most distinctive contributions to Western music, has been chronicled, dissected, described, and debated, but never until now has its essential element — that glorious music — been analyzed directly in any significant detail. Moving beyond the anecdotes, production histories, and generalizations about theatrical style that mark so much of the critical literature, Joseph P. Swain offers a unique survey of the most important or representative musical plays, one that shows how the great Broadway composers have used the traditional tools of composition — melody, harmony, tonal movement, rhythm, and texture — to become powerful dramatists in their own right.
Illustrated with over 150 musical excerpts — a unique feature that gives Swain’s analysis unparalleled depth and precision — the book yields new insights at every turn. It shows how particular musical solutions to dramatic problems gave Showboat and Oklahoma! the power to change the course of the Broadway tradition, brought Carousel and West Side Story to worldwide recognition as masterpieces of their kind, and lent a light popular genre the formal complexity and emotional range to encompass a tremendous diversity of styles and materials, from Shakespearean drama (Kiss Me, Kate and West Side Story) to European opera (Porgy and Bess), and from age-old myth (My Fair Lady and Camelot) to still-current ethnic conflict (Fiddler on the Roof). All the great Broadway composers and musical-comedy teams are here — Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Frank Loesser, Leonard Bernstein, Lerner and Loewe — as well as a representative sample of the classic shows, including the sadly neglected The Most Happy Fella. In addition, Swain’s thoughtful evaluation of the current scene illuminates issues of dramatic approach (Godspell), plot (A Chorus Line), subject matter (Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita), and musical rhetoric (Stephen Sondheim’s output, exemplified by Sweeney Todd) that may determine the future course of the musical play.
Precise in focus, uncommonly rich in detail, and accessible to fans and scholars alike, The Broadway Musical will have to be read by anyone concerned with contemporary American music and drama, and by anyone who hopes truly to know this supposedly best-known of music.
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