THE 103 Seminars in Theater: American Musical Theater from the Beginnings to 1943
Theater with music dates from the origins of the stage in the ancient world, but musical theater as it is understood today is a quintessentially American art form mixing elements of high and low art. This course will examine the musical’s variant theories of origin from ballad opera and operetta to minstrels, jazz, and vaudeville, as well as its evolution from the ethnic entertainments of innocence and optimism that gave way to more complex reflections of the diversity, spectacle, and individualism of early twentieth century American life. Through lecture, musical theater from its beginnings through the mid-twentieth century will be explored through study of the work of composers and lyricists including George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern, Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, and Oscar Hammerstein II, among others. Attention will also be paid to influential performers and directors, and the form and themes of musical theater will be studied through examination of representative texts and scores including Little Johnny Jones (1904), Shuffle Along (1921), Show Boat (1927), Animal Crackers (1928), Of Thee I Sing! (1931), As Thousands Cheer (1933), Anything Goes (1934), Porgy and Bess (1935), Pal Joey (1940), and Oklahoma! (1943). This course is offered in the fall (first half of semester).