Our Musicals, Ourselves

A Social History of the American Musical Theatre

John Bush Jones

Our Musicals, Ourselves

John Bush Jones

Distributed for Brandeis University Press

426 pages | 6 x 9 1/4
Paper $35.00 ISBN: 9780874519044 Published January 2004
Our Musicals, Ourselves is the first full-scale social history of the American musical theater from the imported Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas of the late nineteenth century to such recent musicals as The Producers and Urinetown. While many aficionados of the Broadway musical associate it with wonderful, diversionary shows like The Music Man or My Fair Lady, John Bush Jones instead selects musicals for their social relevance and the extent to which they engage, directly or metaphorically, contemporary politics and culture. Organized chronologically, with some liberties taken to keep together similarly themed musicals, Jones examines dozens of Broadway shows from the beginning of the twentieth century to the present that demonstrate numerous links between what played on Broadway and what played on newspapers’ front pages across our nation. He reviews the productions, lyrics, staging, and casts from the lesser-known early musicals (the “gunboat” musicals of the Teddy Roosevelt era and the “Cinderella shows” and “leisure time musicals” of the 1920s) and continues his analysis with better-known shows including Showboat, Porgy and Bess, Oklahoma, South Pacific, West Side Story, Cabaret, Hair, Company, A Chorus Line, and many others. While most examinations of the American musical focus on specific shows or emphasize the development of the musical as an art form, Jones’s book uses musicals as a way of illuminating broader social and cultural themes of the times. With six appendixes detailing the long-running diversionary musicals and a foreword by Sheldon Harnick, the lyricist of Fiddler on the Roof, Jones’s comprehensive social history will appeal to both students and fans of Broadway.
Contents
Foreword ix • Acknowledgements xi • Introduction 1 • 1. Patriotism, Xenophobia, and World War I 12 • 2. The Musicals of the Roaring Twenties 52 • 3. Coping with Depression 79 • 4. World War II and the Rodgers and Hammerstein Years 123 • 5. From Isolationism to Idealism in the Cold War years 161 • 6. Black and Jewish Musicals since the 1960s 202 • 7. Issue-Driven Musicals of the Turbulent Years 235 • 8. Fragmented Society, Fragmented Musicals 269 • 9. "A Recycled Culture," Nostalgia and Spectacle 305 •10. New Voices, New Perspectives 331 • Appendices -- Appendix A: Broadway Musical Production, 1919-1929 360 -- Appendix B: Long-Running Diversionary Musicals. 1929-1938 362 -- Appendix C: Long-Running Diversionary Musicals, 1939-1945 364 -- Appendix D: Long-Running Diversionary Musicals, 1946-1960 366 -- Appendix E: Long-Running Diversionary Musicals, 1960-1969 369 -- Appendix F: Long-Running Diversionary Musicals, 1969-1979 371 -- Appendix G: Long-Running Diversionary Musicals, 1979-2000 372 • Sources Cited 375 • Index 391
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