PAPER ABSTRACTS

MONDAY, 20 JUNE

PAPER SESSION I.  9-10:30

The Musical and Race (HSB 5301)

“Constructions of Ethnicity in Antebellum American Musical Theatre”

        Christopher Smith (Texas Tech University)

In 19th century North America, musical theatre, like newspaper imagery, stump speeches, and popular sermonizing, was a principle venue for the articulation, negotiation, and contestation of the new nation's ethnic identity. Particularly in the wake of innovative political transformation, as the Federalist period gave way to Jacksonian democracy, and of successive waves of immigration and relocation, ballad operas, minstrel shows, and other theatrical entertainments sought ways to portray--and thus to control--images of America’s exploding democratic diversity. The use of parody, imitation, and exaggerated dialog, costume, makeup and musical materials essentially “invented” the archetypes for comic Germans, Yankees, Pennsylvania Dutch, Creoles, Native Americans, Jews, French, English, and African-American characters who would endure long past the Civil War.
In this paper, drawing on playbills, playscripts, scores, and commentary from the period c1790-1843, upon techniques from musicology, iconography, ethnomusicology, and performance studies, and using images, audio, and live musical examples, I will unpack this body of materials, to reveal the political intentionality and compositional consistency of these early 19th century constructions of musical ethnicity—and their surprising, ongoing, historical influence.

“Paul Robeson on Stage and Screen”

        Tom Riis (University of Colorado)

Few Americans have ever possessed, much less realized to such an advanced degree, the extraordinarily diverse talents of a Paul Robeson (1898-1976), as an athlete (in several sports), a singer (both live and on record), and as an actor (on both stage and screen). His growth and maturation as an artist during his sixty-year career is perhaps even more impressive than his long list of accomplishments, however. At the peak of his fame around 1940, just prior to his precipitous decline and blacklisting amidst the poisonous political climate of the early Cold War era, Robeson had achieved a level of fame and respect comparable that of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington in their day or of Muhammad Ali and Barack Obama in the decades since. But who today knows even a part of the achievements that brought Robeson so prominently into public favor in the first place, much less the evolution of his thinking about music, performance, race, and politics between 1920 and 1950?

This paper, the beginning of a book-length project on Paul Robeson as a performer and thinker, will attempt first to sketch the breadth of his artistic achievements and then focus on his increasingly acute aesthetic awareness gained through foreign travel, study, and exposure to contemporary artistic currents. Finally it will discuss how he managed to articulate his goals for his audiences (both fans and skeptics) in order to explain how he viewed the world, the importance of the performing arts in world culture, and his place in the larger scheme of things.

“Racial Eruptions: Modern American Musicals and the Spectre of Blackface”

        Kathryn Edney (Regis College)

In the recent musical 9 to 5, the (white) character Franklin Hart, Jr. takes on the voice and physicality, but not the skin color, of James Brown in order to sing about his fears of women’s liberation. Such a moment, contained within a show that has no major African American characters and which otherwise avoids any other references to African American cultural forms, is not an atypical one in modern American musical theater. Although modern American musicals eschew burnt cork, they nonetheless deploy many of the signifiers—aural and otherwise—of blackface. Although the roots of American musical theater stretch back both to European operetta and blackface minstrelsy, such racial eruptions are not simply indicative of the mixed heritage embedded within the structure of the genre. These eruptions also signify a deep-seated anxiety within mainstream musical theater concerning the historical debts owed to African American culture. Using 9 to 5 as a central example, this paper will explore the ways in which representations of African Americans historically performed within American popular culture, but later abandoned by it, continually resurface within the context of modern American musical theater.

PAPER SESSION II. 10:45-12:15

A. Compositional Strategies (HSB 5301)

“Compositional Strategies in Popular Song Forms”

        John Graziano (Graduate Center, City University of New York)

Popular song at the beginning of the twentieth century exhibited several new tendencies that, over time, became audience favorites. A new type of rude song, with syncopated melodies and vernacular lyrics–the coon song–took audiences by storm.  The general form–verse/chorus–known in the earlier songs still provided the basic structure. But the harmonies and internal structure of both sections moved in a new direction. As the popular music of Tin Pan Alley developed, song composers looked for new ways to vary the basic harmonic progressions in phrases that usually spanned eight measures. Among the variety of new forms was one, A A B A, that would prove important to the future of popular song.

In this paper, I explore the expansion of harmonic possibilities that took place in the chorus with the adoption of the A A B A form during the late teens and 1920s. I have chosen songs–from Broadway shows and film musicals–by Gershwin, Kern, Rodgers, Berlin, and Nacio Herb Brown, among others, that demonstrate how composers began to move away from the basic dominant and subdominant alternations to explore increasingly complex strategies in the harmonic progressions that comprise the “release” sections of the chorus. These explorations proved fruitful to the development of the form and  provided a foundation for the introduction of chromatic progressions that evolved in the 1930s.

“Dancing through Dogpatch: A Dance Arranger’s Workshop”

        Jane Ferencz (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater)

The 1956 DePaul/Mercer musical Li’l Abner featured a topical story, witty lyrics, and catchy tunes. Its “Sadie Hawkins’ Day” ballet re-enacts an important annual event in Dogpatch, with single women claiming as husbands any man they can capture. Choreographed by Michael Kidd, the 10-minute sequence is fully in keeping with the show’s purposefully-cartoonish setting. The ballet, incorporating Gene DePaul’s melodies, was created by dance arranger Geneviève Pitot, who contributed much original composition to the score. Dance arrangers (commonly the show’s dance accompanist as well) collaborate with the choreographer in fashioning music to meet each dance’s needs, bringing the choreography to life and integrating the dance number into the show’s continuity.

An accomplished pianist from an early age, Pitot left her native New Orleans to study piano in Paris, then began her career in New York, concertizing and soon working with several early modern dance pioneers. She collaborated on Broadway with choreographers Kidd, Helen Tamiris, Donald Saddler, Agnes DeMille, and Jerome Robbins, with her many credits including Kiss Me, Kate, Out of This World, and Can-Can.

In the classical world, researchers are often able to examine composing materials, but these are much less commonly available to musical theater scholars. In my work with Pitot’s papers, I located her holograph pencil copy of the “Sadie Hawkins’ Day” ballet score. It contains numerous rehearsal annotations, instrumentation suggestions (for orchestrator Phil Lang), and various corrections and changes. My paper provides a rare glimpse into the creative and collaborative world of the Broadway dance arranger.

“Thematic Cohesion in Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years

        Bradley Martin (Western Carolina University)

Since its premiere in 2002, Jason Robert Brown’s one-act musical The Last Five Years has developed a devoted audience. Centering on a failed marriage and employing just two actors, the unique structure of the show follows each character in reverse chronological order: the wife from the end of the relationship to the beginning, and the husband from the beginning to the end.

Though this plot structure is clearly evident to the audience, what may go unnoticed is the intricate web of themes that Brown uses to give the work a degree of musical unity that is almost operatic in conception. This presentation will first define the basic thematic material that recurs throughout the show and then demonstrate how this material reinforces and clarifies the reverse arc of the plot structure.

Though rarely recognized as such, Jason Robert Brown’s score is one of the most truly innovative theatrical compositions in recent memory. This presentation seeks to give musical theatre composers, performers, and scholars glimpses into the hidden inner structure of this intriguing, multi-layered work.

B. The Carnal and the Carnivalesque (HSB 5309)

“The American Musical and the Carnivalesque: Bakhtin on Broadway”

        Garrett Eisler (Graduate Center, City University of New York)

The celebration, in many musical theatre histories, of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1943 Oklahoma! as a “maturing” of the art form has resulted in the downgrading of preceding musical comedies of the 1930s as, at best, baby steps towards “integration” or, at worst, inferior works of less serious times. But, in this paper, I propose an alternate lens through which to read these works, one not defined only in retrospect and in comparison to midcentury realist criteria.  Expanding Mikhail Bakhtin’s conception of the “carnivalesque” in literature—where misrule, subversion, and anarchy temporarily break free from societal constraints within the fictive imagination—I posit the pre-World War II American musical comedy as a realm of popular/folk culture analogous to the Rabelaisian festivals that concerned Bakhtin.

First I will show how three of this period’s most popular musicals (Girl Crazy, Anything Goes, Lady in the Dark) deploy carnivalesque elements: liminal and ludic spaces, gender and class transgressions, challenges to political authority, and manifestations of the grotesque.  Then I will turn to three early Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals (Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific) to highlight how they both draw upon and reject the deliberate anarchy of the carnivalesque form in favor of a new, psychological-realist framework for musical drama.  Rather than seeing one as “logical” and the other as not, I conclude that these two strains in the repertoire need to be understood as different—but equally rigorous—species of logic in their own right.

“Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off: Performing Circumcision in the Musical”

        Thea Gold (University of California-Berkeley)

A controversial proposal to legally ban male circumcision will appear on San Francisco ballots this November. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been drafting their recommendation that all male infants in the US be circumcised, to help curb the spread of HIV. I claim that the long-running medical and ethical debates over this popular surgical procedure mask a deeper ideological issue at stake: What constitutes a complete and proper body? Following historical and cultural attitudes towards circumcision and tracing connections between “improper” genitals, gender, and the voice, I look at representations of this contested operation in musical theater, from Whoopee! and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, to the Israeli musical Kazablan and Broadway’s latest hit, The Book of Mormon. My analysis engages queer and feminist musical theatre scholarship, demonstrating how musical theatre privileges not only the female star but also the sexually "compromised" male star. I show how circumcision - “the cut that binds,” as Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett has dubbed it – is at once a mark of belonging and a mark of difference, at once an attack on the phallus and a veneration of the phallus, a ritual incision that calls into question traditional notions of a body that is “proper” or “whole.” 

“’My Master Is Become a Hot Lover’: The Uses of Sex in Guare and MacDermot’s Two Gentlemen of Verona

        Bryan M. Vandevender (University of Missouri-Columbia)

First produced in 1971, John Guare and Galt MacDermot’s Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona won the praise of both critics and audiences (and later theatre historians) for its racially diverse cast, its forthright critique of the Vietnam War, and its score’s use of modern rock and funk idioms. A relatively unexamined feature of the musical, however, is its candid and unashamed discussion of sex and sexual politics. In their treatment of Shakespeare’s play, the musical’s authors frequently insert bawdy talk where none previously existed. The Bard’s original lovers tend to wax romantic and code their rather innocent longing in lengthy speeches or ornate language. By contrast, their musical counterparts sing expressly of lust and their desire to copulate. This study will examine the specific uses of sex in Guare and MacDermot’s Two Gentlemen of Verona, marking the moments when prurient language or veiled sex acts occur and noting how they serve to significantly modify Shakespeare’s original playtext. Reading these moments against the cultural backdrop of the sexual revolution, it will also aim demonstrate how the musical espoused attitudes toward sexual relations that were both bold and timely. Through their collaborative revisioning of Shakespeare’s play, the authorial cohort of Two Gentlemen of Verona effectively “metamorphosed” Shakespeare’s cast of loquacious lovers into significantly hot lovers.

PAPER SESSION III. 1:45-2:45

A. Opera (HSB 5301)

“Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo: ‘Discovering’ Symmetry”

        Joel Schwindt (Brandeis University)

The question of the conception and use of symmetry in Western art music before the eighteenth century has been the subject of considerable debate among modern scholars. This debate is fueled by two seemingly incongruous pieces of evidence. First is the existence of musical artifacts from earlier periods, particularly the Renaissance, which show strong characteristics of symmetrical structure. These findings, however, seem to be contradicted by the fact that we find neither the word “symmetry” nor an explicit description of symmetrical construction in the musical-theoretical writings of these earlier periods. Instead, the keywords “balance”, “proportion”, and “ratio” offer the strongest indication that this concept was contemplated. I intend to show that this seeming incongruity is indicative of the gradual expansion of the concept in the Western arts to include the accord of corresponding internal parts, a process which took a substantial step forward during the sixteenth century. Although I have drawn examples from diverse artistic disciplines, including architecture; dance; visual arts; literature; and even gardening, I have chosen to focus this study on the composer Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) because his utilization of the expanded concept of symmetry offers a clear, particular example of the broader artistic trend. It is in the composer’s first “opera”, L’Orfeo (1607, published 1609), that we find the key development in the composer’s use of symmetry; this development, substantially connected to his collaboration with librettist Alessandro Striggio, coincides with and parallels Monteverdi’s widely-recognized transition between Renaissance and Baroque musical styles.

“Foreign Concepts: Innovation and Experimentation in Mercadante’s Spanish Operas, 1826-1831”

        Riccardo La Spina (Oakland, CA)

In March, 1826, compelled by intense public demand for an Ópera Italiana, Madrid’s municipality engaged a company and –serendipitously– Saverio Mercadante (1795-1870) to direct it, instigating the cultural phenomenon of furór filarmónico (‘opera-fever’). Historians later indicted that opera’s integration into Spanish theatres imposed foreign ideals on an autochthonous culture; nevertheless, Mercadante’s Iberian sojourn indicates less a mission to colonize than a rationale of stimulating taste-formation by indulging national pride. Having recently triumphed with Caritea, his subjective preoccupations with style-maturity lay ahead. Concerned instead with audience-appeal, he pursued ‘Spanish’ permutations of his craft, adapting it to unprecedented forms with which his public would identify, yielding I due Figaro (Madrid, 1826) and Don Chisciotte (Cadiz, 1830). These unique titles targeted Spanish audiences, deftly employing Spanish musical custom to mirror their culture in the popular Italian operatic idiom. They betray Mercadante’s innovative penchant for adapting local color and subject matter, incontrovertibly substantiating his conceptualization of ‘Spanishness.’ Their peculiar circumstances remain uninvestigated since their nineteenth-century performances occasioned scant – but revealing– commentary in the Madrid press. Elusive sources and scholarly disinterest have long compounded the absence of both a comprehensive Mercadante biography and history of opera in Spain. Our probe into long-overlooked documentation elucidates Mercadante’s Iberian career, and hitherto unrecognized influence; rediscovered scores and reviews provide valuable clues for identifying sources of inspiration. This paper proposes to provide historical context and perspective whilst showing the extent of Mercadante’s experimentation with “Spanish character” in his Spanish operas by identifying their sources and presenting the critical view.

B. Rock Musicals (HSB 5309)

“Inventing the ‘Rock Musical’: Hair’s Predecessor and Companion Shows”

        Scott Warfield (University of Central Florida)

According to the history of the American musical, as written over the past forty years, Hair (1968) was the first rock musical mounted on a Broadway stage, with that show’s sub-title, “The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical,” even naming the genre.  While recent studies (Warfield, Wollman, et al.) have identified Bye Bye Birdie (1960) as an important predecessor show for its use of a rock-‘n-roll plot and music, no other shows from that era have ever been mentioned in connection with the emergence of the rock musical, and thus Hair has retained its iconic status as the genre’s sui generis progenitor.

A close reading of contemporaneous New York theatrical reviews finds, however, that Hair was not a unique event; many of its ingredients may be found individually in earlier shows.  In the decade predating Hair (1957-67), at least a dozen shows produced both on and off Broadway included some form of music or other youth-oriented counter-culture elements that can be associated with rock or rock-‘n-roll music.  Moreover, in the years 1967-72, several dozens of similar shows—most now forgotten—were mounted almost simultaneously with or just shortly after Hair reached Broadway, suggesting that they were not simply a reaction to Hair, but rather part of a larger phenomenon.

Thus, as this presentation will demonstrate, the “invention” of the rock musical was not the result of a single, monolithic event, but rather the result of a more complex, ongoing dialogue between Broadway, off-Broadway and American youth culture in the 1960s.

 “Time Flies, Time Dies: Time Dilation in Rent

        Sheri Anderson (Monmouth University) and Cody Ross Pitts

(Monmouth University)

This study views the musical Rent through the lens of time dilation, amongst other components of the Special Theory of Relativity, whereby the time interval between two events is measured differently by observers in different inertial reference frames. From Benny’s optimistic hope for the future in “You’ll See,” to Roger’s lament that “Time flies. Time dies,” it is apparent that time moves more quickly for characters in motion than for those emotionally standing still. Through close reading of songs such as “Seasons of Love,” “Glory,” “Out Tonight,” and “Rent,” as well as detailed analyses of the lead characters, this study assesses the ways in which the passage of time is subjective, depending on relative reference frames, and is not absolute, as once tacitly believed. There are characters for whom time drags, due to the hesitation or optimism with which they await their fates.  In some instances, characters seek to quicken the pace of time through the use of external stimulants, while others seek to directly document and account for each moment as a means of justification and control. Above all, this study examines the ways in which the characters’ individual proximities to such thematic factors as death, art, and power directly influence their individual perceptions of time dilation.

PAPER SESSION IV.  3:00-4:30

A. Collaborative Processes (HSB 5301)

“’Tell me what you feel…’: Metaphysical Collaborative Forces in the Contemporary Musical Play”

        Matthew Lockitt (Monash University)

In recent years the concept of the integrated musical play has been called into question: Knapp refers to the “camp” nature of the transition from speech to song; McMillin believes the form is disjunctive; Taylor proposes that integration is present through the ability to read the disjunctive as a cohesive whole.  Nevertheless, integrated or disjunctive, the musical derives its energy from the collaborative forces of text, music and movement.  

I posit that a metaphysical collaboration is at work within the contemporary musical play.  Viewed through the frame of the Apollonian and the Dionysian, spaces that Nietzsche describes as objective and subjective respectively, the paper examines the dynamic interrelationship of these collaborative forces through a consideration of “We Do Not Belong Together” from Sunday in the Park with George and “Say it Somehow” from The Light in the Piazza.

The dynamic relationship between the Apollonian and the Dionysian provides a complex theoretical frame through which to view the complexities inherent in the musical theatre’s collaborative nature.  While able to recognise the disparate disposition of the collaborative partners, the frame is simultaneously able to interpret the affect of the dramaturgical whole resulting from the collaboration.  

The paper considers the potential of this metaphysical collaboration between the Apollonian and the Dionysian, as a tool through which to analyse the complexities of the contemporary musical play.  

“Innovation through Creative Collaboration: Fingerprint by The Shout”

        Millie Taylor (University of Winchester)

The Shout is a UK based choir/performance group that consists of 16 singers from mixed ethnic and vocal backgrounds. Working with an artistic director/composer and a director they created the very successful and innovative musical theatre piece Fingerprint. Their devising process, the compositional strategies, the musical structures, the vocal techniques and the content of the performances all reflect the collaboration of artists from different traditions.

An important working method for each new piece is to spend some time doing research and development during which composed music is explored, and there are opportunities for new ideas to be developed and devised material to be created. This is the result of the composer Orlando Gough being interested in devised and improvised music, influenced by his compositional work with dance companies such as Second Stride, Siobhan Davies and Anthony Page. The effect of this strategy of involving the choir in the development of the piece is to empower the individuals to be involved in the construction of their own identity within the theatrical performance, and of the vocal and sonic identity of the choir. Each brings his or her own range of experiences and practices to the devising process.

This paper will draw on interviews with the artistic director and two members of the group, and theories of devised performance to explore the strategies through which the creative collaboration of composers and performers from different backgrounds and cultures, training and experience, can result in a productive friction and, potentially, innovative work.

“The Opera Singer as Creator and Co-Collaborator: Looking at an Alternative Model for the Inception of New Music Theatre Works”

        Jessica Walker (Leeds University)

 “We are desperately building the cathedral without having found the God.” Peter Hall, The Necessary Theatre, 1999

The current convention for the inception of new operatic work is for an opera company to assemble a creative team of composer, librettist and director. The team often has little experience or knowledge of opera or singing, and is chosen for its marketability, in order to ‘sell’ the minority product that is contemporary opera. In contrast with the singer’s opera of Handel’s day, in which the cast was his first concern before he had written a note, today’s singers are rarely an initial consideration, nor are they an integral part of the creative collaboration - the development phase of a new piece is often work-shopped with different, lower status singers than will eventually appear in the final product. Is this an effective model for the genesis of new work?

This paper will examine alternative ways of making new work, placing the singer as artistic collaborator in the creative process, drawn partly from my own current practice, and in context with current industry practice.

“I have no musical ability. I can’t sing, whistle or clap in anything resembling rhythm.” Armando Iannucci, (librettist for David Sawer’s 2008 opera Skin Deep) Sunday Times 09/01/09

(Jessica is supported by a SCUDD Glynne Wickham scholarship for this conference)

B. The Arts of Diplomacy (HSB 5309)

“Patriotism or Propaganda: American Romanticization of Communism by Means of Penning Pro-Soviet Songs”

        Anna Wheeler Gentry (Arizona State University)

The unconventional romantic notions presented in both “And Russia is Her Name” from Song of Russia (1943) and “United Nations on the March” from Thousands Cheer (1943) were a stark contrast to E. Y. Harburg’s earlier song lyric masterpieces.  Harburg’s adeptness as a wordsmith inspired him to create the lyrics for “April in Paris” (1932) without ever having traveled to Paris and using travel brochures to craft a breathtaking lyric with beautiful imagery.  “Over the Rainbow” (1939) depicts Kansas as place where dreams can come true, in spite of the ravages of the Dust Bowl that Harburg witnessed when he drove west to Hollywood in late 1934.

In a similar way, Harburg used Communist utopian ideals to write “And Russia Is Her Name” where the central love interest is revealed as a place, rather than a person.  This choice to express pro-Soviet sentiment juxtaposed with American patriotism and the “United Nations”—referencing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s term ‘United Nations’—was further complicated by collaborations with screenwriter Paul Jarrico, composer/lyricist Harold Rome, composer Dmitri Shostokovich, and the Russian War Relief Fund.

“Musical Theater as Diplomacy, or An Absolute Music Lesson”

        Derek Miller (Stanford University)

The academic study of musical theater is approaching its first maturity, with the growing number of monographs and a dedicated journal and conference among the healthy signs of a thriving young field. But our work remains fragmented, diffuse, dispersed among different disciplines, different critical discourses. We remain, in short, thoroughly interdisciplinary. These disciplinary walls may prevent the consolidation of musical theater studies around a few paradigms that we all find compelling. But musical theater can serve a different interdisciplinary function, providing us an occasion to speak to other disciplines as ambassadors from our own, with musical theater as the lingua franca that makes conversation possible.

I offer an example of this academic diplomacy by exploring how, read as a theatrical performance, “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music reformulates the relationship among music, narrative, and text assumed by some formalist musicologies. While music is certainly functional in this number, serving as the object of Maria’s instruction to the children, the narrative yields to music, since the test of Maria’s skill can only be proven musically, by singing a song. Meanwhile, the text is based on musical structures (solfège syllables) and the musicality of language (homophony of “do” and “doe”). In the performance of this song, narrative and text--which, in a Hanslickian view, degrade “absolute music”--yield to music’s transformative power. “Do-Re-Mi” is thus a lesson in how musicals turn us all into musicians, transposing text and narrative into music itself.

“’On Broadway It Would Cost Three Hundred Thousand”: Musical Theater, Elitism, and Harry Partch’s Water! Water!

        Andrew Granade (University of Missouri-Kansas City)

In the spring of 1961, following the successful production of Revelation in the Courthouse Park, the Illini Student Union of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign approached Harry Partch about writing a show for them.  Each spring, the Union sponsored a student production of a musical, and they wanted the 1962 edition to stand out.

The resulting show, Water! Water!, remains a curio in Partch’s output.  Scholars have overlooked it because of its satirical story and its popular music-inspired score.  However, the show, called “as close as he ever came to writing a Broadway musical,” (290) by Partch’s biographer Bob Gilmore, offers a new understanding of this experimental composer’s aesthetic and his creative process.

Like all of Partch’s theatrical creations, Water! Water! exists in the tension between Partch’s own desire for total control and the necessity of collaboration with others skilled in areas about which Partch knew little.  This tension seems to have been exasperated him as did the jazz-laced musical language he adopted for the show.  By exploring this tension between expectations and final product through interviews with the original actors, archival documents related to the Illinois production, and the full score, this presentation reveals the disdain for musical elitism that runs hidden through most of his oeuvre and the collaborative compromises that ultimately led Partch to suppress the work.


TUESDAY, 21 JUNE

PAPER SESSION 5.  9:15-10:15

The Land of Oz (Diastole)

“Collaboration, Duality and the (Jewish) American Utopia of The Wizard of Oz

Ryan Bunch (Holy Family University and Community College of

Philadelphia)

A reading of the MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, taking into account its largely Jewish authorship, reveals dualities of identity that help to explain the film’s fluid reception and portrayal of an ambiguous American utopia.  In a process of double coding, the movie’s collaborators subtly preserved their identities and values in what appears to be an assimilated American text.  The resulting dualities extend beyond Jewish identity to questions of gender, sexuality, childhood, race, fantasy, reality and national identity. Destabilized binary categories produce a text of remarkable malleability, conducive to multiple readings as both a subversive and mainstream tale. These subverted binarisms also shed light on the common queer and feminist readings of The Wizard of Oz, since both queer collaborators on the film and queer audiences can be understood to engage in a similarly double-coded relationship to the work.

Collaboration and adaptation play key roles in the process. A disjunction between Harold Arlen’s sophisticated music and Yip Harburg’s child-like lyrics in “Over the Rainbow” is heightened by the half-child, half-adult body and voice of Judy Garland. This song is the most conscious expression of the film’s utopian vision, one that begs comparison to Jewish experiences of home and Diaspora. Harburg also wrote key portions of the script, bringing his perspective to bear on what is ultimately an ambiguously located American utopia, one that depends not on the marriage trope for its completion, but the perfection of the individual through external performance.

“Dorothy’s ‘Theatrically Conservative’ Rocket Ship?: Innovating the Movical through Operetta Conventions with the St. Louis MUNY’s Wizard of Oz

        Ron Zank (Lamar University)

When critics identify the first screen-to-stage musical adaptation, they usually point to Hazel Flagg’s appearance on Broadway in 1953.  Yet this privileging of the Great White Way belies the 1942 premiere of The Wizard of Oz at the Municipal Opera of St. Louis (aka “The MUNY.”)  This adaptation by Frank Gabrielson of L. Frank Baum’s novel utilizes much of the score from the 1939 MGM film, thereby marking it as what is often called a “movical.”  While its popularity for production may have been supplanted by a more-faithful-to-film adaptation by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1980s, its significance as the first innovation of the movical form has been largely ignored.  While critic Lehman Engel suggested that when musical adaptations have “really worked, the changes . . . have been significant” (137), I posit that part of the MUNY’s success in creating a movical was utilizing conventions more common to the older form of operetta, including a love ballad, humor and use of the chorus.

PAPER SESSION 6. 10:30-12:00

Spectacle and the Question of Success (Diastole)

“There’s a Place (for us) Where Life Still Has Worth: Miss Saigon and the Legacy of West Side Story

        Laura MacDonald (University of Groningen)

Miss Saigon (1991), arguably the last of the record-breaking megamusicals imported from the UK, and West Side Story (1957), the classic American musical created by some of the form's greatest talents, both drew inspiration from classic texts, Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  With Claude-Michel Schönberg's sung-through score and Leonard Bernstein's vocally demanding melodies, both musicals were also operatic.  Beyond these parallels in source material and form, this paper reads Miss Saigon as the musical's return to the core values in musical theatre-making articulated by West Side Story's creative team.  Featuring star-crossed lovers who stage imaginary weddings, both musicals explore issues of race and the pursuit of the American Dream.  By examining their authors' approaches to writing, composing and staging these dramatic, socially-relevant musicals, I will suggest that rather than departing from American musical theatre traditions, Miss Saigon embraced the standards established by West Side Story to create a stylistically different but equally spectacular and emotionally moving musical theatre experience.  Songs such as “America” and “The American Dream” will be considered as critiques of America as a promised land; Jerome Robbins' choreography and John Napier's set design will be examined for the spectacle they offered, visualising their musicals' innovation.  Their tragic endings subvert musical theatre narrative conventions without diminishing any potential for commercial return.  More than just another megamusical, Miss Saigon illustrates the far-ranging influence and impact of West Side Story's achievements.

“Staying Fresh in the Long Run”

        Michael Ellison (Bowling Green State University)

One aspect of “Innovation and Creative Collaboration” in musicals that is rarely, if ever, discussed is the issue of staying fresh in the long run. With the advent of long running blockbusters such as Cats (18 years) and Phantom (22 years and counting), the matter of freshness has become a central concern. This issue came to the forefront in the fall of 1996, when producer Cameron Mackintosh “fired a big chunk of the ‘Les Miz,’ cast in order to . . . begin its second decade on Broadway in March [1997] refreshed.” (Gerard, Variety, 11/ 4/96, p.4) This unprecedented act in Broadway history officially marked “long-run-itis” as a major concern in commercial theatre. This concern raises unique questions with regard to the performer’s relationship to (and collaboration with) the material and other performers, as well as to/with members of the production team entrusted with the responsibility of “maintaining” the show and certainly the audience.

Utilizing the Les Miserables debacle as a point of departure and drawing from 155 interviews conducted between 1989 and 2010 with musical theatre performers, dance captains, stage managers and associate directors, “Staying Fresh in the Long Run” explores issues unique to the performer in a long run. The multiplicity of viewpoints provides a wide array of ideas, techniques and strategies for maintaining spark and spontaneity over the long haul, bringing to the forefront an issue central to the longevity of the musical theatre performer’s career that has been sorely neglected.

Superman, Dr. Horrible, and the Campy Superhero Musical”

        Donatella Galella (Graduate Center, City University of New York)

Superheroes and musicals are significant parts of American popular culture.  While recent scholarship has treated these genres with thoughtful consideration their intersection in the innovative hybrid form of the superhero musical has generally received skeptical reactions, if any recognition at all. The Charles Stouse-Lee Adams collaboration It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman (1966) the first superhero musical notoriously flopped on Broadway.  Recently Julie Taymor’s Broadway spectacular Spider-Man:  Turn Off the Dark (2010) and Joss Whedon’s internet phenomenon Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008) indicate renewed interest in this genre prompting this investigation into what makes for a successful superhero musical.

Singing superheroes in their ridiculous glory draw attention to their inherent camp, a compelling artistic meeting point that can-and does-allow superheroes and musicals to merge.  Camp scholarship particularly Steve Cohan’s concept of incongruity and Mary Jo Lodge’s study of musicalized television episodes, provides a critical focus to study camp as an artistic strategy.  The creative team behind Superman embraced and rejected camp creating a confused production and confused audience unsure whether to take the Man of Steel seriously.  Meanwhile Whedon aptly used and played with camp throughout to produce a complex entertaining, and sympathetic superhero/villain-Dr. Horrible.  Camp gives the superhero permission to sing and the audience permission to enjoy the show by virtue of its comedic self-consciously ironic nature.  The consistently campy style of Dr. Horrible contributes to its critical and financial success while lack of consistency helps to explain why Superman did not fly.

WEDNESDAY, 22 JUNE

PAPER SESSION 7.  9:15-10:15

Collaborative Voices (Diastole)

 “’A Tiny Flat Near Soho Square’: Rodgers and Hart’s Lido Lady (1926)”

        Dominic Symonds (University of Portsmouth)

The mid-1920s marks a real turning point in the long collaboration between the Columbia University alumni Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Although they had been working together for a number of years, contributing to college shows and jobbing for producer Lew Fields, it was not until the overnight success of ‘Manhattan’ and The Garrick Gaieties that Rodgers committed his career to Broadway. The pair subsequently collaborated on over 25 shows, and it is in their early collaborations—which Gerald Mast refers to as ‘playfully inventive’ shows (165)—that their innovative style was developed and explored. Their prodigious output from the late-1920s—which includes Dearest Enemy, The Girlfriend, Betsy, Peggy-Ann, Present Arms, Lido Lady, Chee-Chee and others—is little known. This paper examines the 1926 show Lido Lady, which opened at the Gaiety Theatre in London’s West End, starring Cicely Courtneidge and Phyllis Dare. Using papers from the Lord Chamberlain’s collection at the British Library and original recordings made in the wake of the show by the original cast, I will attempt to reconstruct the show and consider how it fits into Rodgers and Hart’s wider oeuvre.

“Stephen Schwartz as a Collaborator on a Show's Book”

Paul Laird (University of Kansas)

Schwartz does not seek contractual credit on a plot or book, but he believes that he has much to contribute in figuring out a show’s structure, a trait mentioned by several of his collaborators. This consideration of Schwartz’s participation in preparing books for his shows derives from personal interviews with the composer/lyricist and his collaborators, material from published sources, and unpublished documents concerning the creation of Children of Eden and Wicked.

Most composers and lyricists contribute to a show’s book, but Schwartz’s role in such shows as Godspell, Bernstein’s Mass, The Magic Show, Working, The Baker’s Wife, Rags, Children of Eden, and Wicked has been crucial in terms of plot formation and structure, especially in shows that have required years of rewriting, such as The Baker’s Wife, Rags, and Children of Eden. The presentation concludes with consideration of Schwartz’s authorship of his own libretto for his opera Séance on a Wet Afternoon.

PAPER SESSION 8. 2:30-4:00

A. Dance (Diastole)

“From Ear to Foot: How Do Choreographers Hear Music?”

        Sabine Wilden (University of New Mexico)

What is the relationship between music and dance? Specifically, when choreographers interpret music with movement, what in the music are they responding to?  To answer this question, we asked four choreographers (undergraduate and graduate students at the University of New Mexico) to create and perform a solo dance piece to the second movement of Maurice Ravel's String Quartet in F Major. These performances were videotaped, and each video was rated (following Hodgins [1992]) for rhythmic, dynamic, textural, structural, and articulative qualities. The music was then analyzed along similar dimensions, and the resultant analyses were compared. The results give insight into how choreographers listen to music and how they choose movements in response to musical sound.

“Dance Breaks, Dream Ballets and Other Perils of the Musical: An Examination of Transitional Moments involving Dance in Musicals”

        Mary Jo Lodge (Lafayette College)

The Broadway musical is often roundly critiqued because its characters suddenly begin to sing and/or dance.  These moments of transition - ones which moves from one mode of communication to another (speech to singing, for example, or singing to dancing) are defining ones for musicals and are fraught with challenges for their creators.  In this paper, I specifically examine those transitional moments in representative stage and screen musicals which involve dance – ones in which characters begin dancing and stop singing, typically mid-song (the dance break), or sometimes mid-show (the dream ballet) – in order to illuminate the particular patterns which emerge.  I also explore the ways in which dance is used as a mode of communication in various musicals and the ways in which certain shows navigate both the introduction of dance into a song or show, and the transitions, after a dance ends, back to song or speech.  The shift in communication modes is a perilous path for a musical to navigate; in this paper, I explore those musicals that have been successful in introducing choreographed movement into a show in innovative ways in order to theorize about how other musicals might achieve this.

“Dance, Dance Evolution: Modern and Postmodern Innovation in Contemporary Musical Theatre Dance”

        Judith Sebesta (Lamar University)

Musical theatre choreography is currently under-historicized and under-theorized. One result of this is that there are few examinations of paradigm shifts within the history of musicals that focus primarily on dance. I would argue that a significant shift in musical theatre choreography can be seen today on the musical stage unlike any since George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, and Jerome Robbins first infused On Your Toes, Oklahoma!, and On the Town, respectively, with their distinctive balletic vocabulary. I will demonstrate, through the use of Laban Movement Analysis, video clips, and dance demonstrations, the innovative nature of the choreography in the popular musicals Spring Awakening, Billy Elliot, and American Idiot. For the first, postmodern choreographer Bill T. Jones eschewed narrative and social dance for often abstract choreography layed on top of the performers. For the second, Peter Darling borrowed from the fall and recovery/tension and release of modern dance, combined with ballet, to impart the experiences of class struggles. And most recently, in American Idiot, “non-choreographer” Steve Hoggett employed a postmodern neo-punk aesthetic in collaboration with composer/lyricist rock group Green Day.  Finally, I will demonstrate that all of the shows follow a legacy, perfected by Robbins in West Side Story, of a dance vocabulary of frustration, release of tension, and percussive anger and violence to communicate the experiences of adolescent/young adult characters in musicals.

B. Popular Song and Film Musicals (HSB 5309)

“The Making of a Hit?: The Rise and Fall of Sigmund Romberg’s ‘Omar Khayyam’”

        Jonas Westover (Minneapolis, MN)

While working on The Passing Show of 1914, J.J. Shubert hired the young composer Sigmund Romberg to write his first full-length show.  He was confident that Romberg would be able to produce several interesting songs for the musical, including at least one number that could be sold in great quantities through sheet music.  Romberg worked closely with lyricist Harold Atteridge, and the two of them put together the song “Omar Khayyam.”  It was placed in four different spots in the revue—and therefore heard more than any other song—and it was also performed by two of the musical’s stars, Bernard Granville and Marilyn Miller.  The reviews for the show declared it a hit, and it was.

But why have we never heard of this song?  What happens to a number when something does not work?  This paper explores the development, deployment, and destruction of a musical hit in the making.  Through bad business decisions, the lack of recordings, and legal battles, we can actually see the song through archival documents becoming mired in musical mud, a place where the song remains to this day.  The full orchestral version, the original piano/vocal version, and even the “intermezzo” version will be considered, placing the song within a historical context that demonstrates the joys and pitfalls associated with the attempt to foist a hit song onto audiences of the Broadway stage in the 1910s.

“’No Strings’ or ‘Cheek to Cheek’? The Songs of Top Hat: Their Function and Character”

        William Brooks (York University)

"[Top Hat] was one of the best [pictures] I ever did with Ginger Rogers, and it was the first I ever made with Irving Berlin's music, which helped a lot."  (Fred Astaire, 1948) 

Much has been written about the glories of Top Hat and about Astaire's innovative integration of narrative and character with dance.  Irving Berlin's songs, written in Hollywood especially for the film, are invariably praised, and the connections between his lyrics and the story-line are noted.  But Berlin's contributions extend beyond the literary to the structure and content of the music itself.  The five songs trace a clear line of musical development, with their increasing complexity and subtlety furthering the development of character and plot and enhancing the potential of choreography.

This paper considers the music of the five songs, taken sequentially.  I will show that evolving formal designs and harmonic and melodic details complement the narrative, choreography, and cinematography to create a morphology that is larger than each of its components.  In this sense, despite lacking a continuous score, Top Hat is a worthy precursor of the "integrated" film musicals of the 1940s and 1950s; and Berlin's songs--composed specifically for this context--mark a significant advance in writing for film.

“Mid-Century Hollywood Film Musicals and the Middlebrow Soprano”

        Holley Replogle-Wong (University of California-Berkeley)

In the years following the advent of sound film, Hollywood studios courted and signed young singers to their rosters and created vehicles in hopes of producing a marketable and lucrative star. A series of sopranos built careers that spanned the next several decades: Jeanette MacDonald at MGM and her rival Grace Moore at Columbia, Universal’s teen star Deanna Durbin and MGM’s Kathryn Grayson, Shirley Jones, Jane Powell, and Julie Andrews. Hollywood and the recording industry capitalized on the apparent public demand for a smooth soprano sound, whether with revivals of operetta on film, adaptations of stage musicals, or in the mid-century bachelor’s stereophonic lounge with the sounds of Yma Sumac’s exotica. Where do these preferences originate, and how do they develop?  What kind of vocalism has been praised and commercially successful among middle class audiences? How is a star’s text influenced by their sound, and vice versa? What does a middlebrow soprano sound like? The ideal qualities of middlebrow vocalism enacted by Julie Andrews are also reflected in another important but “ghostly” voice of midcentury film musicals: Marni Nixon. Her light yet confident timbre, placid vibrato, and careful vowel formation imitate the same gentility that Andrews’s voice enacts, and she gave singing voices to some of the most important mid-century female film musical characters: Maria (for Natalie Wood) in West Side Story, Anna (for Deborah Kerr) in The King and I, and Eliza (for Audrey Hepburn) in My Fair Lady. This paper will consider the emergence of a soprano crossover middlebrow vocal style and the parallel resonance with a construction of middlebrow public personae.

THURSDAY, 23 JUNE

PAPER SESSION 9.  9-10:30

Broadway beyond the Stage (Diastole)

“525,600 minutes in the life of RENT”

        Doug Reside (New York Public Library)

On February 4, 1992 Jonathan Larson saved a file that, over the course of four years, would grow to become  he text of the show we know today.   Although Larson saved over the file multiple times between February of 1992 and January of 1996, it is possible to reconstruct at least some of the revisions thanks to Larson’s personal archival practices and a feature embedded in the word processing software he used.  While writing RENT, Larson mostly used Microsoft Word 5.1 which had a feature called “fast save.”  In 1992, when most personal computers ran only about 5% as fast as an iPhone 4, saving an entire file to a floppy disk was a potentially time consuming activity.  The fast save feature sped the process somewhat by replacing the entire file only once every 14 saves or so.  In most cases, it would simply append changes to the end of a file with information about where they belonged in the original document.  When the file was opened in Word 5.1, the software would integrate these changes back into main text; however, by opening this file with a simple text editor (like NotePad), it is possible to see the text of the last full save along with all the emendations made since.  In this paper, I use this feature of Larson’s writing tools to narrate a brief history of a year in the life of RENT.

“Far from the Edge: Pins and Needles in Publication”

Trudi Wright (Metropolitan State College of Denver)

As reported by Michael Denning in his book, The Cultural Front, “many critics and historians have argued that “Sunday in the Park” succeeded because it was an apolitical romantic song.”  Not so. In fact, the only reason this song received air-time at all was because composer Harold Rome convinced NBC radio executives that “Sunday in the Park,” a song from the Broadway revue, Pins and Needles, was apolitical and thus appropriate for the airwaves. Pins and Needles was an innovative musical because its volatile social message, and progressive for the time because of its cast of garment workers.  Its image on radio, record, and in sheet music, however, suggests a less edgy interpretation of the show’s message than the one audiences experienced from their theater seats.  In an effort to find ways for the show’s songs to be heard outside the Broadway arena, the show’s creative team marketed the songs with traditional Broadway melodies and more subtle political messages from Pins and Needles.  In this paper I examine which of the show’s songs were featured on the radio, recorded onto record, and published into sheet music, and what editing decisions were made to domesticate their messages, including the cuts made to “Sunday in Park,” making it socially palatable.     

“’Everything’s Coming Up Kurt’: The Broadway Song on Glee

        Jessica Sternfeld (Chapman University)

In each episode of television’s runaway hit Glee, which follows the trials of a misfit group of high school show choir performers and their teacher, cast members interpolate and reinterpret songs from musicals and pop genres.  Often the songs are presented as they would be in a musical, as non-diegetic presentations of a character’s thoughts or situation.  Hence the show incorporates songs much as a jukebox musical does:  a (sometimes awkward) plot device shoehorns a pre-existing song into the episode, reinventing the song’s meaning and context.  

What does it mean when the character chooses a showtune over a pop song (a fairly rare choice)?  When the songs are from musicals (which are often rendered by show choir diva Rachel or gay countertenor Kurt), knowledge of the song’s original context, performer, or character adds unspoken, often symbolic layers to the recontextualization.  Some reinterpretations are radical, others are nearly verbatim recreations of the original performance; both extremes carry cultural meaning for the informed viewer.  How much of this external meaning do the writers and performers incorporate?  Do viewers receive these layers of meaning?  I will examine several particularly complex examples of Broadway songs reinvented on Glee, including Kurt’s “Rose’s Turn” and Rachel’s duet “I Dreamed a Dream” with her mother (Idina Menzel).  In an effort to uncover the messages Glee sends about Broadway to its vast fan base, I will also survey some of the discussion among “gleeks” to assess how much of a song’s pre-Glee baggage viewers process.