Named for a specific road but enjoying a global impact, the Broadway musical has intersected with multiple styles and societal concerns over the past century. In this course, we explore the American musical theater’s roots and relationship to opera, operetta, vaudeville, minstrelsy, and Tin Pan Alley. Traveling through the genre’s history, we will encounter a wide range of musical styles, including ragtime, jazz, rock, and hip hop, and will explore several genre transformations, such as movies made into musicals and musicals into movies. We will develop a range of analytical skills as we investigate connections between choreography, lyrics, music, staging, and production. Throughout the semester, we will consider the genre’s representations and reflections of ethnicity, race, sexuality, and class. The syllabus includes representative works by Gilbert and Sullivan, Cohan, Gershwin, Kern, Weill, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Bernstein, Sondheim, Lloyd Webber, and Miranda, with particular focus on such works as Showboat, Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Hair, Rent, and Hamilton.
Format: lecture; discussion
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
a midterm, a brief paper, an 8-page paper, and a final exam
Difference, Power, and Equity
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
We will develop skills aimed at analyzing and interpreting how perceptions of race, gender, and class shaped, and were shaped by, Broadway. We will consider the extent to which, for example, blackface minstrelsy and ethnic-based humor persisted and how specific musicals aimed to engage with critical social and political issues throughout the genre's history. Musicals have played a major role in the contested and ongoing endeavor to define "America."