History of Musical theater

  • 401 BCE

    Ancient Greece

    The antecedents of musical theatre in Europe can be traced back to the theatre of ancient Greece, where music and dance were included in stage comedies and tragedies during the 5th century BCE.
  • Musical Theater in the 1700s

    Although there were many musical stage entertainments in the 1700s, none of them were called "musicals." The first lasting English-language work of this period was John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1728), a ballad opera that reset popular tunes of the day to lyrics that fit a satirical spoof of respectable citizens who are no better than common thieves. other British ballad operas, burlettas and pantomimes, formed the majority of musicals offered on American stages right into the early 1800s.
  • French and Viennese Operettas of the 1800s

    The musical as we know it has some of its roots in the French and Viennese Operettas of the 1800s. The satiric works of Jacques Offenbach (Paris) and the romantic comedies of Johann Strauss II (Vienna) were the first musicals to achieve international popularity. Continental operettas were well received in England, but audiences there preferred the looser variety format of the Music Hall.
  • The Black Crook

    The success of The Black Crook (1860) opened the way for the development of American musicals in the 1860s, including extravaganzas, pantomimes, and the musical farces of Harrigan & Hart. The comic operettas of Gilbert & Sullivan (1871-1896) were witty, tuneful and exquisitely produced – leading to new standards of theatrical production. After Gilbert and Sullivan, the theatre in Britain and the United States was re-defined – first by imitation, then by innovation.
  • Early 1900s

    During the early 1900s, imports like Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow (1907) had enormous influence on the Broadway musical, but American composers George M. Cohan and Victor Herbert gave the American musical comedy a distinctive sound and style. Then (1910s) Jerome Kern, Guy Boulton and P.G. Wodehouse took this a step further with the Princess Theatre shows, putting believable people and situations on the musical stage.
  • Worldwide influence

    In the 1920s, the American musical comedy gained worldwide influence. Broadway saw the composing debuts of Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, the Gershwins and many others. The British contributed several intimate reviews and introduced the multi-talented Noel Coward. Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote the innovative Showboat (1927) the most lasting hit of the 1920s.