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History of Musical Theatre

  • 500

    500 BC Ancient Greek Theatre

    500 BC Ancient Greek Theatre
    Choral Ode from Trojan Women (Chorus Example) The ancient Greeks included music and dance in their stage comedies and tragedies.
     All ancient Greek Drama included a “chorus”. The Greek Chorus consisted of a group of 12-50 actors that would perform collectively or in unison using singing, dancing, narrating and acting.
     The songs were often a means for the chorus to provide background information, comment on the plot, and help the audience follow the action.

     Musical solos were also used.

     Greek Plays:
    o Agamemnon, by Aeschylus
  • Dafne (The First Opera)

    1597 AD: Dafne by Italian Jacopo Peri was the earliest “opera”. It was written around 1597. Dafne was an attempt to revive the classical Greek drama, claiming that the Greek Chorus members would not chant, but sing their parts. They also believed that the entire Greek Drama’s might have been sung. This was their attempt to restore that idea.
  • Eurdice, Opera

    1600 AD : Jacopo Peri's opera, Euridice , the earliest opera to survive. It was performed at the Pitti Palace in Florence on the occasion of the wedding of Maria de’ Medici and Henri IV of France.
  • The Barber of Seville

    The Barber of Seville
    Barber of Seville ClipThe Barber of Seville is an opera buffa, or comic opera, in two acts by Gioachino Rossini with a libretto by Cesare Sterbini. It premiered in 1816, at the Teatro Argentina, Rome. Plot: The plot involves a Spanish count who has fallen in love at first sight with a girl called Rosine. To ensure that she really loves him and not just his money, the Count disguises himself as a poor college student named Lindor, and attempts to woo her.
  • Period: to

    Operette & Operetta

    Opérette & Operetta: In the 1850, the French (with the Germans, English and Americans not far behind) found a need for a new form of opera that was shorter and less serious than the opera. The Operette (French version) and soon after Operettas are considered the start of the Musical Theatre Movement.
  • The Black Crook

    The Black Crook
     The Black Crook (1866), by Charles M. Barras, an American playwright is considered by some historians to be the first musical. The musical is set in 1600 in the Harz Mountains of Germany. It incorporates elements from Goethe's Faust, Weber's Der Freischütz, and other well-known works.
  • Period: to

    Naturalism (Theatre and Literature)

     The late 1800’s saw the birth of Naturalism in Literature & in Theatre. “Naturalism” attempted to ‘show life as it was’ both in writing & on stage – there was little room for song or dance.
     Many believe Naturalism influenced the musical, because not all audiences wanted to see drama and life. The majority still went to the theatre to be entertained. Thus, musicals became VERY popular.
  • Show Boat

    Show Boat
    Ole Man River, Show Boat Show Boat is a 1927 musical in two acts, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Based on Edna Ferber's bestselling novel of the same name, the musical follows the lives of the performers, stagehands, and dock workers on the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River show boat, over forty years, from 1887 to 1927. Its themes include racial prejudice and tragic, enduring love. The musical contributed such classic songs as "Ol' Man River", "Make Believe", and "Can't Help
  • Anything Goes

    Anything Goes
    Cole Porter’s Anything Goes (1934) confirmed Ethel Merman’s position as the First Lady of Musical Theatre. The story concerns silly pranks aboard an ocean liner bound from New York to London. Billy Crocker is a stowaway in love with heiress Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. The musical introduced popular musical numbers such as: "Anything Goes", "You're the Top", and "I Get a Kick Out of You."
  • Political Satires

    Political Satires
    With the Great Depression at hand, many artists began to mix politics and art. Of Thee I Sing (1931), a political satire with music by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin and Morrie Ryskind, was the first musical to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Porgy and Bess (1935), also by the Gershwin brothers and DuBose Heyward, featured an all African-American cast and blended operatic, folk, and jazz idioms. The Cradle Will Rock (1937), with a book and score by Marc Blitzstein and direction by
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

    Walt Disney started creating animated short films in the early 1930’s, but industry experts scoffed at his plans for a full-length animated musical. Many believed there was little of any audience for such a project. Thanks to Disney's insistence on quality, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was as expensive to produce as most live-action films. However, Snow White's visual beauty and genuine sense of wonder made it a sensation with all age groups.
  • Period: to

    Musicals: The Golden Age

    Musicals take off and become widely successful in America.
  • Oklahoma! & Rodgers and Hammerstein

    Oklahoma! & Rodgers and Hammerstein
    Hugh Jackman, What a Beautiful Morning Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! completed the revolution begun by Show Boat, by tightly integrating all the aspects of musical theatre, with a cohesive plot, songs that furthered the action of the story, and featured dance numbers that advanced the plot and developed the characters. Famous songs from Oklahoma! Include: Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin' and Oklahoma. It drew rave reviews and received a Pulitzer Prize. It was the first "blockbuster" Broadway show, running a total of 2,212 perform
  • West Side Story

    West Side Story (1957), which transported Romeo and Juliet to modern day New York City and converted the feuding Montague and Capulet families into opposing ethnic gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. Laurents and Sondheim teamed up again for Gypsy (1959, 702 performances.)
  • Sound of Music

    Sound of Music
    The Sound of Music (1959) is a musical with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. It is based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. Many songs from the musical have become standards, such as "Edelweiss", "My Favorite Things", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain", "Do-Re-Mi", and the title song "The Sound of Music".
  • Mary Poppins

    Mary Poppins
    Mary Poppins, Spoonful of SugarMary Poppins
    Disney Film
    Julie Andrews (Sound of Music, Princess Diaries)
  • Period: to

    TV & Film Musicals

    HairsprayFilm and TV musicals also started to make an appearance again, starting with Moulin Rouge! (2001), Academy Award winning Chicago (2002), Phantom of the Opera (2004), Sweeney Todd (2007), and most currently Les Miserables (2012). Made for TV musicals also enjoyed success, including the hit show Glee and the High School Musical series.