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Broadway Musical

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Broadway, the cult street of New York, where numerous theaters and music halls are concentrated, always captivated the imagination of both actors and spectators. Broadway musicals have become a real brand, Hollywood stars now and then participate in the local productions, and theater lovers greedily read of new performances in the newspapers reviews. The theater of Broadway made its own long way to become the main iconic symbol of Big Apples cultural life it is today. Despite numerous world tragedies, wars, and stock market crashes, New Yorks Broadway plays have always enjoyed a phenomenal success.

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Literally, Broadway means Wide Street. In the New York reality, it is rather long: 25 Broadway kilometers stretch across Manhattan, the Bronx, and even further north to small towns up to the capital of New York, the city of Albany. But the most important thing is the so-called theater street. In the intersection of Broadway with 42nd Street there is Times Square and where the most famous Broadway stages locate. Today, in this quarter there are about 40 large playhouses, which are the basis of American theater culture. Because of that fact, the name of the street has eventually become a common name and a synonym for acting art in the US. In general, the theaters started to appear in New York since 1750 (Hughes). Still, fast development of the Broadway began after the construction of subway station at the 42 Street in 1904.

The musical took shape as a separate genre only in the 20's of the twentieth century, evolving from opera and operetta thanks to the New York Broadway. Since the theaters did not have permanent corps there, the tenants had to constantly invent something to interest the viewer and not to fail a performance. The result of these searches was a musical a dynamic performance, where singing was not just an insertion, which could often interrupt the plot (as in an opera or operetta), but part of the story. In addition, such performances were initially comedies and talked about young, attractive and daring heroes - exactly what was needed after the First World War, which influenced the moods of people extremely negatively.


At the end of the 19th century the musical comedy developed simultaneously in England and America. Interestingly enough, George Edwards staged musical performances of British composers Sidney Jones, Ivan Karill and Lionel Moncton in the USA. In 1897, Americans finally found the answer to London, and Gustav Kerker's "Beauty of New York" with Eden May starred the London scene. Since then it has become a custom that both countries put musical comedies first at home, and then went with them to each other to visit; this tradition continues to this day. Therefore, the development of the theater in London and New York shaped its further evolution by creating a sort of competition.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, European productions reigned on the world musical stage. In 1907, all the musicals in London and New York eclipsed the "Merry Widow" of Ferenc L?gard. A little later appeared the "Chocolate Soldier" by Oscar Strauss, and staged on the play by Bernard Shaw "Arms and Man" (the first case of using the classical literary plot in the musical); interestingly, the war dictated the choice of topics at that time. It is impossible to predict the fate of the musical and who would have ruled it to this day, were it not for the First World War. European countries were not interested, to put it mildly, in the theater, and Broadway immediately took this advantage. Attention to the world of show business focused on the American musical.


Since 1929 it was the hard time of Great Depression both for America and Europe. The Great Depression was a result of the events of the US Stock Market Crash of 1929: the collapse in share prices, which began on "Black Thursday" on October 24, 1929. Although it had rather harsh influences on states economy, the Broadway Theater managed to survive and sell tickets to the shows.

Shortly, musicals captured attention of everyone; the whole period from the 30's to the 50's was received the name of the "golden age of the musical. But before that period of time, the booming mute cinematography gradually led the mass audience out of the commercial drama theater. In the 1920s, only the music and entertainment theater continued to be popular throughout the country: it offered the audience a sound, color and show, which the cinema could not then give. The 20s years were the heyday of Broadway show business, a time when the music and entertainment scene produced regularly at least fifty premiers per season. The original American musicals often remained hidden rework of successful in the most recent past productions. Therefore, despite of the early cinema trend and its popularity, that made it a great social event, Broadway Theater managed to survive because of its musicals.

Broadway has set the tone in the world of musicals for many years. Rudolf Friml ("Rosemary", 1924), Oscar Hammerstein ("Floating Theater", 1927) and George Gershwin ("I Sing about you", 1931, - the first musical, which won the Pulitzer Prize, folk opera "Porgy and Bess", 1935) were the most notable composers in the world of musicals in the twenties and thirties (Hughes). By 1937, the theatrical musical began to surrender, yielding to a formidable rival cinematography. The development of sound cinema immediately led to the desire to hear music and songs from the screen, and the genre of sound cinema quickly became a new national trend, slightly lowering the demand for theatrical plays.

Nevertheless, the musical survived on the stage. In 1943 the famous "Oklahoma!" by the most prominent authors of Broadway during that period, Rogers and Hammerstein, appeared, subsequently directed with a stunning success. "Oklahoma!" set the tone for a new round of musical development (Nichols). Broadway became interested in serious topics; finally, music and the plot found a single drama and began to exist inside the performance as a whole; a serious choreography appeared on the musical scene. Evidently, this was necessary to compete with cinematography successfully. In addition, "Oklahoma!" was the first musical made of historical material. In summary, there were only musical comedies before but "Oklahoma!" became the first musical as such (Nichols).


In the following years, Broadway produced popular musicals almost every year. The West End surrendered the position: almost all the musicals staged in London were aliens from across the ocean. "The Threepenny Opera" by Berthold Brecht, written in the twenties, enjoyed a tremendous success. In 1951 Rogers and Hammerstein presented "The King and I" with Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner in the lead roles and (Timeline: Golden Age). Nonetheless, not all of their shows were successful: creating Allegro, which appeared on the scene in 1947, Rogers and Hammerstein outsmarted themselves, leading to plays failure (Holden). Correcting their mistakes, they produced a successful musical South Pacific in 1949, which received high critical perception; they literally considered it as not an assembeled show, but a thoroughly composed musical drama (Atkinson) based on James Micheners novel with soldier stories (Calta). Evidently, the decision to create such a play emerged as the influence of the World War II.

Then, the top musical of the fifties was "My Fair Lady" by Frederick Lowe one of the greatest musicals of all times, written on the famous "Pygmalion" by Bernard Shaw in 1956 (Timeline: Golden Age). It allowed actors with minimal singing skills such as Lauren Bacall to become prominent stars (Maslon). In addition, the 50s signified the flowering of the work of the great American composer Leonard Bernstein. It is worth mentioning such his works as "Wonderful Town" (1953) and "West Side Story" (1957), left in the history of the musical arrangements forever (Timeline: Golden Age). While such theater plays in the USA were thriving, Europe slowly began to recover after World War II. European culture was reviving, and the West End declared its value again. But the former success came to it only in 1960 with "Oliver!" by Lionel Barthes - the musical adaptation of yet another classic plot, "Oliver Twist" by Dickens. Therefore, the Second World War also had a significant influence on the development of the theater in the world, leaving Broadway without any competitors.

Nonetheless, the lack of new talents in America had already influenced the stage development. After Hammerstein's death in 1960, there was no one to follow their steps and vision, and Broadway fell silent (Timeline: Changing Times). Nevertheless, in the sixties, Broadway gave the world several unforgettable musicals. For instance, Steins "Funny girl" in 1964 made Barbra Streisand a star. In 1969, she played a major role in the screen version of the wonderful Broadway musical "Hello, Dolly!" by Herman. The musical "Cabaret" in 1966 by composer John Kander was the artistic masterpiece of the decade, magnificently resurrecting the atmosphere of Hitlers Nazism in Berlin in the thirties (Timeline: Changing Times). "Cabaret" was the directorial debut of Harold Prince, today the most famous director of theatrical musicals. The production was subsequently attended by the famous choreographer and director Bob Voss. Significantly, the topics raised by musical during the second half of 20th century always reflected controversial, revolutionary, and nostalgic issues of an evolving American culture (Maslon).

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In conclusion, the New Yorks theatrical scene managed to remain thriving even despite the harshest situations such as wars and economic breakdowns. Observing the Broadway musicals, it is clear that each of them and the industry in general somehow depended on the national trends and events that took part at that time. To sum up, Broadway Theater is one of the main attractions of New York. The shows performed Broadway are usually part of the "mass culture" - among the productions one can find comedies, detectives, and dramas. Classical works mostly fall on Broadway in the form of, perhaps, the most popular genre here the musical.

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