Broadway Musical Theater The role of music has become increasingly important in Broadway theater.From the early days of theater in America, which quickly established itself in New York City, music has helped to create many successful Broadway productions.Vaudeville music, which was music hall variety entertainment, took root in the late1800s.
It then turned into their theatrical revues, stage spectaculars consisting of sketches, dance, and songs with parody and satire in the early 1900s. In the 1900s, talented composers could gain popularity for their theatrical music in a very short period of time.
A few such prominent songwriters are Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Due to catchy show tunes and optimum locations in New York City, Broadway musicals are more successful then ever before, and they show no sign of slowing down. Colonial America did not have a significant theater presence until 1752 when London entrepreneur, William Hallam, sent a company of twelve actors to the colonies with his brother, Lewis, as their manager. They established a theater in Williamsburg, Virginia and opened with The Merchant of Venice and The Anatomist.
The company moved to New York in the summer of 1753 and performed ballad-operas such as The Beggar’s Opera and ballad-farces like Damon and Phillida. By the 1840s, P. T. Barnum was operating an entertainment complex in lower Manhattan (Musical theatre). After the Civil War, theater in New York moved from Downtown to Midtown Manhattan where real estate was less expensive. Broadway theater did not arrive in Times Square until the 1920s and 1930s. New York City’s first “long-run” musical was a 50 performance hit called The Elves in 1857.
New York runs continued to lag far behind those in London, but Laura Keene’s “musical burletta” Seven Sisters in 1860 shattered previous New York records with a run of 253 performances (Musical theatre). The length of runs in the theater changed rapidly around the same time that the modern musical emerged. As transportation improved, poverty in London and New York diminished. In addition, because street lighting made for safer travel at night, the number of potential patrons for the growing number of theaters increased enormously.
Plays could run longer and still draw in the audiences, leading to better profits and improved production values (Musical Theater). Vaudeville entertainment took America by storm in the late 1800s. These variety shows had musical, comic, dramatic, aerobatic, and juggling acts. Although Vaudeville’s popularity declined by the 1930’s, it gave a distinctive flavor to Broadway shows. Revues, which had their roots in 19th century American popular entertainment, grew into a substantial cultural presence during the years 1916 to 1932 (Revue).
These musical variety shows consisted of skits, dance routines, and songs that often satirized current events and personalities. During hectic times, both of these forms of entertainment became the way to “get away from it all” for a few hours and forget about ones troubles (Revue). By the early 1900s, Broadway musicals were in full swing. The great songs from these musicals involved almost all of the top composers of the day (History of). In many cases, after the composed songs were well established, a particular song was selected as the theme song for that Broadway musical. Unknown composers had the chance to become famous overnight.
Often songs “caught fire” and they were in ranks with the most successful composers of the day. One of these great composers was Irving Berlin. Born in Russia, Irving Berlin was a composer and lyricist, widely considered to be one of the greatest American songwriters in history. In 1907 he published his first song, Marie From Sunny Italy, and by 1911 he had his first major international hit, Alexander’s Ragtime Band (Irving). Over the next five decades, Irving Berlin produced an outpouring of ballads, dance numbers, novelty tunes and love songs that defined American popular songs for much of the century.
A sampling of some of the Irving Berlin’s songs are: How Deep Is the Ocean? , Blue Skies, White Christmas, Always, Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better, There’s No Business Like Show Business, Cheek To Cheek, Puttin’ On The Ritz, A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody, Heatwave, Easter Parade, and Lets Face The Music and Dance. In a class by itself, he wrote for his beloved country, God Bless America (Irving). Throughout his sixty-year career, he composed approximately 1,500 songs. Some other famous composers were Richard Rodgers are Oscar Hammerstein who collaborated on several Broadway musicals such as Oklahoma! n 1943, South Pacific in 1949, The King and I in 1951, and The Sound of Music n 1959 (Amer Spec Encly pp 472, 930). Andrew Lloyd Webber, a British composer, has seen many of his plays appear on Broadway. Some of his best known shows are: Eita, Cats, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and The Phantom of the Opera which is the longest running show to date (celebrating its 10,000th performance on Broadway on February 11. 2012), the Phantom of the Opera opened in the West End in 1986, and on Broadway in 1988. It won a total of seven Tony Awards including Best Musical.
Phantom is the highest-grossing entertainment event of all time and the most financially successful theatrical show in history (The Phantom). In an era of stunning 3-D movies and impressive IMAX films, Broadway musical theater remains one of the most popular attractions in New York City. Few attractions match the excitement and spectacle of a Broadway musical. Featuring forty Broadway theaters, high-profile stage actors, and world-class sets and costumes, New York Broadway shows are must-see entertainment for travelers. Broadway theater is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theater in the English-speaking world.
According to The Broadway League, Broadway shows sold approximately $1. 081 billion dollars worth of tickets in the calendar year 2011. Attendance in 2011 was 12. 13 million people (HISTORY OF). Because music plays such an important role in Broadway theater, Broadway musicals are more successful than ever before. Works Cited “HISTORY OF BROADWAY IN NEW YORK CITY, BROADWAY THEATER, MUSICALS AND SHOW HISTORY. ” nyctourist. com. N. p. , 29 May 2012. Web. 3 June 2012. . “History of Broadway Musicals: More Than A Century of Musical Classics. ” americana-music-and-memories. om. N. p. , n. d. Web. 3 June 2012. . “Irving Berlin. ” wikipedia. org. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. , 28 May 2012. Web. 3 June 2012. . “List of the longest-running Broadway shows . ” wikipedia. org. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. , 26 May 2012. Web. 3 June 2012. . “Musical theatre. ” Wikipedia. org. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. , 31 May 2012. Web. 3 June 2012. . “The Phantom of the Opera (1986 musical). ” wikipedia. org. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. , 27 May 2012. Web. 3 June 2012. . “Revue. ” wikipedia. org. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 18 May 2012. Web. 3 June 2012. .