The adaptation of literature to the musical stage: The best of the Golden Age

Bratten, Lee Ann (1997) The adaptation of literature to the musical stage: The best of the Golden Age. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Musicals during the Golden Age of Broadway - the two decades between 1940 and 1960 - diverged from their reputation as spectacularly staged plays interrupted by song, and developed into fluid pieces of art which integrated words, music, and dance into cohesive storytelling entities. This deviation from tradition resulted in a body of work that was of such high quality that it continues in the present day to hold a distinct place in the history of American theatre as being innovative and entertaining. These innovations were most effectively portrayed when they were related to a strong book, as integration could not occur convincingly without a developed storyline. For some time, musical composers, like opera composers, had looked to other sources for inspiration. Whether it be from books, plays, short stories, or myths, adaptations were the norm of the theatre. But what challenges did composers face when adapting from a piece of literature? Was it necessary for the audience to be familiar with or at least aware of the literary source, or should the show stand on its own merit? Examined here are the adaptation into musicals of plays - specifically Green Grow the Lilacs into Oklahoma! and Pygmalion into My Fair Lady - and short stories - particularly "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" into Guys and Dolls and Tales of the South Pacific into South Pacific. Addressed are the problems encountered by the composers/librettists during the adaptation process, specifically in choosing what elements of the source to emphasise or eliminate, and thus the general sweetening that occurred. Also discussed are the deepening of dramatic situations through music/song/dance and how this affected characterisation. Finally, the continued influence of these musicals on later generations of musical theatre composers is examined with passing comparisons given to contemporary examples.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Music history, Theater history
Date of Award: 1997
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1997-72528
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2019 11:06
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2019 11:06
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/72528

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