Mel Brooks once said: “The Broadway musical distinguishes us from every other country in the world.” This course sets out to discover a theatrical history that supports Brooks’ claim. Beginning with the European roots of the musical theatre in our new nation, we will look at what some suspect George Washington saw on a musical stage. After exploring foreign influences such as the Black Crook and the British Blondes, we will discover the evolving American character in a musical theatre setting. This character will be the African American satirized in the now-condemnable minstrel show and the European migration captured in the works of Harrigan and Hart. But shaking free of foreign influences came slowly. European-born immigrant composers working in New York dominated the early 20th century with the operetta, giving way to the fluffy romantic musicals of Jerome Kern. Then in 1923 came the blockbuster that awakened the American musical to its unique potential, accompanied or followed by a decade of Gershwin, Porter, Rodgers and Hart and moving us to the ground-breaking show of 1943. Guess what that show was or ZOOM into this course to find out. Using photos, soundtracks, videos, and theatrical anecdotes, this course strives to bring alive the early essence of the American musical theatre.
Dr. Wendy Rouder earned a BA in theatre from Skidmore, an MA from Queens College of the CUNY and a PhD from the University of Illinois. After graduating from Skidmore, Dr. Rouder worked in summer stock and off-Broadway before realizing that the chance of earning a living in the theater was akin to winning the lottery. With her doctorate in hand, she taught theater and directed plays, both musicals and dramas, at Keuka College, the State University of New York and San Jose State.
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