The American musical is an unapologetically popular art form, but many of the works that come from this tradition have had major impact on the broader history of theatre and film – and on our larger popular culture. In this course we will focus on both music and texts to explore ways in which the musical builds on existing theatrical traditions, as well as alters and reshapes them. From dramatic works like SHOW BOAT and PORGY AND BESS that addressed issues of race and class, to the Depression-era wish fulfillment of TOP HAT and THE WIZARD OF OZ; from the bitingly topical music and lyrics of Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter and Duncan Sheik to the sentimental optimism of Rodgers and Hammerstein – musical and their creators have, quite literally, set a tone for America. . Class discussions will be illustrated with film and recorded examples.