Wicked, Spring Awakening, Dear Evan Hansen, Hadestown. And of course, Hamilton. By any standard, Broadway musicals post-2000 have seen an extraordinary expansion of artistic expression—and, correspondingly, have built enthusiastic audiences across younger generations.
The innovations we see in works of the last quarter century are particularly fascinating in that they, so to speak, boldly go where no musicals have gone before—while at the same time honoring and building on the long-standing traditions of this beloved form. Hamilton, an epochal success, is also a show that works in both traditional and ground-breaking ways. But year by year, Broadway has seen some of its strongest musical theater yet, with works that incorporate a huge range of musical and theatrical styles, from the powerfully romantic Light in the Piazza, which nods to roots in European operetta, to the boundary-defying Black queerness of A Strange Loop... and everything in between.
As art forms go, the Broadway musical is young—the very notion of “Broadway” as a venue and generator for theater begins in the early 20th Century. But within a short time, musicals became a dominant part of American culture. 100 years later, shows like Oklahoma!, West Side Story, Hair and others have become iconic representations of our identity and beliefs.
The musicals we’ll look at here examine what is happens next… and continues to happen in this most innovative areas of American art. In addition to the works already mentioned, we’ll look at Caroline or Change, The Color Purple, In the Heights, Fun Home, and more. This course will also consider some recent “revisals,” like director Daniel Fish’s Oklahoma!, and Marianne Elliott’s gender-reassigned Company: reinterpretations of classic American musicals that imagine them in more contemporary light.
Note: the course is designed as follow-up to American Musical Theatre (THAR 0271/ENGL 0381/CIMS 0271) and Musical Theatre of Stephen Sondheim (THAR 1274/ENGL 2874/CIMS 1274), but it can be taken on its own. There is no prerequisite.