American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle

American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle

American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle

American Musical Theatre: A Chronicle

Synopsis

Gerald Bordman's American Musical Theatre has become a landmark book since its publication in 1978. It chronicles American musicals, show by show and season by season, and offers a running commentary and assessment as well as providing the basic facts about each production. This updated edition includes the new shows that have opened on Broadway since the original publication. Also included are over a hundred musicals that were turn-of-the-century, cheap-priced touring shows which never played Broadway, but were the training ground for many theatre greats.

Excerpt

By the beginning of the 1866-67 season the Civil War had been over and Reconstruction under way for almost a year and a half. Prosperity prevailed, but harmony and integrity were in short supply. This war-engendered prosperity buoyed the American theatre to no small extent and helped produce what George Odell in his Annals of the New York Stage labeled A Season of Sensations. Given conditions in our native theatre at the time, no one complained if most of the sensations had something of a foreign flavor. A few--such as the American debut of the celebrated Italian actress Ristori--attested simply to the dollar's growing power to import leading talents. Other events betrayed their foreign influences less blatantly. The season's dramatic success was Joseph Jefferson in Rip Van Winkle, Washington Irving's tale which had been dramatized many times before. Jefferson, then still a rising figure on the comic stage, had himself played in several versions. This latest one--one that gave him a vehicle for the remainder of his life and became one of the best-loved stage pieces in American history--was prepared for the actor by Dion Boucicault. Although Boucicault had just spent several profitable years in the United States and with time would return to end his days here, the author was Irish born and London trained. He and Jefferson presented their new version in London for a season before bringing it to New York.

The few sensations that seemed to have no foreign connection were disasters--namely, the fiery destruction of the Winter Garden and of the New Bowery theatres. These were the fourth and fifth auditoriums to burn in Manhattan since the end of the war. It was the holocaust at the Academy of Music the previous spring that gave rise to the greatest sensation of all and to what is generally looked on as the birth of the American Musical Theatre: The Black Crook (9-12-66, Niblo's). In a way, this sensation, like Jefferson Rip Van Winkle and Ristori's debut, had a foreign tinge. Legend says two impresarios, Henry C. Jarrett and Harry Palmer, had imported a French ballet troupe to perform La Biche au Bois and had booked the Academy to display its art. Suddenly without a stage, in desperation they approached William Wheatley, the manager of Niblo's Garden, hoping to obtain his house. They discovered Wheatley had committed himself to a second-rate melodramatist, Charles M. Barras, and was preparing to mount the author's piece of ersatz German romanticism. Luck-

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