Further information on Spring 2019 courses


Gary Gisselman: The American Musical Theatre


Expanded description

The class will be lecture and discussion, using articles and some reference to three books: Finishing the Hat and Look I made a Hat by Sondheim and Anything Goes: A history of the American Musical Theatre by Ethan Morden. The latter is in paperback and available used, and the Sondheim books can definitely be found used and inexpensive on Amazon and other sites. The books are not required.


Schedule of classes (subject to modification)

Week One: What is the American Musical Theatre today and how did it get there? An immigrant form? An accidental form? (The Black Crook)’ Greeks, to Operetta to Princess Theatre, Romberg to Kern, Vaudeville to revue to Minstrelsy to Show Boat. Why Rodgers & Hammerstein and Sondheim?

Week Two: Elements of the musical. “Hey, that reminds me of a song,” to the “Integrated Musical,” to the “Concept Musical,” to the “Jukebox Musical”, Pal Joey, Oklahoma! And Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Week Three: R&H. Carousel, King and I, Sound of Music. The R&H template. Aristotle. Company.

Week Four: Fiddler on the Roof. Popular song: Cole Porter, Noel Coward, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, George Gershwin. Porgy and Bess. Opera.

Week Five: Words and Music. Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story; Leonard Bernstein; Gypsy; Julie Styne and Arthur Laurents; Funny Thing; Night Music, Pacific Overtures; Hal Prince; Sweeney Todd; Merrily We Roll along; James Lapine; Into the Woods; Sunday in the Park. Passion; Assassins.

Week Six: Sondheim continued: Follies; Six by Sondheim – a documentary.

Week Seven: Sondheim’s influence and R&H’s influence. Are Musicals “Art”? Diversions: Jerry Herman, Frank Loesser, Lerner and Lowe, Book of Mormon, regional theatre, Fun Home, Dear Evan Hanson.

Week Eight: Hamilton and the present and future of the American Musical Theatre. How it has reflected and will probably continue to reflect our country’s history.