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Musical theater is a type of theatrical act and performance which brings together songs, dance, dialogues, and acting presenting it to a group of a different set of audience depending on their interests. The inbuilt story of a musical together with the emotional content in it are communicated through humor, pathos, love, and anger which are shown in words, movements, and music making the whole entertainment context of musical complete. The musical theater stage works have always been referred to as simply musicals since the early 20th century regardless of all other compositions and characteristics shared to other theaters. Since music is an evolving industry with time movement, there has been a lot of changes and revolution in the musical shows in the past. This paper aims to explain some of the differences involved, specifically comparing the musical shows from the 20s/30s, with the Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lerner & Loewe musical.
Different Aspects of the 20s/30s and the Musical R&H, L&L Shows
The decade 1920/1930 marked a great advancement in musical shows and performance most of it comprising of musical comedy. The music industry in this period was always keen in attempts to discover any new ways they could use to benefit from the music production thereby incorporating comedy in it. By the end of 1930, the music industry was fully grown over all genres in existence (Hitchcock & Gann, 2000). The musical performance in this century was mainly based on comedy aimed at entertaining the listeners while, at the same time, having them watch the actions.
The R&H and L&L musical shows, on the other hand, were a combination of lyricist and librettist artists who focused more on redefining the music industry to make it modern. It involved re-cultivating music industry from its comedy perspective to a maturity level where the listeners could be introduced to the different perspective of the music they were used to. In the 1920/1930s, the musical was well established in dances and moves which distinguished this genre from other musical shows like the R&H or L&L (Hitchcock & Gann, 2000). One of the reasons why this period was commonly referred to as the “dance age” was that the country went crazy with dances such as the black bottom and the Charleston.
The Importance of Musical Plays Integrating Songs into the Plot
The integrating of songs into the plot makes a huge effect of the musical play because it enhances the understanding by the listeners and at long run makes the whole scheme feel live and enjoyable. The songs involve the expression and intense enhancement of emotions and feelings to capture the audience. To make these effective, the stories which contain strong feelings, emotions of seriousness or humor are more integrated into the plays to enhance the music (Hitchcock & Gann, 2000). The emotions are required to be strong and effective enough to make the characters sing and express the sensations fully.
A good plot will necessarily feel almost incomplete if songs are not integrated into. The plot needs songs for the whole dramatic nature of the plan to be brought out. It must contain all the features and characteristics that make a good presentation, but for it to work as part of musical, the whole plot must not work on its own.
Types of Songs Used in Each Musical
The 20s and the 30s marked the beginning of independent companies recording musicals which other small companies at that time did not practice. They included the early jazz and blues performed by various artists in shows and plays in front of audiences in different occasions. There were different sectors touched with musical from this period, some of them being the political expression like the musical play “Of Thee I Sing” by George S. Kaufman (Gann, 2005). Gennett Records is among one of these companies which started by recording the New Orleans Rhythm Kings followed by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz band in 1923. These recordings were enhanced with more artists being signed in all performing Jazz, making it the most common and preferred at that time.
After a period, the jazz industry was replaced by blues recording and performing artists. The blues became popular due to the performers such as Ma Rainey and Mamie Smith leading to an influence of other creative artists in the same field afterwards. The first singers made hits within this period, and the country was increasingly adjusting to the songs which were now the occupants of the industry.
The Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lerner & Loewe existed after the 20s and 30s; this is the period of the years 1945 and above up to the late 1960s. The musical by these characters were based on simplicity more from the mind and less from the heart. Their music was mostly orchestral and not jazzy. Though the artists differ from various aspects, their music had a lot in common as they were fully based on characters and were always melodious (Gann, 2005). Lerner’s and Loewe's songs were much of lyrical and ironic character while Hammerstein’s songs were mainly based on romance and not artifice.
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The Structure of the 20s/30s Shows in Comparison with the Musical Plays
The 1920s/1930s shows in America were structured upon jazz music with the comedy perspective in it. The shows incorporated comedy in the plots and stories to make them more understandable and interesting to the audience. In cases of the numbers in production, there was an introduction of humorous skits and choruses which concentrated the music on sophistication (Rockwell, 1997). The amusements and the funny context of the music in performance rose naturally from the personalities of the characters in the plot, having a linear movement starting from the beginning of the show and continuing all the way up to the end.
The musical plays, on the other hand, were structured in a way that depended on the type of the songs in the play. Due to the difference in the types of expressions and imaginative musical performance, the plays had a mixed structured gathering of songs around a particular show. This technique was used mainly since each expression had its purpose to either express a sense of affection or rather prompt a different kind of feeling all together.
The Cultural and Social Aspects of the Period Represented
Different cultural and social aspects are addressed by various musicals depending on the time and period in which the music was established and existed. In the 20s/30s, the musical shows developed and performed by different characters in the sector addressed critically the entertainment of individuals by presenting to them the diverse aspects of cultural ideas incorporated in the songs (Eldridge, 2008). The refrains were briefly characterized as happy-go-lucky songs with their catchy melodies and simple organization they possessed.
The R&H and L&L songs, on the other hand, tend to bring out an explanation aimed at improving the audience’s ways of thinking since the songs are characterized by serious and emotional aspects in them. The compositions by these singers have a direct outlay of information regarding the situation in which they were formed, a time where issues are addressed in a serious and more direct manner. Musicals of R&H and L&L depict the ironical social aspect of lives with the characters in performance making references to real life situations and occurrences.
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The musical play and musical comedy is still among the two main branches of musical theater in the world following an improvement of the releases from the reviewed characters above. Both musicals are from around the same periods and, therefore, have some aspects in common but also, a huge difference exists between them as discussed in the paper. Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lerner & Loewe musicals were mainly based on a play while the 1920s/1930s musicals had their base on comedy grounds.