Shakespeare and the American Musical
Published by: Indiana University Press
248 Pages, 21 b&w illus.
- Published: January 2010
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Irene G. Dash explores the influence of Shakespeare on American musical theater through analyses of five important productions from 1938 through 1971—The Boys from Syracuse (The Comedy of Errors), Kiss Me, Kate (Taming of the Shrew), West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet), Your Own Thing (Twelfth Night), and Two Gentlemen of Verona. Dash argues that adaptations of Shakespeare were instrumental in the alteration of the musical theater formula from the stock plots and song forms of the 1930s musical comedy to the more organic "integrated musical," where songs and dance sequences were used to advance the plot rather than break the action. In bringing together these well-known works, Dash offers a fresh look at the development of American musical theater and a new understanding of Shakespeare in the modern American context.
"The works of Shakespeare have inspired many works for musical theater. Unhappily, most were neither successful nor memorable. Here Dash (formerly, Hunter College, CUNY; Women's Worlds in Shakespeare's Plays, CH Jul'97, 34-6115) discusses five musicals that did succeed: The Boys from Syracuse (The Comedy of Errors); Kiss Me, Kate (The Taming of the Shrew); West Side Story (Romeo and Juliet); Your Own Thing (Twelfth Night); and Two Gentlemen of Verona. For each she provides detailed analyses, scene by scene, of how the musical followed or differed from the source. In the process, she demonstrates how the musicals reimagined and gave new life to the original material. Dash offers fascinating insights on the changing image of women, gender issues, and multiracial casting on the American stage. She has done a superb job of exploring her source materials and provides excellent details on the genesis and development of each musical. Good illustrations, fine documentation, and a bibliography are assets. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. — Choice"~R. D. Johnson, emeritus, SUNY College at Oneonta
"Dramaturges and directors will appreciate Dash's detailed textual analyses, her extensive research, and her reliance on primary source material, including detailed descriptions of the original productions, all of which would be useful for anyone staging a revival of any of these gems of the American musical theatre.Sept 2012"~Theatre Survey
"[Dash] has done an excellent job in giving new insights into Shakespeare and the American musical.Spring/Summer 2010"~The Shakespeare Newsletter
"[Dash] has done a superb job of exploring her source materials and provides excellent details on the genesis and development of each musical. Good illustrations, fine documentation, and a bibliography are assets. . . . Recommended.August 2010"~Choice
"[Dash] has made a convincing case for seeing Bard-inspired works as vital in the devlopment of the 20th century's 'organic' or integrated musical in which song, dance and multimedia drive the plot. Summer 2010"~CUNY Matters
"Informed by a lively and expert understanding of the theatrical medium in question and a thorough and scholarly insight into the Shakespeare plays."~Russell Jackson, University of Birmingham