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Broadway: The American Musical: Season 1, Episode 5

Tradition: 1957-1979 (Oct 21, 2004)

TV EpisodeDocumentary | Music
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The new innovative musical on Broadway starting this era was "West Side Story", the first musical to integrate dance movement into the everyday movement of the characters. The movement was matched by Leonard Bernstein's frenetic score. It also marked the start of the renown of the choreographer/director Jerome Robbins. The era also introduced a plethora of some of what are now considered the most popular but what would have then been also considered traditional musicals, such as "Bye Bye Birdie", "Camelot", "Funny Girl", "Gypsy", "Hello, Dolly!", "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying", "The Music Man" and "Fiddler on the Roof". Of these, the latter may have been the most profound in its subject matter - the breaking of tradition - as the Vietnam War and rock music had the effect of needing to rethink the presentation of the traditional musical. There were a few shows which embraced the culture of the time, most notably "Hair". But on the most part, Broadway musicals had been, and still were, geared toward the upper middle class. The parting of the cultures meant that Broadway was no longer the primary source for popular music. Shows morphed into direct or indirect commentaries of the times and that were brazen in their presentation, shows such as "Cabaret" and "Company". New behind-the-scenes names included: director/choreographer Bob Fosse, with such shows as "Pippin" and "Chicago"; composer John Kander/lyricist Fred Ebb, with such shows as "Cabaret" and "Chicago"; and composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim/director Harold Prince, with such shows as "Company", "A Little Night Music", "Pacific Overtures" and "Sweeney Todd". The latter pairing was renowned for taking unconventional stories, even deemed uncomfortable for the audience, and turning them into musicals. Undoubtedly, the most successful musical of the era and up to that time in Broadway's history was one that started out as an experimental project on the life of the dancer: Michael Bennett's "A Chorus Line". Written By Huggo  Less

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