Broadway: The American Musical: Season 1, Episode 3

I Got Plenty o' Nuttin': 1929-1942 (Oct 20, 2004)

TV EpisodeDocumentary | Music
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The Great Depression ushered in a new era of the Broadway musical. Gone were the frothy, nonsensical shows of the 1920s. Broadway musicals were now either reflective of the harsh times (such as "Americana" which featured the unofficial anthem of the era, 'Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?'), political (such as the Gershwin's satire "Of Thee I Sing", the first musical whose book won the Pulitzer Prize) or earthy (such as the Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess"). Shows even dared to have as the leads unsavory characters, such as in "Pal Joey". When the shows were lighter in fare, they were more glamorous and sophisticated, which was evidenced in the shows of the young, urbane composer, Cole Porter. The Broadway musical was also aided by the Federal Theater, designed to mount productions so that people could work. One of the most notorious of these productions was "The Cradle Will Rock". New stars of the era included Ethel Merman with her trumpet-like voice, Ethel Waters who could not read music but who could sing a variety of musical styles, and young dancers Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. The United States' entry into World War II was also reflected on Broadway, most notably in Irving Berlin's "This Is the Army", which featured real life enlisted soldiers and Berlin himself. Written By Huggo  Less

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