Chapter

Something for the Girls

Jeffrey Magee

in Irving Berlin's American Musical Theater

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780195398267
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933358 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195398267.003.0007

Series: Broadway Legacies

                   Something for the Girls

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The chapter explores Berlin’s most frequently performed show from several angles and through several sources. It interprets the libretto as an intersection postwar, mid-century gender and ethnic themes: both a Rosie-the-Riveter story and Jewish assimilation narrative filtered through an Ethel Merman vehicle. It analyzes Berlin’s songs for the show in the context of the rich primary source material at the Library of Congress, tracing how Berlin used song cues provided by the librettists Dorothy and Herbert Fields. By understanding of the order and speed with which Berlin wrote the songs, we can see for the first time that Berlin began by writing his version of “hillbilly” tunes, then expanded the show’s stylistic range to include swing. In the realm of lyrics, the show features Berlin’s flexible and varied use of two lyric-writing devices: the list and the antithesis. The show’s critical reception focused in particular on comparisons and contrasts with Oklahoma!

Keywords: Jewish; gender; swing; hillbilly; Ethel Merman; Dorothy Fields

Chapter.  16531 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music ; Popular Music

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