Geoffrey Block

in The Oxford Handbook of The American Musical

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780195385946
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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The article explains different aspects of the integration of musicals. The ideal integration in the Broadway musical, which includes the European imports of the 1980s and 1990s, led to the super-integrated musical that has generated a split between critical and popular acclaim. The principles of integration that are suggested by Hammerstein and Rodgers include that the songs advance the plot, the songs flow directly from the dialogue, and the songs express the characters who sing them. Other principles include that the dances advance the plot and enhances the dramatic meaning of the songs that precede them and the orchestra, through accompaniment and underscoring, parallels, complements, or advances the action. Scholars have explained that integration is actually present in musicals formerly dismissed for alleged incongruities between dialogue and song. The work of Stephen Sondheim demonstrates that it is possible to write “integrated” musical scores without paying allegiance to a Wagnerian ideal characterized by continuous orchestral underscoring beneath a through-sung melodic language that is neither recitative nor aria. Film historian John Mueller emphasizes the importance of the “Night and Day” dance sequence to the integration in the Broadway show Gay Divorce (1932), starring Fred Astaire, and soon thereafter in the Astaire and Ginger Rogers film adaptation with its less scandalous title, The Gay Divorcee (1934).

Keywords: integration of musicals; melodic language; integrated musical scores; Broadway musical; Night and Day dance

Article.  6801 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Musicology and Music History

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