The Politics of Region and Nation in American Musicals

Chase A. Bringardner

in The Oxford Handbook of The American Musical

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Politics of Region and Nation in American Musicals


The article describes several approaches that are adopted to incorporate regional and national issues in American musicals. A regional approach to musical theater encourages readings that center on space and place and puts specific performances or musical texts in conversation with national and global productions. Regional issues are often present within the text or lyrics of a musical, as with Lil' Abner, Blood Brothers, or Flower Drum Song, in which case the narrative already identifies or implies a specific region for analysis that may be Appalachia, Liverpool, or San Francisco. Musicals provide opportunities to audiences to reflect on regional concerns and identities as they relate to ideas of nation. A regional focus can also address the effects of space and place on a musical once it goes on tour or gets produced in local venues such as colleges, high schools, and community centers. Regionalism provides a vocabulary and context for addressing the experiences of touring productions and for tracing how a show might continue to develop and shift in response to local circumstances such as references and intonations that resonate in one region may not translate effectively to another, as was the case with Parade. Regionalism also provides additional rationale for the openness of musicals' texts. Newspapers and periodicals provide useful documentation of regional responses to particular musicals, offering box-office and production specifies and registering interactions with a given performance.

Keywords: regionalism; musical theater; American musicals; Broadway musical; local circumstances

Article.  6464 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Musicology and Music History

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