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  • Chris Anderson

Music Revision - Stage & Screen - Musical Theatre Timeline

In this blog I give a rundown of the different eras of Musical Theatre and give some examples of titles that were prominent in that era.

Timeline of Musical Theatre:

1920 - 1939 (The Jazz Age)

Jazz was a heavy influence in many productions. Glamorous showgirls, light-hearted shows, musical reviews, and huge dance numbers. Musicals included: Lady, Be Good (George & Ira Gershwin, book Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson), The Girl Friend (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, book Herbert Fields), Show Boat (Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein II), The Threepenny Opera (Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht), Anything Goes (Cole Porter, based on works by PG Wodehouse), Porgy And Bess (George and Ira Gershwin, book DuBose Hayward, Dorothy Heyward), Me And My Girl (Noel Gay, Douglas Furber, L Arthur Rose.


1940 - 1959 (The Golden Age)

Many people consider this to be the peak of Musical Theatre popularity. Showtunes would be played on the radio. Musicals were heavy in dance numbers and embraced the development of plot. Musicals in this period included: Pal Joey (Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, book John O’Hara), Oklahoma! (Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II), On The Town (Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green), Carousel (Rodgers and Hammerstein), Annie Get Your Gun (Irving Berlin, Dorothy Fields, Herbert Fields), Brigadoon (Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner), South Pacific (Rodgers and Hammerstein), Paint Your Wagon (Lerner & Loewe), The Boyfriend (Sandy Wilson), My Fair Lady (Lerner & Loewe), The Music Man (Meredith Wilson), West Side Story (Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, book Arthur Laurents), The Sound Of Music (Rodgers & Hammerstein, book Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse)


1960 - 1969 (Post Golden Age)

There was a major shift in style in this decade. There was a lot more experimentation with rock musicals and more cultural diversity. There was also a shift to musicals with more thought provoking plots. Musicals in this period included: Camelot (Lerner & Loewe), Oliver! (Lionel Bart), Parade (Jerry Herman), Calamity Jane (Sammy Fain, Paul Francis Webster), Sail Away (Noël Coward), A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (Stephen Sondheim, book Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelart), Fiddler On The Roof (Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, book Joseph Stein), Cabaret (John Kander, Fred Ebb, book Joe Masteroff), Hair (Galt McDermott, Gerome Ragni, James Rado), Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice).


1970 - 1999 (Pre-Contemporary)

During the 70s, 80s, and 90s there was an even larger range of genres and plots. Big emotions started pouring out but revue musicals also made a bit of a comeback. Creative plots, big budgets, more cultural diversity this period was full of surprises. Musicals include: Jesus Christ Superstar (Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice), Godspell (Stephen Schwartz), Grease (Jim Jacobs, Warren Casey), A Little Night Music (Stephen Sondheim, book Hugo Wheeler), The Rocky Horror Show (Richard O’Brien), The Wiz (Charlie Smalls, book William F Brown), A Chorus Line (Marvin Hamlisch, Edward Kleban, book James Kirkwood, Nicholas Dante), Annie (Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin, book Thomas Meehan), Bugsy Malone (Paul Williams, book Alan Parker), Barnum (Cy Coleman, Michael Stewart, book Mark Bramble), Les Misérables (Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alan Boublil, Herbert Kretzmer, Jean Marc Natel), Cats (Andrew Lloyd Webber, T.S Eliot, Trevor Nunn, Richard Stilgoe), Little Shop Of Horrors (Alan Menken, Howard Ashman), Blood Brothers (Willy Russell), Miss Saigon (Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Richard Maltby Jr.), Beauty And The Beast (Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, book Linda Woolverton), Rent (Jonathan Larson), Mamma Mia! (Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, book Catherine Johnson).


2000 - Present (Contemporary)

From 2000 onwards there has been a large range of show styles. However, since this time there has also been an influx of the jukebox musical (a musical based around the songs of a specific era or artist (for example Mamma Mia which opened in the 90s) which have been around for a while but appear to have grown in popularity), and musicals based on films. There’s also been a big influence of rock and pop music as well as some cracking comedy musicals. Musicals from 2000 and beyond include: Seussical (Stephen Flaherty, book Lynn Ahrens), The Beautiful Game (Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ben Elton), The Full Monty (David Yazbek, book Terrence McNally), The Witches Of Eastwick (Dana P Rowe, John Dempsey), Jerry Springer: The Opera (Richard Thomas, Stewart Lee), The Last Five Years (Jason Robert Brown), Our House (Madness, book Tim Firth), We Will Rock You (Queen, book Ben Elton), Avenue Q (Robert Lopez, book Jeff Whitty), Wicked (Stephen Schwartz, book Winnie Holzman), Spamalot (Eric Idle, John Du Prez), Next To Normal (Tom Kitt, Brian Yorkey), Matilda (Tim Minchin, book Dennis Kelly), School Of Rock (Andrew Lloyd Webber, Glenn Slater, book Julian Fellowes), Bat Out Of Hell (Jim Steinman), Back To The Future (Alan Silverstri, Glen Ballard, book Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale), Bad Cinderella (Andrew Lloyd Webber, avid Zippel, book Emerald Fennell), The Great British Bake Off Musical (Pippa Cleary, Jake Brunger).

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