Posts Tagged ‘theater’

Road Trip

April 17, 2009

I’m heading to NYC for a few days with my son. We plan to see a Broadway show (of course), do some of the touristy things, and eat fun and exotic foods. I’m also going to drag him to the New York Public Library so I can spend time with the Billy Rose Theatre Collection. I’m hoping to find the name of at least one duo from the minstrel or vaudeville era or to find examples of people singing duets in the shows. When I return, I’m also planning to visit the Harvard Theatre Collection in the Houghton Library. They have programs from both minstrel and vaudeville shows. Ideally I would love to find descriptions of how the duos performed, but absent that, I may be able to make some extrapolations if I know what songs, what shows, what theaters, and so on. Actually I think I have a good how idea how the vaudeville acts performed from listening to numerous recordings of duets in the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


Duets in Broadway shows of the 1940s and 50s

January 26, 2009

I promised this a while back. Go here for a list of the duets from the most popular of the Broadway shows of the 1940s and 50s. 

An explanation about which shows are in my list: The Internet Broadway Database reports over 150 musicals that opened on Broadway between 1950 and 1959, including revues and revivals. I have chosen only the ones that had significant runs after opening, were revived during the 1950s, or had a film adaptation during the 1950s or later. Certain less successful shows are included because the composer and/or lyricist are important figures in American music, such as Leonard Bernstein, or in American musical theater. The list is not meant to be comprehensive but rather representative of what Americans were hearing and seeing on stage and in the theater during the 1950s.

Making the connection between American musical theater and duos

January 26, 2009
Muttering to myself…
  • Vocal duets are inherently dramatic. Two voices suggests two people. The voices interact, even if they sing in unison. That interaction defines the dramatic elements and adds a layer to the interpretation of the text. 
  • Duets can be found throughout opera and other forms of musical drama but less so in other forms of vocal art music, such as lied or chanson. Duets in American popular music are directly connected, historically and paradigmatically, to musical theater. This is due in part to the fact that popular music in America, at least until the advent of rock and roll, was intertwined with musical theater–Broadway, revues, variety, vaudeville, minstrelsy.
  • Musical theater, for a long time, provided the model (as well as the material) for the musical and rhetorical structure of duets. For example, voices in alternation suggest a dialogue. If the same text is sung by both, then two viewpoints (possibly in opposition) exist. The point at which the voices join implies a connection or a reconciliation.

Boston Theaters in the Late 19th Century

December 10, 2008


From the Boston Athenaeum website

From the Boston Athenaeum website

I’m investigating duets in minstrelsy, vaudeville, and the integrated musical in order to understand both the backdrop and the background for vocal duos in the rock era. I came across a wonderful site today. The Boston Athenaeum has a collection of playbills and programs from theaters in Boston during the latter portion of the nineteenth century. They have created an online database in which you can search by theater, actor, play title, and/or date. As I understand it, the database reflects their playbill holdings. In conjunction with the database and collection, they also have brief histories of each of the theaters for which they have playbills. They also have links to some local (Boston) collections, as well as others. 


Clearly a trip into town is on the horizon for me.

YouTube Playlist

November 23, 2008

Click on the Videos link on the right to connect to the YouTube playlists that I am creating. Or go straight to my playlist page on YouTube.