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Beyond Broadway: The Pleasure and Promise of Musical Theatre Across America

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The idea of American musical theatre conjures up images of bright lights and big city, but its lifeblood is found in local and amateur productions at schools, community theatres, summer camps, and more. In Beyond Broadway, author Stacy Wolf considers the widespread presence and persistence of musical theatre in U.S. culture, and examines it as a live, pleasurable, participa The idea of American musical theatre conjures up images of bright lights and big city, but its lifeblood is found in local and amateur productions at schools, community theatres, summer camps, and more. In Beyond Broadway, author Stacy Wolf considers the widespread presence and persistence of musical theatre in U.S. culture, and examines it as a live, pleasurable, participatory experience of creating, watching, and listening. Why does local musical theatre flourish in America? Why do so many Americans passionately engage in a century-old artistic practice that requires intense, person-to-person collaboration? Why do audiences flock to see musicals in their hometowns? How do corporations like Disney and Music Theatre International enable musical theatre's energetic movement through American culture? Touring from Maine to California, Wolf visits elementary schools, a middle school performance festival, afterschool programs, high schools, summer camps, state park outdoor theatres, community theatres, and dinner theatres, and conducts over 200 interviews with practitioners and spectators, licensors and Disney creatives. In Beyond Broadway, Wolf tells the story of musical theatre's abundance and longevity in the U.S. as a thriving, joyful activity that touches millions of lives.


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The idea of American musical theatre conjures up images of bright lights and big city, but its lifeblood is found in local and amateur productions at schools, community theatres, summer camps, and more. In Beyond Broadway, author Stacy Wolf considers the widespread presence and persistence of musical theatre in U.S. culture, and examines it as a live, pleasurable, participa The idea of American musical theatre conjures up images of bright lights and big city, but its lifeblood is found in local and amateur productions at schools, community theatres, summer camps, and more. In Beyond Broadway, author Stacy Wolf considers the widespread presence and persistence of musical theatre in U.S. culture, and examines it as a live, pleasurable, participatory experience of creating, watching, and listening. Why does local musical theatre flourish in America? Why do so many Americans passionately engage in a century-old artistic practice that requires intense, person-to-person collaboration? Why do audiences flock to see musicals in their hometowns? How do corporations like Disney and Music Theatre International enable musical theatre's energetic movement through American culture? Touring from Maine to California, Wolf visits elementary schools, a middle school performance festival, afterschool programs, high schools, summer camps, state park outdoor theatres, community theatres, and dinner theatres, and conducts over 200 interviews with practitioners and spectators, licensors and Disney creatives. In Beyond Broadway, Wolf tells the story of musical theatre's abundance and longevity in the U.S. as a thriving, joyful activity that touches millions of lives.

37 review for Beyond Broadway: The Pleasure and Promise of Musical Theatre Across America

  1. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Thomas

    This is an ethnographic project – and frequently an autoethnographic project – detailing different places across the country that practice the Broadway musical theatre repertoire. I confess to wanting more from this book, though. It is filled with thick description – the meals served at the dinner theatres, the behavior of pet dogs, the materials used to construct prop livestock – but there is not much analysis in the book at all. What does this all mean for the Broadway musical as a form, with This is an ethnographic project – and frequently an autoethnographic project – detailing different places across the country that practice the Broadway musical theatre repertoire. I confess to wanting more from this book, though. It is filled with thick description – the meals served at the dinner theatres, the behavior of pet dogs, the materials used to construct prop livestock – but there is not much analysis in the book at all. What does this all mean for the Broadway musical as a form, with how audiences interact with it, for the indentities of the people who make these shows? It's an ambitious, rich book, filled with many interesting characters and with the germs of many interesting ideas. But the chief conclusion here seems to be that musical theatre is thriving all over the country and not only on Broadway. I am very fond of this claim, but what is our focus on Broadway obscuring? How might these non-Broadway performances help us think differently about the form? I feel like we just didn't quite get there.

  2. 4 out of 5

    MH

    Wolf argues that the true heart of the American musical isn't on Broadway but in dinner theaters, community theaters, high school stages and summer camps in this energetic look at these often-ignored (or academically derided) theater institutions. Her love of the subject and enthusiasm for the many, many theaters she spends time at is infectious, and I think this book is best understood as a journalistic travelogue rather than an academic exploration - there's a near-total lack of criticism or q Wolf argues that the true heart of the American musical isn't on Broadway but in dinner theaters, community theaters, high school stages and summer camps in this energetic look at these often-ignored (or academically derided) theater institutions. Her love of the subject and enthusiasm for the many, many theaters she spends time at is infectious, and I think this book is best understood as a journalistic travelogue rather than an academic exploration - there's a near-total lack of criticism or questioning, and the only time she does either is when she writes about corporate entities like Disney or Broadway Jr. (and even then only very briefly, raising issues of gender or money for a few sentences in much larger chapters). There are a lot of other issues that go unaddressed (not every child who performs in musicals finds the experience so magical - some encounter cliquishness, heartbreak, or simple boredom with an often middle-class art form designed for middle-aged audiences; and it's a thin line between the 'backstage divas' who own pay-to-play private theater schools and 'cult of personality' drama teachers who play favorites, push agendas, and welcome back young adults who've aged out of the program but, to their detriment, can't let go). Wolf doesn't pursue questions like these, which is a little disappointing, but that's ultimately a minor complaint, outweighed by her engaging, useful introduction to these neglected amateur spaces.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Roberta

    This book is perfect for me and anyone else highly involved in local theatre. The level of detail is such that I don’t think it’s intended for a general audience, but highly recommend it to my fellow local directors and producers. I really appreciated the amount of research that went into this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

  5. 5 out of 5

    Linda

  6. 5 out of 5

    Scott Miller

  7. 5 out of 5

    Meagan

  8. 5 out of 5

    Olivia Kershaw

  9. 5 out of 5

    Beth Fox

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  11. 5 out of 5

    Miranda Ray

  12. 5 out of 5

    Katie Birenboim

  13. 4 out of 5

    Elena F.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kumoshi

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kadiri Saliu

  17. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

  19. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zoe

  23. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  24. 4 out of 5

    Katie Knorr

  25. 4 out of 5

    Zulaima

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marianne

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Zarek Wentzell

  29. 5 out of 5

    Orlando

  30. 5 out of 5

    Micah

  31. 4 out of 5

    Campbell

  32. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Schmiel

  33. 4 out of 5

    Natalie Goodwin

  34. 5 out of 5

    Theresa B.

  35. 4 out of 5

    Jess

  36. 5 out of 5

    Emily Wetzel

  37. 4 out of 5

    Kadiri Saliu

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