Outline how musicals changed from 1960 to the present day
During this period musicals began to expand; the ‘Megamusical’ emerged, synthesisers replaced instruments such as strings, the ‘concept musical’ replaced the ‘book musical’, shows were completely integrated, and influences from pop and rock became commonplace.
The ‘Megamusical’ was term used to describe large productions which often had long runs on Broadway and strong special effects similar to those of a blockbuster film. Both ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ by Lloyd Webber are both ‘Megamusicals’ which both were Broadway productions and featured large orchestral scoring and amplifications. These two musicals were so successful; they were later made into films.
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Lloyd Webber’s musicals heavily features influences from pop and rock. His 1978 musical, ‘Evita’ is dominated by two musical styles; Spanish-tinged rock which is found in ‘Don’t Cry for me Argentina’ and is used to show cynicism, dissembling, and pretence; and a Modern, syncopated, dissonant style to express real feelings which is evident in, ‘There is no one’ through the use of syncopated waltz style with accented dissonances.
Rock influences can be found in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ through the use of rock riffs similar to those used by the band ‘Deep Purple’ in the number, ‘Heaven on Their Minds’. Pop style is also demonstrated in the Crucifixion scene through use of piano solo in a modern jazz style. Pop styles are also found within ‘Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ as ‘Go, go, go Joseph’ contains jazz waltz, electric guitar, and male vocal harmonies in the chorus. ‘Song of the King’ also uses parody 1950s rock’n’roll through the 12 bar blues sequence which is particularly reminiscent of specific Elvis Presley songs such as ‘All Shook Up’.
‘A Chorus Line’ is a concept musical which features many 20th century popular styles. A concept musical is a production in which the dramatic content is influenced by a single initial idea; the concept of ‘A Chorus Line sprang from a workshop ‘share’ sessions. It is the conversations in these sessions which form the basis for the entire musical. The chorus number, ‘One’ is in the style of a 1930s soft shoe, Cabaret style. ‘I can do that’ is also in the form of a 1930s jazz dance and features blues touches.
Further poplar song styles are demonstrated in ‘At The Ballet’ and ‘Music in The Mirror’ which feature rock, waltz, jazz, and funk influences. ‘Montage’, the most complex number in the show lasting 20 minutes and being in a rondo form borrows musical ideas from gospel music, easy rock, and Broadway Ballad. However, despite the fact that this piece moves through so many different styles and numbers, the number never strays from the key of E major.
Integration within musicals was extraordinary within Megamusicals and this can be seen in 1980 production of Victor Hugo’s novel, ‘Les Miserables’. It is in the form of secco recitative which is found in almost all Baroque and early Classical operas. The ‘motto’ theme; a rising and falling tritone followed by a fourth is particularly important. The prologue which acts as a classic overture seen in Broadway musicals contains seven themes which are prevalent during the musical.
The first is ‘Look Down’; the march theme which is played in the bass and reoccurs when downtrodden folk are on stage or are alluded to such as when Gavroche, the urchin, sings over it. Fantine’s ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ and Valjean’s ‘Who am I?’ motif share harmonic movement thus emphasising their connection. Most importantly, it appears when Marius first sees Cosette with Valjean as is suggests that the dreams Fantine had for herself will be fulfilled by her daughter. ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ is played during Fantine’s death and has a key signature of seven flats; a very flat key, and is characterised by the rising third at the climax at the end of every line.
Cosette’s motif, ‘Castle on a Cloud’ reflects her childlike nature as it has a nursery rhyme quality and is accompanied by a recorder. Valjean rescued Cosette from the family which was abusing her thus he represents the inherent good in every person; however, he is on the run from Javert, who symbolises the bad in every person. These two characters often share music demonstrating the two sides of humanity.
In summation, the musicals produced within the period of 1960- present day were able to be developed through the use of technology; synthesisers, body mics, increased amplification, and greater lighting, as well as being able to draw inspiration from the many musical genres and styles which had come before it.