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American Musical Theater

James Leve

Publication Date - September 2015

ISBN: 9780195379600

448 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $89.99

An artistic, historical, and cultural introduction to musical theater


American Musical Theater provides a chronological history of musical theater within a cultural context. Covering the major artistic trends, seminal works, and leading figures in the field, the text uses case study musicals in each chapter as a lens through which to explore themes and developments in the evolution of musical theater over time. In addition to exposing students to the musical theater canon, author James Leve encourages them to think across the disciplines, drawing on their knowledge of music, literature, popular culture, and history. For anyone from diehard musical theater fans to novices to the style, American Musical Theater offers a definitive guide to this inherently American art form.


  • Examination of standard repertory through an artistic, historical, and cultural understanding: Instead of introducing one "great work" after another in chronological order, Leve highlights key musicals from the standard repertory in order to guide students through an artistic, historical, and cultural understanding of the musical theater genre
  • Case studies-central musical examples in each chapter, supported by plot synopses, historical background, relevant biographical information, and analyses-provide students with a lens through which to explore themes and developments in the evolution of musical theater
  • "And Bear in Mind" sections at the conclusion of each chapter introduce musicals that complement or contrast the primary case study to provide additional perspective
  • Sixty-seven historic images, with sixteen in full color, bring the vitality and vibrancy of Broadway to the classroom
  • Twenty-two musical examples--at least one in each chapter, accompanied by short analyses--enhance the reading for students and focus on pieces from the standard repertory for which scores and recordings are relatively easy to access online or through school libraries
  • A free, open-access companion website at www.oup.com/us/leve offers a Spotify playlist featuring all examples in the text that are available through that service, plus an annotated bibliography and biographical sketches of key figures mentioned in the text.

About the Author(s)

James Leve (Ph.D., Yale University) is Professor of Music at Northern Arizona University, where he is also the director of the graduate program.


"The writing is compelling, and the expansive approach to musicals of the last twenty years and the musical analysis is better than anything else that I've seen." - Constance Cook Glen, Indiana University

"American Musical Theater is practical and informative. The author does a nice job of presenting the history in a clear, concise manner." - Merlaine Angwall, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh

"This insider's approach-- as in 'here's the real story of how this musical came about'-- will engage my students." - Valerie Trollinger, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

"Instructors who are teaching in fields like African American studies, American studies, digital humanities, English, music, and theatre can use Leve's textbook. Educators and students would benefit from this work in courses about not only the history of the musical, but also popular culture, race, and sex. Leve's textbook is well-written, its argument and evidence are clear, and its large number of illustrations in black-and-white and color are helpful ... Leve's textbook is recommended to anyone who counts among their teaching interests the place of American musical theatre in the production of cultural knowledge." --The Journal of American Drama and Theatre (JADT)

Table of Contents


    1. Oklahoma! and the Integrated Book Musical
    Integration Theory
    Rodgers and Hammerstein
    The Evolution of Oklahoma!
    The Artistic Components
    Plot of Oklahoma!
    And Bear in Mind (Kiss Me, Kate)

    2. Musical Theater in Nineteenth-Century America
    Plot-Centered Genres
    Variety-Show Formats

    3. Broadway at the Turn of the Century
    Musical Comedy
    Plot of Little Jimmy Jones
    And Bear in Mind (The Chocolate Soldier)

    4. The Teens
    Princess Theatre Musicals
    Plot of Very Good Eddie
    Beyond the Princess Theatre
    And Bear in Mind (Naughty Marietta)

    5. The Twenties
    The Cinderella Musicals
    Other Musical Comedies
    The Operetta Revival
    Show Boat
    Plot of Show Boat
    After Show Boat
    And Bear in Mind (No, No, Nanette)

    6. The Thirties
    Cole Porter
    Plot of Anything Goes
    Satirical Musicals Comedies and Revues in the Thirties
    Plot of The Cradle Will Rock
    Other Revues
    Other Notable Events on Broadway
    And Bear in Mind (Of Thee I Sing)

    7. The Forties
    Lerner and Loewe
    Plot of Brigadoon
    The Rodgers and Hammerstein Generation
    New Voices
    And Bear in Mind (Pal Joey)

    8. The Fifties
    Historical Background
    Cultural Background
    The Music Man
    Plot of The Music Man
    The Music Man Versus West Side Story
    An Embarrassment of Riches
    And Bear in Mind (The Most Happy Fella)

    9. The Sixties
    "The Age of Aquarius"
    Writers of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Era
    The First Post-Rodgers and Hammerstein Generation
    Concept Musical
    Plot of Cabaret
    And Bear in Mind (The Fiddler on the Roof)
    The Nixon Era

    10. The Seventies
    Serious and Comic Trends in the Seventies
    The Sondheim Decade
    The Sondheim-Prince Musicals
    Musical Theater Beyond Broadway
    And Bear in Mind (A Chorus Line)

    11. The Eighties
    From Rock Opera to Megamusical
    Andrew Lloyd Webber
    Plot of The Phantom of the Opera
    American Musicals in the Eighties
    Familiar Voices
    Interesting Flops
    A Doll's Life and Grind
    Revivals and Retrospectives
    The Legacy of the Megamusical
    And Bear in Mind (Les Misérables)

    12. The Nineties
    The Incredible Story of Rent
    Plot of Rent
    American Megamusicals
    Beyond the Megamusical
    Musical Theater at the End of the Millennium
    Dawn of the Corporate Producer
    And Bear in Mind (The Lion King)

    13. The New Millennium
    Corporate Producing
    Musical Theater in the Twenty-First Century
    Plot of The Light in the Piazza
    Broadway Today
    And Bear in Mind (In the Heights)

    14. Musical Theater Off Broadway
    The Off Broadway Scene
    The Fantasticks
    Plot of The Fantasticks
    The Halcyon Days of Off Broadway Musicals
    And Bear in Mind (Little Shop of Horrors)

    15. The "Black Musical"
    Early Years
    The Twenties
    The Thirties
    Postwar Black Musicals
    The Seventies
    Plot of The Wiz
    Post-Civil Rights Era
    And Bear in Mind (In Dahomey)

    16. Rock on Broadway
    The Rock Musical
    Early Rock Musicals on Broadway
    Plot of Hair
    After Hair
    Second-Wave Rock Musicals
    And Bear in Mind (Godspell)

    17. The Star
    Singing and Stardom
    Al Jolson
    Marilyn Miller
    The "Merm"
    Gypsy and Mama Rose
    Plot of Gypsy
    Broadway Stars Today
    Merman's Legacy
    And Bear in Mind (Fine and Dandy)