Contact a Humanities Office or Academic unit.
Find your course outlines.

THTRFLM 2TT3 Broadway and the Popular Song

Academic Year: Winter 2016

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: E

Instructor: Dr. Lara Housez

Email: housezl@mcmaster.ca

Office: Togo Salmon Hall 416

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27671

Office Hours: Mondays, 11:30am-12:30pm, or by appointment, TSH 416



Course Objectives:

Our primary goals are to gain a broad knowledge of the development of twentieth- and twenty-first century English-language musical theatre. We will explore not only how the anatomy of the musical and its conventions have changed, but also how its practitioners used the genre to reflect shifting social and cultural contexts. The content and perspectives of this class are as diverse and interdisciplinary as its topic, which invites approaches and issues from the fields of music, theatre, film, the human voice, history, poetry, technology, choreography, cultural theory, and design. Among the shows to be studied are Show Boat, Oklahoma!, West Side Story, Cabaret, Les Mis, The Phantom of the Opera, and Rent. Be prepared to ask fresh questions about (potentially) familiar musicals, to listen to different works with open minds, and to engage in close and careful considerations of the music, lyrics, and drama.

Students will be expected to achieve a general knowledge of the history of the American musical theatre and popular song through lectures, readings, and listening. Students will complete one written assignment using creative thinking and written language skills. They will also learn to critique performance aspects of musical theatre and apply this knowledge to a review of a live production of The Drowsy Chaperone at McMaster University.


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Stempel, Larry. Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater. New York:

W. W. Norton and Company, 2010. [Abbreviated below as Text]

Coursepack [Abbreviated below as CP]

You are required to attend a live performance of The Drowsy Chaperone at McMaster University in order to complete a written assignment.


Method of Assessment:

25%   Test #1 (February 10 – in class)

25%   Test #2 (March 30 – in class)

10%   Review of The Drowsy Chaperone (March 23)

40%   Final exam (date and location TBA)


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

See Field Trip and Performance Review.


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.


Topics and Readings:

WEEK 1 (Jan. 6): Introduction and Overview: Definitions, Elements, Issues, and Approaches

WEEK 2 (Jan. 13)​: Towards the American Musical: Show Boat

Read: Text, pp. 1-15 and 192-201 AND Coursepack (CP): Kislan, pp. 214-34 AND plot synopsis of Show Boat (To prepare for each new musical, read its plot synopsis either in the coursepack or A2L)

Listen: “Make Believe,” “Ol’ Man River,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” (Follow links on A2L to links on YouTube)

Watch: excerpts of the 1936 black & white film version, with cast members from the original production (links on A2L). Avoid the highly adapted colour version (1951).

WEEK 3 (Jan. 20):​ The “Golden Age of the Musical”: Oklahoma!

Read: Text, pp. 291-93, 300-12 AND CP: Most, pp. 101-18

Listen: “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “People Will Say We’re In Love,” “Lonely Room,” “The Farmer and the Cowman,” “Oklahoma!”

Watch: 1955 film version or excerpts from the 1998 West End revival with Hugh Jackman (see A2L)

WEEK 4 (Jan. 27)​: Broadway Opera: Porgy and Bess and Street Scene

Read: Text, pp. 369-73 and 385-97

ListenPorgy and Bess: “Summertime,” “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’,” “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So” and Street Scene: “Ain’t It Awful, The Heat?,” “Ice Cream Sextet,” “Wrapped In A Ribbon And Tied In A Bow,” “Lonely House,” “Remember That I Care”

Watch: Excerpts on A2L

WEEK 5:  Feb. 3: Ethnic Coding: West Side Story

Read: Text, pp. 397-407 AND CP: Suskin, pp. 693-97

Listen: “Prologue,” “Jet Song,” “Dance at the Gym,” “Maria,” “Balcony Scene (Tonight),” “America,” “Tonight (quintet),” “I Feel Pretty”

Watch: 1961 film version (see A2L)

WEEK 6 (Feb. 10): Metadramatic Devices: The Drowsy Chaperone

​TEST #1

WEEK 7 (Feb. 24): FIELD TRIP: ATTEND 8PM PERFORMANCE OF MCMASTER’S PRODUCTION OF THE DROWSY CHAPERONE, Robinson Memorial Theatre, CNH 103

WEEK 8 (Mar. 2): “Experimental” Musicals: Love Life and Cabaret

Read: Text, pp. 517-30 AND CP: Hirsch, pp. 59-68

ListenLove Life: “Here I’ll Stay,” “I Remember It Well,” “This Is The Life” and Cabaret: “Willkommen,” “If You Could See Her (Through My Eyes),” “What Would You Do?,” “Cabaret”

Watch: Excerpts on A2L

WEEK 9 (Mar. 9): Enter Stephen Sondheim: Company

Read: Text, pp. 531-43

Listen:  “Company,” “The Little Things You Do Together,” “You Could Drive a Person Crazy,” “Another Hundred People,” “Getting Married Today,” “Barcelona,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “Being Alive”

Watch: Excerpts on A2L

WEEK 10 (Mar. 16): More Sondheim: Sunday in the Park with George and Assassins

Read: Text, pp. 543-55 AND CP: McLamore, pp. 285-91

ListenSunday in the Park with George: “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Color and Light,” “We Do Not Belong Together,” “Sunday,” “Move On” and Assassins: “Everybody’s Got the Right (to be Happy),” “The Ballad of Booth,” “How I Saved Roosevelt,” “Gun Song,” “Unworthy of Your Love,” “Another National Anthem”

Watch: 1986 stage production of Sunday and excerpts of Assassins (see A2L)

WEEK 11 (Mar. 23): Megamusicals: Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera

REVIEW OF THE DROWSY CHAPERONE DUE BY 11:59PM 

Read: Text, pp. 603-07 and 617-29 AND CP: Sternfeld, pp. 1-7

ListenLes Misérables: “Prologue—Work Song,” “What Have I Done?,” “I Dreamed a Dream,” “Stars,” “One Day More” and The Phantom of the Opera: “Think of Me,” “Angel of Music,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Music of the Night,” “All I Ask of You”

Watch: 2012 film of Les Mis and 2004 film of Phantom (see A2L)

WEEK 12 (Mar. 30): The Future of Musical Theatre in the 21st Century (Part I): Rent

TEST #2

Read: Text, pp. 672-75

Listen: “One Song Glory,” “I’ll Cover You,” “La Vie Bohème,” “Seasons of Love,” “Without You”

Watch: 2005 film of Rent (see A2L)

WEEK 13 (April 6): The Future of Musical Theatre in the 21st Century (Part II): Urinetown: The Musical and General Review

Read: Text, pp. 672-75

Listen: “Overture,” “Urinetown,” “It’s a Privilege to Pee,” “Follow Your Heart,” “Run, Freedom, Run!,” “I See a River”

Watch: Excerpts on A2L

APRIL 12-29: FINAL EXAM (date and location TBA)


Other Course Information:

Field Trip and Performance Review

During class on Wednesday, February 24, we will attend a live performance of The Drowsy Chaperone, performed by McMaster Musical Theatre in the Robinson Memorial Theatre (CNH 103). This will be a great opportunity for us to move from “page to stage” and experience a musical as it was originally created.

You will be asked to write a 500-word performance review of The Drowsy Chaperone as a way for you to apply what you have learned to a specific production, to consider what you have observed, to think critically about the theatre and become an active participant in the theatrical experience, and to enhance your own writing skills.

Use the Dropbox feature on Avenue to Learn (A2L) to submit your review on or before Wednesday, March 23 at 11:59pm. You are encouraged to submit your review earlier. Late reviews will be penalized 10% per day up to two days after the deadline. Reviews submitted after Friday, March 25 will NOT be accepted.

Samples of reviews will be posted on A2L.