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MUSIC 2TT3 BroadwayandthePopularSong

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: E

Instructor: Dr. Lara Housez


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 416

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27671

Office Hours: Fridays, 1:30-3:30pm

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, The Phantom of the Opera, Urinetown, and Hamilton. 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 American musical theatre and popular song through lectures, readings, and listening. They will also learn to describe and critique aspects of performance and apply their knowledge to a live production of Pippin, which the class will attend together, at McMaster University. Students will write a short review of the show. 

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 Pippin at McMaster during class on March 2.

Method of Assessment:

Test #1 (February 9 – in class): 25%

Test #2 (March 30 – in class): 25%

Review of Pippin (March 16): 10%

Final exam (date and location TBA): 40%

Students will have received 10% of their grade in this course by March 10.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Use the Dropbox feature on Avenue to Learn (A2L) to submit your review of Pippn on or before Thursday, March 16 at 11:59pm. You are encouraged to submit your review earlier. Late reviews will be penalized 10% per day (weekends count as one day). Reviews submitted after Monday, March 20 will NOT be accepted. 

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

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 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 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. 5

Introduction and Overview: Definitions, Elements, Issues, and Approaches

Week 2: Jan. 12

Towards the American Musical: Show Boat (1927)

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. 19

The “Golden Age of the Musical”: Oklahoma! (1943)

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 the 1999 West End revival (see A2L)

Week 4:  Jan. 26

Broadway Opera: Porgy and Bess (1935) and Street Scene (1947)

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

Listen: Porgy 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”

Watch: Excerpts on A2L

Week 5:  Feb. 2


Ethnic Coding: West Side Story (1957)

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. 9


(After test) Stephen Schwartz: Pippin (1972) with in-class performances by MMT

Week 7: Feb. 16

“Experimental” Musicals: Love Life (1948) and Cabaret (1966)

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

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

Watch: Excerpts on A2L

Feb. 23


Week 8:  Mar. 2


Week 9:  Mar. 9

Stephen Sondheim and “Concept Musicals”: Company (1970)

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 (1984) and Assassins (1991)

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

Listen: Sunday 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: The Phantom of the Opera (1988)

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

Listen: 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: 2004 film of Phantom (see A2L)

Week 12: Mar. 30


(After test) Broadway in the 21st Century, Part I: Urinetown: The Musical (2001)

Read: Text, pp. 672-75

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

Watch: Excerpts on A2L

Week 13: April 6

Broadway in the 21st Century, Part II: Hamilton (2015) and General Review

Read: TBA

April 11-27

FINAL EXAM (date and location TBA)

Other Course Information:


During class on Thursday, March 2, we will attend a live performance of Pippin, 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 Pippin 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 creative thinking and writing skills.

Read these guidelines before attending Pippin and again when you begin working on your written assignment. Contact me if you have further questions.

What should I discuss in my review? In addition to stating the basics—the name of the show, its creators, production information, location, etc.—your review should include your opinion and observations of Pippin. Make general comments about the show and its strengths and weaknesses, but don’t attempt to cover everything! Pick a couple of topics and significant “moments” in the show to discuss in greater detail. These are at least some of the elements of performance that you may choose to address: atmosphere, characters, acting, dialogue, solo and ensemble singing, musical styles, choreography, orchestra, humor, set design, lighting, costumes and make up, ticket value, etc. Try to incorporate some terminology that we have learned in class (genres, song types, song forms, etc.). You may refer to aspects of the plot, but do not provide a full plot synopsis.

Include your subjective reactions: Describe your emotional response to the show. Did you like it or dislike it and, most importantly, why did you react as you did? What about the performance affected you? Express your opinion but don’t forget to explain your reasons. Yes, you can use “I” in this piece of writing.

What were the notable features of the overall performance? Was it inspiring? Were you emotionally moved? Were some parts of the show better than others? Were there aspects that you found pleasing? Disappointing? Were there any surprises? How did the audience respond to the show? Would you go see another production of Pippin? Would you attend another production by McMaster Musical Theatre? Would you like to be involved in a future MMT production?

How should I format my review? Formatting guidelines: 500 words, double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12-point font, with no more than 1.25” margins. Include a title for your review. There is no need for a title page; on the top of the first page of your assignment, list the title of your review, your name and student number, and the date of submission. If you use any resources, please use proper citation format.

Is this a research paper? No, this is not a research paper. The object of this assignment is to record your observations, not those of others, and apply knowledge from our class. If you do decide to include material from another source, use proper citation format. You do not need to footnote material that has been mentioned by me in class.

I need help writing. What do I do? (1) Plan ahead so that you have time to develop your ideas and revise your work; (2) organize your writing into separate paragraphs so that your ideas are clear and convincing (your assignment should include at least three paragraphs); (3) and, as you proofread, read your writing aloud. Awkward sentence structures and other errors are often easier to catch when you hear them rather than read them on a screen.

Can you read a draft of my review? I am happy to review a draft copy of your report prior to the due date. Bring it in to one of my office hours. We will go through the report together, and I will give you suggestions. You may also like to seek help from Writing Support Services through the Student Success Centre. Make an appointment with a Writing Assistant and s/he will help you with any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to polishing your final draft.