The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity

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ISBN-13: 978-0691118642
ISBN-10: 0691118647
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Hardcover, November 14, 2004
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Editorial Reviews

Review


Winner of the 2004-2005 George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism



Finalist for the 2004 George Freedley Memorial Award, The Theatre Library Association


"Knapp does an excellent job of tracing the roots of the musical, avoiding much of the received wisdom. . . . When Knapp focuses on the structure of musicals, and how it works to move us and persuade us, he is very effective. . . . "--Michael Friedman, London Review of Books



"The breadth of Knapp's reading is astonishing, and his discussion of the historical background of the musical is admirable. . . . Knapp writes extremely well, and not only his thoughts but also his suggestions for further study are well organized. So, too, is his consideration of the growth of the American union in the context of Oklahoma!, Guys and Dolls, and The Music Man."--Andrew Lamb, BBC Music Magazine



"Knapp's well-researched and comprehensive presentation transcends the purely musical point of view. In his exploration of the underlying sociocultural fabric of a number of works, he puts the American musical theater on a par with its contemporary arts of jazz and film."--Ken McCoy, History



"This is an intelligent, extremely well-written study which . . . is as valuable for its demonstration of how musicals may be read as for its own insightful readings."--Charles Hamm, Kurt Weil Newsletter



"This close musical analysis, combined with broad cultural comments about the power of the American musical, is highly original and much needed, especially as a teaching textbook."--Alisa Clapp-Itnyre, The Historian



"This is an intelligent, extremely well-written study which . . . is as valuable for its demonstration of how musicals may be read as for its own insightful readings."--Charles Hamm, Kurt Weill Newsletter



"Raymond Knapp shows that while some musicals have served to reinforce the way people feel about America, many others have helped to challenge aspects of our culture that needed to be changed."--Stephen Peithman, Stage Directions



"[Knapp] offers new insights on each work and writes in an accessible, engaging style. . . . Knapp is . . . most effective . . . at negotiating the tensions . . . between work and context, and between part and whole."--Walter Frisch, Current Musicology



"Raymond Knapp has an extraordinarily perceptive ear. As he surveys the history of the American musical, he hears things--important things, revelatory things--that earlier writers who have attempted, systematically, to traverse this vast territory have missed. Hardly a page goes by without a 'Gee, I didn't realize that' moment. . . . One of the loveliest features of these books is the generosity of the musical examples. Coordinated with the text are hundreds of musical excerpts which Princeton University Press has made available to readers through easy downloading from the Internet. . . . It is clear that there is much to praise about Raymond Knapp's work, beginning with his vast knowledge of the subject and his infectious enthusiasm for it."--Edward Green, Popular Music and Society

From the Inside Flap

"A stunningly original, breakthrough book whose contribution to musical scholarship will be substantial and exceptionally valuable. This book moves in directions I had never considered, forcing me to think about musicals in a truly fresh way. The author analyzes the music of this repertory in an ingenious (and highly readable) fashion that consistently illuminates connections to historical and critical ideas. It is thus the first book that succeeds in presenting the music of musical theater as a full-fledged cultural and artistic phenomenon, wholly justifying scholarly scrutiny. A brilliant analysis."--Rose Rosengard Subotnik, Brown University

"The most readable, focused, sustained and contextualized study of the genre I've encountered. The author's breadth, experience and reliability as a scholar and teacher shine through on every page."--Stephen Banfield, University of Bristol, UK

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691118647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691118642
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,766,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Raymond Knapp's talent is teasing out the underlying socio-political significance of Broadway musicals. His goal with this book was not to provide a history of musicals or a chronology of what happened when and by whom, but rather to explore the ways musicals respond to and reflect cultural issues and tensions. The book provides many thoughtful insights which emerged from solid research and a sound interpretive stance.

One of my favorite aspects of this book is the companion website, which provides audio and some visual examples that greatly enrich the text.

I highly recommend this book as an alternative to so many of the musical theater chronologies out there.
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By Cookybooks on May 3, 2015
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5 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Natmama on December 2, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I wanted to like this book. Really, I did. I'm a UCLA alum (he's a UCLA prof); I love musical theatre; and [in all modesty], I'm pretty knowledgeable about it, too. Knapp knows a lot - unfortunately, he's of the view that the more impenetrable the prose, the more important the book. Both this and its companion volume must be important; they are written in the sort of self-important academic-speak that gives the social sciences a bad name. I like that music clips are available to illustrate his points; I just wish his points were expressed more elegantly and accessibly.
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3 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Dame de Drama on December 27, 2008
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Raymond Knapp spends more time peddling his political views than writing about musical theatre. He also fills the book with personal opinions. If there is little information on a playwright and why they wrote the play there would be some understanding as to why Knapp would do this. But Knapp writes his own opinions even though they stand in direct contradiction to the playwrights' own words. For political commentary buy this book, for American musical theatre history look elsewhere.
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