Oklahoma!, “Lousy Publicity,” and the Politics of Formal Integration in the American Musical Theater

Title:
Oklahoma!, “Lousy Publicity,” and the Politics of Formal Integration in the American Musical Theater
Authors:
O'Leary, James
Abstract:
The achievements of Rodger and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! (1943) are well known: since the musical opened, critics have proclaimed it a new version of the genre, distinguished by its "integrated" form, in which all aspects of the production-score, script, costume, set, and choreography-are interrelated and inseparable. Although today many scholars acknowledge that Oklahoma! was not the first musical to implement the concept of integration, the musical is often considered revolutionary. Building on the work of Tim Carter, I use the correspondence and press materials in the Theatre Guild Collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University to situate the idea of integration into two intimately related discourses: contemporary notions of aesthetic prestige and World War II-era politics. By comparing the advertising of Oklahoma! to the Guild's publicity for its previous musical productions (especially Porgy and Bess, which was labeled integrated in 1935), I demonstrate that press releases from the show's creative team strategically deployed rhetoric and vocabulary that variously depicted the show as both highbrow and lowbrow, while distancing it from middlebrow entertainment. I then describe how the aesthetic register implied by this tiered rhetoric carried political overtones, connotations that are lost to us today because the word "integration" has become reified as a purely formal concept.
Citation:
O'Leary, James. Winter 2014. "Oklahoma!, 'Lousy Publicity,' and the Politics of Formal Integration in the American Musical Theater. The Journal of Musicology 31(1): 139-182.
Publisher:
University of California Press
DATE ISSUED:
2014-01
Department:
Musicology
Type:
Article
PUBLISHED VERSION:
10.1525/jm.2014.31.1.139
Additional Links:
http://jm.ucpress.edu/cgi/doi/10.1525/jm.2014.31.1.139
PERMANENT LINK:
http://hdl.handle.net/11282/594779

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.contributor.authorO'Leary, Jamesen
dc.date.accessioned2016-01-25T13:30:38Zen
dc.date.available2016-01-25T13:30:38Zen
dc.date.issued2014-01en
dc.identifier.citationO'Leary, James. Winter 2014. "Oklahoma!, 'Lousy Publicity,' and the Politics of Formal Integration in the American Musical Theater. The Journal of Musicology 31(1): 139-182.en
dc.identifier.issn0277-9269en
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/11282/594779en
dc.description.abstractThe achievements of Rodger and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! (1943) are well known: since the musical opened, critics have proclaimed it a new version of the genre, distinguished by its "integrated" form, in which all aspects of the production-score, script, costume, set, and choreography-are interrelated and inseparable. Although today many scholars acknowledge that Oklahoma! was not the first musical to implement the concept of integration, the musical is often considered revolutionary. Building on the work of Tim Carter, I use the correspondence and press materials in the Theatre Guild Collection of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University to situate the idea of integration into two intimately related discourses: contemporary notions of aesthetic prestige and World War II-era politics. By comparing the advertising of Oklahoma! to the Guild's publicity for its previous musical productions (especially Porgy and Bess, which was labeled integrated in 1935), I demonstrate that press releases from the show's creative team strategically deployed rhetoric and vocabulary that variously depicted the show as both highbrow and lowbrow, while distancing it from middlebrow entertainment. I then describe how the aesthetic register implied by this tiered rhetoric carried political overtones, connotations that are lost to us today because the word "integration" has become reified as a purely formal concept.en
dc.language.isoen_USen
dc.publisherUniversity of California Pressen
dc.identifier.doi10.1525/jm.2014.31.1.139en
dc.relation.urlhttp://jm.ucpress.edu/cgi/doi/10.1525/jm.2014.31.1.139en
dc.subject.departmentMusicologyen_US
dc.titleOklahoma!, “Lousy Publicity,” and the Politics of Formal Integration in the American Musical Theateren_US
dc.typeArticleen
dc.identifier.journalThe Journal of Musicologyen
dc.subject.keywordHammerstein, Oscar, IIen_US
dc.subject.keywordIntegrationen_US
dc.subject.keywordMiddlebrowen_US
dc.subject.keywordOklahoma!en_US
dc.subject.keywordRodgers, Richarden_US
dc.identifier.volume31en_US
dc.identifier.issue1en_US
dc.identifier.startpage139en_US
dc.rightsArchived with thanks to The Journal of Musicology.en
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