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Theatre & Dance Archives | OUPblog

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The 10 best shows for music directors, in no particular order, for several reasons

Listing the ten best shows for a music director to work on is as subjective as choosing the ten greatest composers, or painters, or novelists, so it’s worthwhile to stipulate some qualities the winners must have, subjectively speaking. Yet these qualities can only reveal themselves by working through the reasoning of what makes a show a music director’s favorite.

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We’ll have Manhattan: 10 hits from Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart

With the catchy melodies of Richard Rodgers’ music, and the cheeky wit of Lorenz Hart’s lyrics, the early collaborative songs of Rodgers-and-Hart are characteristic of 1920s jazz at its finest — and some of the best examples of early classics from the Great American Songbook. Most of the shows from this period have sunk into obscurity, but the songs have stood the test of time. You won’t be able to resist tapping your feet along to these ten great hits!

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Ballet in black and white: the ‘piano reduction’

For ballet rehearsals in theatres around the world the piano has long been the musical instrument of choice. To engage orchestras to do the detailed, volatile work required in routine rehearsals would be impractical and prohibitively costly, and only at the dress rehearsal will dancers and the orchestra finally come together. The music at all earlier rehearsals is provided through a specially written version of the score called a ‘piano reduction’.

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The Lerner Letters: Part 3 – the unknown collaborators

This final post on my collection of the lyricist Alan Jay Lerner focuses on another exciting series of letters: correspondence with famous composers with whom Lerner hoped to work, but never completed a musical. Some of these letters reveal how certain figures – such as Hoagy Carmichael – wrote to Lerner but were politely declined.

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Annie and girl culture

The musical version of little orphan Annie – as distinct from her original, cartoon incarnation – was born a fully formed ten-year-old in 1977, and she quickly became an icon of girlhood.

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Five tips for music directors during the holiday season

Christmas is a time for music, and music directors’ calendars typically fill up in December. In academic circles, there are Christmas pageants, holiday musicals, end-of-term recitals, and Christmas music concerts. On the professional scene, performers take advantage of both the celebratory and melancholy sides of the season to present concerts, charity events, and special performances (full-length or one-off).

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The Lerner Letters: Part 2 – Lerner and Loewe

Amongst the many famous people Lerner corresponded with, Frederick Loewe is naturally the most important in terms of musical collaborators. Yet sadly, correspondence between Lerner and Loewe is quite rare. I found only a few letters between them during the course of the research for the book, and was particularly disappointed by the lack of letters from their early years.

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The Lerner Letters: Part 1 – The Stars

One of the joys of editing the correspondence of Alan Jay Lerner has been discovering his letters to and from the major stars with whom he worked. As the lyricist, librettist, and screenwriter of Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, An American in Paris, My Fair Lady, Gigi, Camelot, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and many more, he worked with the finest performers of his time.

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Remembering the original On the Town during World War II

A stunning new production of On the Town, directed by John Rando, opened in October at the Lyric Theatre on Broadway. It transports a viewer back to the golden age of American musical theater, when highly skilled orchestras delivered a robust sound while extended segments of dance were central to telling the story.

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In defence of horror

A human eyeball shoots out of its socket, and rolls into a gutter. A child returns from the dead and tears the beating heart from his tormentor’s chest. A young man has horrifying visions of his mother’s decomposing corpse. A baby is ripped from its living mother’s womb. A mother tears her son to pieces, and parades around with his head on a stick.

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On the Town, flashpoint for racial distress

When the first production of On the Town in 1944 featured the Japanese American ballerina Sono Osato as its star, as part of a cast that also included whites and blacks, it aimed for a realistic depiction of the diversity among US citizens during World War II.

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On the Town and the long march for civil rights in performance

As we celebrate the golden anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a significant aspect of the struggle for racial equality often gets ignored: racial activism in performance. Actors, singers, and dancers mobilized over the decades, pushing back against racial restrictions that shifted over time, and On the Town of 1944 marked an auspicious but little-recognized moment in that history.

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