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Understanding Chicago, West Side Story, Miss Saigon, And Oklahoma Musical’s Political Significance

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“Miss Saigon” is one of the world’s four most famous musical dramas, created by Claude-Michel Schoenberg and Alain Boublil. The story takes place during the Vietnam War and revolves around a romance between an American soldier and a Vietnam hostess, the heroine Kim, who sacrifices her life without hesitation for her child. As far as the strengths of this play are concerned, CRI online (2004) reported that in this turbulent, passionate and dangerous work, music represents the west, poetry represents the east and a significant number of Asian and western actors perform together, making the entire play very attractive. At the same time, it also has the real stage effect, in the last retreat from Saigon, there is even a helicopter above the audience, with a huge noise, and the conveying chaos and despair conveyed are directly to the audience. On the 11th of April 1991, Lea Salonga played once again as the main character in “Miss Saigon” at New York’s Broadway Theatre. Thanks to her outstanding performance, as well as other positive factors which made the play successful, Miss Saigon was nominated for Best Musical in occasion of the Annual Tony Awards. Best Musical. On 20 January 2001, the musical celebrated its end after 4092 performances. According to CRI online, in 2004 an Oriental actor was given the most important role: the engineer. Such a bold and significant choice corrects the deviation of eastern and western casting and offers a new understanding of the eastern world. Miss Saigon will start a new round of performances in London in 2014. The creation of new songs for the drama “Leave Me”, was be the first public appearance at the Shanghai Grand Theater by original singer Lea Salonga on 27 November, 2013(2013).

“Murder, greed, corruption, violence, use, adultery, and betrayal.” are the main themes New York Broadway musical “Chicago” revolves around (2007). It was created by author Maurine Dallas Watkins and was adapted into a musical in 1975. “Chicago” is based on real events occurred in the 1920s: it was a decadent era. The musical “Chicago” tells about two dancers who are imprisoned because of a murder case, but thanks to the help of a glib lawyer, they are found not guilty and manage to become famous through a clever use of media. “Chicago” was premiered on Broadway in 1975, when American society had just experienced one of its history’s most infamous political scandals, i.e. “Watergate”, and also an increase in its overall murder rates (Lv Ling 2007). In 1997, when “Chicago” was re-performed on Broadway, the whole United States was immersed in a case being talked about, that of OJ Simpson. As Ling (2007) pointed out, this case was very similar to the ones analysed in “Chicago”, which suggests that the American people were developing an interest in celebrity events, scandals and sensational news stories. “Chicago” offers an ironic interpretation of American politics in the 20th century, when people could use murder and scandals to achieve fame. However, as Watts (2008) observed, there has always been a strong universal connection between fame and scandals, which means that even though Chicago analyzes U.S. society, it also has a universal dimension. Even though politics and the relationship between crime and fame are among Chicago’s main themes which contributed to its success, music also played an important role in making this play innovative. Noteworthy is its famous jazz passage “All That Jazz” and its tango music which have become very important parts in this drama. In the dance, “Chicago” boldly uses variety of dance forms of jazz, tango and tap dance. It borrows Broadway dance types from different periods, including the flower show, juggling show and a variety of dance forms which blend together in such a way to reflect the contrasting emotions and opinions that characterized the story itself and the period in which it was set. Moreover, considering the harmonious result that was achieved by combining different dance types, it can be inferred that Chicago also provides an interpretation of the American culture and artistic style, which originated by a mix of different artistic trends and traditions. This musical dance is compiled by the Broadway hit “musical master” Bob Fox, who can be described as a Broadway musical dance synthesizer (2004).

“Musical theater and Dance,” marks the return of Mu Yu. It is divided into nine chapters and describes the relationship between development and changes of Western musical theater dance. In the third chapter of this book, the author introduces the musical “Oklahoma”. This is considered to be a milestone in the history of Broadway musical theater (2012). “Oklahoma” is based on Lynn Riggs’ drama “Green Grow The Lilacs”. Another adaptation of the musical was premiered in 1943. It was created by composer Richard Rodgers and playwright Oscar Hammerstein ?. The musical focuses on the wild life experiences and romance experienced by a group of pioneers in the state of Oklahoma, which describes modern southwestern U.S. men and women’s lives. More importantly, “Oklahoma” describes an American spirit, an honest, straightforward, humorous, imaginative, enthusiastic American spirit (Mu Yu 2012). According to Enorth (2012), today this drama is still regarded as a series of classic innovations: ballet, rural folk dance, tap dance and mime in a perfect blend of action. This musical does not use a famous star to perform, or gorgeous costumes. It uses simple peasants’ garments, more in line with its topics. In addition, the “Oklahoma” was made into a film in 1955, directed by director Fred Zinnemann, who gained two Academy Awards. The same as musical theater, the main actor Shirley Jones was starting in the film for the first time (2012). At the same time, according to New York Times (1993), Broadway history experts, one commented that: “It changed Broadway forever.” Another said: “It gave birth to the musical as we know it today.” From a political and historical perspective, Oklahoma addresses a number of important issues, even though its main goal is similar to other post-war musicals, which is to entertain people with pleasant music, stories and dances. In fact, as Riggs (2003) pointed out, Green Grow the Lilacs, which is the soul of Oklahoma, contains criticism to materialism and colonialism while trying to capture the beauty of Oklahoma’s rural life in the early 1900’s in a nostalgic way.

“West Side Story” is the eighth chapter in a book of fifteen. The book focuses on the early development of the American musical theater and describes different types of musicals. The musical design for “West Side Story” was created by world-renowned dancer Jerome Robbins between 1957 and 1961. Robbins cooperated with film director Wise and their work has been adapted into a film which has won a number of Academy Awards and has made “West Side Story” one of the world’s most famous musicals (2002). It is based on the then underworld gangs in the competition for the spheres of influence in a Manhattan. It is both upon a famous news adaptation. Manhattan’s West Side has been called “Hell in paradise”, so the “West Side Story” has been reviewed as a relatively violent play with references to “terrorism”(2002). Robbins enabled some unknown actors to perform, such as Larry Specter and Carol Lawrence. For “West Side Story”, some believe that it has reached a new level of drama in the history of musical theater. But some drama fans think that it describes gangster and reflects the dark side of America resulting from negative influences. Of course, unlike Shakespeare’s original play “Romeo and Juliet” which revolves around an exotic romance, West Side Story is full of reality and irony and addresses several social and political factors through its main characters’ love story. To a certain extent, in fact, West Side Story reflects the numerous hidden problems which affected post-war American society, such as racial discrimination, juvenile and delinquency, violence and cultural gap in the 1950s and 1960s. (2002)

The first book, written by William A. Everett and Paul R. Laird, describes the musical history. William A. Everett teaches music history at the university of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music (Everett, W. A. and Laird, P. R., 2002). Paul R. Laird is Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of Kansas, where he has taught since 1994 (2002). It adopted to introduce three time points, before 1940, 1940-1970 and 1970, respectively. Before the 1920s, musicals in Britain and the United States have different historical backgrounds. In the U.S., musicals are affected and shaped by jazz, kicking dance, comedic drama and comedy, while in the UK, musical operetta, drama and ballet remained the pivotal points of musicals, with Shakespeare, Moliere and Ibsen’s works being the main examples of British drama. According to William (2002 pp47), ‘Operettas not to mention the music and lyrics-enjoy a continued popularity that stems directly from their very nature of being ‘old-fashioned’. In the 19th century, with the accelerating pace of society, people do not like this kind of music and slow depression. The 20th century, after World War I, musicals highly developed in the United States. At that time the contents of the American musical theater emphasized romance, humor and entertainment, and performances tended to be more palatial, but not missing the main style. The typical representative of Cohen is called “father of the Broadway musical “(2002). According to Ann (2002), Broadway was an exciting place to be in the 1920s, as many new voices were heard in American musical theatre. One important voice was that of jazz. In 1924, the musical created by Gershwin, called “Lady, be good,” pioneered Broadway musical jazz style in the 1920s. The play also makes Fred Astaire and his sister Adler become Broadway’s premier dance star. These plays and events mark different stages of the American musical era and show how it has gradually matured over time.

‘American rock musical’ is the tenth chapter in a book of fifteen, created by Danhong Yu and Liyin Zhang. In the 1950s, white teenagers started losing interest in the black rhythm and blues, which they didn’t find exciting anymore, which gave rise to a more challenging music genre, called “rock”, which became mainstream. Meanwhile, traditional music survives in the U.S. and remains popular among older, conservative people who find rock too loud and disturbing. This results in disgruntled protests, because the traditional U.S. audience was unable to see rock as an acceptable kind of music, since they would rather listen to their old fashion music. Undoubtedly, rock music became an important part of Broadway, even though radio stations were still reluctant to play it (2002). Later rock musicals indicated the “promise” of dramatic music and reflected the fast pace of commercial development which characterized New York. The main feature of rock musicals in the creation of a rapid transformation beats, only in a song, you can continuously use 4/4, 3/4, 3/8, 6/4 beat (2002). Rock Band for the development of a variety of music and it brought a great impact, but the real rock musical is rare. Because only when the script is suitable or need rock, the rock musical to be successful. According to Scott( Scott Warfield 2002), ‘Today one seldom hears such terms as ‘jazz rock’ or ‘symphonic rock’, but on Broadway the term ‘rock musical’ has retained currency, either as a show’s formal subtitle or as an appellation casually used by critics and others to describe a particular work.’ Rock on behalf of the American culture, and this culture spread rapidly around the world from the United States.

As rock musicals became more popular at the expense of operetta melodies, it became evident that the United States was changing significantly. Operetta melodies, with their romanticism, were clearly appreciated by the audience, which allowed them to thrive for decades. However, when operettas were eventually excluded from the mainstream entertainment field, it shows the United States has been in a state of dramatic music era style transformation (2002). In contrast, although the rock musical needs of a particular scene, a particular script, but the speed of its spread and impact are enormous. Before Broadway audience hardly involved in the general rock concert, they will isolate themselves and rock. Now when the rock musical added sound effects later, into the musical theater listening rock party can participate simultaneously, which is obsessed with the musical audience, it can be considered a means to broaden the horizons (2002).

In conclusion, my thesis is about the 20th century, the Broadway musical and political. I pass through four classic musicals to describe the relationship between musical and politics. The different musical periods reflect the political background in different periods. Such as “Chicago” on the prevailing American society which had just gone through its history’s most notorious political scandal “Watergate” as the background creation (Lv Ling 2007). By showing how people can use their murder cases to achieve fame, Chicago analyses the rise of a distorted mentality, which emphasized fun and didn’t take death or murder too seriously. After I passed two books tells the history of musical theater, to interpret the shape of America’s early musical operetta and influence a lot of people’s rock musical. I used different types of reference, DVD, Internet, books, newspapers and reviews to prove my point. Being Chinese my native language and having ready many Chinese books on theater and musicals, I used several Chinese websites and books to support my claims. I used both books and newspaper articles which expressed different views, because I think that analyzing politics from different angles and perspectives would help me to provide a clearer interpretation of real American politics. I reflected on each book, review and article that I read, trying to form an objective opinion regardless of my personal thoughts.

The musicals that I analysed mark different phases in the history of theater, which has evolved over time. Broadway theater culture in the 1920s, began to flourish rapidly, theaters mushroomed generally erected almost overnight. The end of the 1920s, the heyday of Broadway Art Theater here in 1925, reached more than 80. But the 1930s economic crisis has a negative effect on its popularity and only a small part of it survives in the market (2013).

From the past to the present, the musical has been in the development and be propagated. China is also working for the development of the musical. Many musical with Chinese characteristics have been created out. Today’s “Broadway” actually has three meanings: the first layer of meaning is a geographical sense, means the near Times Square in New York City, less than 12 blocks from 40 theaters; second layer of meaning is in the Broadway musical areas to main types of theater; the third layer is the meaning of the whole industry chain Broadway (Union), this industry also includes areas outside of New York City (2013).

Therefore, the musical industry has changed and expanded worldwide, which means that musicals don’t have to be in English necessarily and each country can use their native language to create musicals which tell stories and may even address political themes just like Chicago, West Side Story, Miss Saigon and Oklahoma. This is the future development of the Broadway musical in China. Of course, China at the time of the creation of the musical will be based on political themes. Broadway musical which records significant events of the last century in the United States, it is also in a sense to help people look back at history. Of course, in order to pursue a musical effect on the expression would be too exaggerated, enlarged facts. Sometimes it is even misleading viewers. This is the problem with musical. The Broadway Musical and politics in the 20th Century includes a deception, murder, scandal, betrayal and a series of political issues, which reflects the historical context of the 20th century the United States.

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GradesFixer. (2018, December, 11) Understanding Chicago, West Side Story, Miss Saigon, And Oklahoma Musical’s Political Significance. Retrived November 19, 2019, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/understanding-chicago-west-side-story-miss-saigon-and-oklahoma-musicals-political-significance/
"Understanding Chicago, West Side Story, Miss Saigon, And Oklahoma Musical’s Political Significance." GradesFixer, 11 Dec. 2018, https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/understanding-chicago-west-side-story-miss-saigon-and-oklahoma-musicals-political-significance/. Accessed 19 November 2019.
GradesFixer. 2018. Understanding Chicago, West Side Story, Miss Saigon, And Oklahoma Musical’s Political Significance., viewed 19 November 2019, <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/understanding-chicago-west-side-story-miss-saigon-and-oklahoma-musicals-political-significance/>
GradesFixer. Understanding Chicago, West Side Story, Miss Saigon, And Oklahoma Musical’s Political Significance. [Internet]. December 2018. [Accessed November 19, 2019]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/understanding-chicago-west-side-story-miss-saigon-and-oklahoma-musicals-political-significance/
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