Following the era of the Golden-Age musical, the theater aimed to become more innovative, breaking away from what many considered the “old-fashioned” musicals of their parents’ generation. The term “show tunes” began to be used in reference to musical songs and British shows began appearing on Broadway. British team Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s collaboration brought about rock operas. Their Evita contained universal subjects rather than standard American themes.
Many musicals focused more on choreography than they had in the past. Lloyd Webber’s Cats contains ample dance scenes and is considered to be a megamusical for its ambitious scores, constant singing, and emphasis on staging.
Stephen Sondheim is another name from this era. He began his career learning from Oscar Hammerstein, who taught him to be a musical playwright. Early on in his career he acted as lyricist for West Side Story, Gypsy, and Do I Hear a Waltz? His eleven-year collaboration with producer and director Hal Prince resulted in hits like Company, Follies, and Sweeney Todd. Company provides an excellent example of a work from this era that broke with all expectations, having no plot but rather using an over-arching theme to connect each act.
Do you have a favorite musical from this era? Join me next time as we delve into one of my favorites: Hair.