THR 250M: MUSICAL THEATRE
Dr. Karin Maresh Class Meetings: MWF, 9:15-10:20a
Office: 019 Burnett Olin 211
Phone: 724-503-1001, ext. 3342
Office Hours: 10:30am-12:00pm MWF (or by appointment)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (This is the best way to reach me outside of class.)
Riddle, Peter H. The American Musical: History & Development. Ed. by Gay Riddle.
Ontario, Canada: Mosaic Press, 2003.
COURSE DESCRIPTION: An exploration of the various styles of musical theatre, such
as musical comedy, operetta, and rock musicals, and their development. Special attention
will be paid to the American musical and the artists who have shaped it. This course
counts towards the theatre major and minor. It may also be used to fulfill the general
education requirement in the Arts for non-majors.
STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES:
Throughout this semester students will:
develop a broad understanding of the development of musical theatre in its
many styles and forms, as well as how its development has been shaped by
gain an understanding of musical theatre as a popular art form and the impact
of film, television, and economic conditions upon its popularity.
become familiar, through detailed study, with historically significant
American musicals and gain insight into how and why historians and
audiences have deemed them important.
further develop their reading, research, writing, communication, computer,
and critical thinking skills through course assignments and class discussion.
1. No make-up assignments, quizzes, or exams are allowed without documentation
of an illness or emergency.
2. Papers and assignments are to be turned in during class on the scheduled due date.
I will only accept hard copies (not via email). Late papers will be by one letter
grade for each day after the deadline. In other words an “A” paper that is turned
in one day late will automatically be given a “B.” Papers which are five or more
days late will be given an automatic zero. Extensions may be given in special
circumstances and if I am consulted prior to the due date.
3. If you have any condition, such as a physical or mental disability, that will make
it difficult for you to meet the requirements of the course, please notify me during
the first two weeks of class so we can make the appropriate accommodations.
1. Quizzes – Several pop quizzes will be given throughout the semester. They will
usually take the form of a 10-minute, in-class writing assignment.
2. Student Presentations – Each student will present research on one of the
productions or artists listed on the course calendar. Presentations should last
between 15 and 20 minutes (including time for questions and discussion) and
include a PowerPoint presentation. Presentations should be informative and
well organized. A printed copy of your PowerPoint presentation and a
bibliography of the sources you consulted should be turned in on the day you
present. Bibliographies should be in MLA format with a minimum of 4 sources
in addition to your textbook. See me if you ever need assistance in locating
resources. While there is no limit to the number of internet sources you can
include on your bibliography, students are strongly encouraged to obtain their
research from a variety of non-internet sources.
The idea behind these presentations is for students to become resident experts in
one particular area of musical theatre not covered in lecture or discussion and to
then teach their classmates about that topic. Grades will be determined by four
areas: research, organization, overall presentation, requirements.
3. Production Critique – Students will attend a performance of the touring
production of Cats at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh on Sept. 11 and write a 3-
5 page critique of it. Papers should address the following:
- What is the style of the production? How would you define it?
- Is the production effective? What is it trying to do and is it successful in
- Evaluate the book and the music and their connection to one another.
- You might also comment on the lighting, the set, particular performers,
4. Final Project – This assignment can take the form of a research paper, a case
study of a production, or a comparison/contrast paper of two or more musicals.
Requirements are as follows:
Research Paper – This 7-10 page paper is due during class on Dec. 3. It
may deal with any aspect of musical theatre whether we have directly
discussed it in class or not. However, you should avoid turning in a
simple summary or biographical account of an artist, company, or event. I
expect this paper to have a clearly stated argument (thesis) and to be a
thoughtful, thorough analysis/critical investigation of your topic. A
bibliography of your sources (8 minimum) in MLA format is a required
part of this assignment and should be handed in with your paper.
Case Study – Students who opt for this assignment will essentially become
experts on a particular production, its place in history, and the people who
created it. There are four basic sections required for the case study: the
analysis of the book and music; collection of and commentary on reviews
of the production; detailed information on the artists who created and
starred in the production; and your educated commentary on the technical
and visual aspects of the production (including choreography, lighting, set,
etc.). You will in effect be recreating the production for us!
Comparison Paper – Students will choose two or three musicals to
compare for this 7-10 page paper. For example, a student may compare
the original production of Oklahoma! in 1943 with its revival in the 1990s
(starring Hugh Jackman), or one might compare three of the big-budget
extravaganzas of the 1980s and 1990s, such as Phantom of the Opera,
Miss Saigon, and Beauty and the Beast. While your opinion of these
productions is an important part of this assignment, it must be an educated
opinion. Let your research of these productions be your guide in
determining what makes these productions similar or dissimilar. A
bibliography with a minimum of 6 sources in MLA format is a required
part of this assignment and should be turned in with your paper.
A one-paragraph proposal of your project will be due on Sept. 17 and during the final full
week of class you will present your project to your classmates.
All written assignments for this class MUST be typed (unless otherwise stated),
double-spaced, formatted in Times New Roman 12 pt. font, and PROOFREAD.
I will take points off for sloppy grammar.
**Grades for these assignments will be based primarily upon your level of work in four
main areas: research, organization, preparation, and creativity (independent thinking).
Work that meets the minimum requirements will earn a “C.” A “B” assignment will
show some depth of thought and good use of materials, while an “A” assignment will
show significant depth of thought and excellent use of materials.
BLACKBOARD: I will use Blackboard periodically this semester to post readings,
assignments, and links to relevant and useful web sites, but you will always be
forewarned of these postings. If you happen to miss class, be sure to check the
Blackboard site in the event I issue an assignment in your absence. We will also be
using the Blackboard discussion board to communicate with one another outside of
class. Each student is expected to post a new message or respond to a fellow
classmate’s message at least one a week. My hope is that the course material and our
in-class discussions of it will spark further conversation and debate outside of the
classroom. Use the discussion board to this end.
ATTENDANCE AND PARTICIPATION: You are expected to attend all classes. Two
unexcused absences will be granted to you, but five points will be subtracted from your
final grade for each additional unexcused absence. For the record, an excused absence
requires written documentation (a doctor’s note, a police report, a note from another
teacher, etc.). Attendance is taken at the start of class and tardiness will be noted and can
affect your grade.
Participation in this class means active involvement in relevant class discussion and
group activities. The best piece of advice I can give you is this: In order to critically
engage with the material and your classmates, you should take notes, make observations
and ask questions while reading through course material. Write down all questions that
are raised as you read and bring them to class for discussion. This will make the class
more interesting for you as well as for the other students in the class. These notes will
also be enormously helpful as you study for your midterm and final exams.
Midterm Exam 80 pts.
Final Exam 100 pts.
Presentation 65 pts.
Production Critique 65 pts.
Final Project 100 pts.
Quizzes/Assignments 60 pts.
Attendance/Participation 30 pts.
*The total number of available points for the semester may change depending on the
amount of daily work that is assigned.
A= 93-100 (A), 90-92 (A-)
B= 88-89 (B+), 83-87 (B), 80-82 (B-)
C= 78-79 (C+), 73-77 (C), 70-72 (C-)
D= 68-69 (D+), 63-67 (D), 60-62 (D-)
F= 59 and below
ACADEMIC RESPONSIBILITY: Academic honesty and integrity is expected of all
students. I treat cheating of any sort, electronic or human, very seriously. The written
work you hand in or present in class must be your own, no mater how small the
assignment, and the sources informing both your ideas and prose should be properly
acknowledged. I will avail myself of W&J resources to detect digital plagiarism. If a
student is found guilty of plagiarism, he or she will receive a failing grade in the course.
If you are confused in any way about this, please see me. Information about W&J
regulations concerning plagiarism and academic misconduct can be found in the College
W 25 Aug. Introduction to course
F 27 Aug. Musical Theatre – Origins
Reading Due: Introduction
M 30 Aug. Antecedents of the American Musical
Reading Due: Chapters Two and Three
View American Musical Theatre Pt. 1
W 1 Sept. NO CLASSES – FOUNDERS DAY
F 3 Sept. The Early Years of the American Musical
Focus: The Black Crook
Reading Due: Chapter One
M 6 Sept. NO CLASSES – LABOR DAY
W 8 Sept. Influences from Abroad
Reading Due: Chapter Four
F 10 Sept. Gilbert & Sullivan
Student Presentation #1: Harrigan and Hart
M 13 Sept. Discuss Cats
W 15 Sept. The American Musical in the Early-20th Century
Reading Due: Chapters Five, Six, and Seven
View American Musical Theatre Pts. 2 & 3
F 17 Sept. The American Musical in the Early-20th Century
Student Presentation #2: George M. Cohan
M 20 Sept. Something New
Reading Due: Chapter Eight
Begin viewing Showboat
Production Critique DUE
W 22 Sept. Continue discussion and viewing of Showboat
F 24 Sept. Depression-Era Musical Theatre
Reading Due: Chapters Nine, Ten, and Eleven
M 27 Sept. Depression-Era Musical Theatre
Student Presentation #3 – The Cradle Will Rock
W 29 Sept. Enter Rodgers & Hammerstein
Reading Due: Chapters Twelve, Thirteen, and Fourteen
F 1 Oct. View and Discuss Oklahoma!
M 4 Oct. View and Discuss Oklahoma!
W 6 Oct. The Golden Age of the American Musical
Reading Due: Chapters Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, and Eighteen
View American Musical Theatre Pt. 4
F 8 Oct. NO CLASSES – FALL BREAK
M 11 Oct. The Golden Age of the American Musical
Focus: West Side Story
Reading Due: Chapter Nineteen
Student Presentation #4 – Jerome Robbins
W 13 Oct. View and Discuss West Side Story
F 15 Oct. View and Discuss West Side Story
M 18 Oct. The Golden Age of the American Musical
Student Presentation #5: Cole Porter
W 20 Oct. MIDTERM EXAM
F 22 Oct. Musical Theatre in the ‘60s and ‘70s
Focus: Cabaret and Hair!
View American Musical Theatre in the 1970s
M 25 Oct. African-American and Jewish Musicals
Student Presentation #6 – The Wiz
W 27 Oct. Sondheim and the Concept Musical
Reading Due: Chapters Twenty-One – Twenty-Four
F 29 Oct. Sondheim and the Concept Musical
M 1 Nov. Begin viewing Into the Woods
W 3 Nov. Continue viewing Into the Woods
F 5 Nov. Finish viewing and discuss Into the Woods
M 8 Nov. British and Foreign Musicals
Focus: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Reading Due: Chapter
W 10 Nov. 25The Contemporary Musical: Nostalgia & Revivals
Student Presentation #7 – Chicago
F 12 Nov. Spectacle vs. Content
M 15 Nov. New Voices and New Styles
Student Presentation #8 – Disney Musicals
W 17 Nov. The Business of Musical Theatre
F 19 Nov. The Business of Musical Theatre
Student Presentation #9 – Cameron Mackintosh
M 22 Nov. The Future of Musical Theatre
W 24 Nov. NO CLASSES – THANKSGIVING BREAK
F 26 Nov. NO CLASSES – THANKSGIVING BREAK
M 29 Nov. Presentation of Final Projects
W 1 Dec. Presentation of Final Projects
F 3 Dec. Summary and Review for Final Exam
Final Projects DUE
Final Exam – Date and Time TBA