The pull of the show : an ethnographic study of musical theater in Central Texas




Moench, Michael Creighton

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Musical theater has been described as one of the most distinctive and enduring American contributions to world culture. Its history, its compositions, its prominent creators and stage works, and its complex of various performance practices have been extensively studied by scholars in many disciplines. Most of the analysis of it, however, has been concerned with the most famous, expensive and nationally recognized manifestations of it. This dissertation is intended to broaden our understanding of musical theater by providing an on-the-ground view of it as it is performed and consumed at the community and semi-professional level in a geographic and cultural context outside of the most heavily discussed and visible centers of its creation, i.e., Broadway and Hollywood. It is rooted in several years of experience as a performer and a fan of local productions in central Texas, examining the effect that participating in musical theater has on the lives of those who make it, the complicated meanings that certain shows have for those who both perform and receive them, and the varied approaches to the task of producing original shows in a scene where musical theater is a somewhat neglected part of the local artistic identity. Ultimately, I argue that musical theater is uniquely illustrative of the role music and the performing arts play in socialization, individual wellbeing and in the tangled relationship between communal, aesthetic and economic values.



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