The basics for Musical Theatre research by Dr Dominic McHugh.
Researching Musical Theatre
The musical theatre repertoire has proved itself to be a fruitful area of research for numerous groups of people. On the practical side, producers and directors increasingly turn to once-popular but now-forgotten works from previous decades and find new ways of reviving them. Performers in need of new repertoire also look to the past for inspiration, and are now increasingly conscious of the performance practice traditions associated with specific styles and periods of musicals. Production staff such as choreographers and musical directors might also need to research the shows they’re involved with, especially older repertoire, in order to get a grasp on what the original creators were trying to do.
Excitingly, the last couple of decades in particular have also seen the gradual acceptance of musical theatre as a valid and stimulating focus of scholarship. Unusually, musicals gain the attention of lots of different types of scholars and academics as a result of the genre’s collaborative and multifaceted nature. Those with an interest in American studies can look at the Broadway repertoire as a reflection of society, for instance, while scholars of film and theatre studies might examine specific pieces from a technical point of view. As time goes on, so too does the scholarly field expand, and we now have academics looking at the repertoire from the point of view of music, dance, gender, sexuality, race and politics.
This section of the Overtures website is intended to be a starting point for researchers of all backgrounds who have an interest in musical theatre and want to know more. It will be built up over time to become a more comprehensive research tool, but initially it contains some basic tips on how to find out more about the genre, as well as highlighting important public archives which contain items of interest to musical theatre researchers. Please keep visiting the website as we continue to add content, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can be of further help. Dr Dominic McHugh - December 2010.