"The American musical was born long before European operetta crossed the Atlantic. In The American Musical Stage Before 1800. Julian Mates tells us that "America's early theatres were essentially lyric theatres In America, no earlier dramatic forms existed, and the musical stage became our only tradition (musicals101.com)". During America's first hundred years, the favorite musical entertainments during the time were variety musical shows. In the 1860's and 70's, Pantomime was a the main Broadway staple. In these types of shows, clown characters were taken and placed in plots based on Mother Goose stories. Also seen was the insertion of popular songs whenever the audience needed a breather. The Pantomime form disappeared completely from American stages by 1880.
From 1879 until 1884 the variety team of Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart produced and performed in musical farces set on the streets of New York. The main focus of the shows was on lower class immigrant life, depicting real-life problems as interracial tensions, political corruption and gang violence. Harrigan and Hart are best known as the creators of musical comedy. They made these problems into harmless humor. "Harrigan and Hart's shows had scores in the style of contemporary popular music with simple melodies and lyrics, lots of sentiment and a wry sense of street-smart humor (musicals 101.com).
In 1878, Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore premiered in the United States. Their arrival sparked an overwhelming response from the people, the craze that was, was known as "Pinafore-Mania". The songs that were sung in the show became the language of the people, and became part of everyday conversation. Even though it seemed all was good, some were not pleased and happy with the two... [continues]
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