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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

The Broadway Musical: An American Cultural Lens

Instructor(s): Charles M. Joseph, Professor of Music

Have you ever seen musical theater professionally staged on Broadway, or participated in a high-school show? Was the production merely entertaining; or did it also encourage you to think about the issues raised through the show’s coordinated efforts of writing, singing, acting and dancing? Students in this seminar will consider the diverse artistic ingredients of a musical that must blend in achieving a collaborative balance. We will study the creative process: how a show evolves, why adjustments occur, and how artists make decisions; but we will also look beyond, by exploring recurring sociological perspectives evident throughout 20th-century American Musical Theater history. The Broadway Musical provides a looking glass into our nation’s shifting cultural attitudes, challenging societal issues, and individual and collective struggles and triumphs. The musicals we will examine include South Pacific (gender, race and prejudice); West Side Story (urban violence); Hair (confronting established conventions); and Sweeney Todd (ethical and moral dilemmas). Students’ final projects will focus on a specific musical and the questions it raises.

Course Offered