Victorians on Broadway: Literature, Adaptation, and the Modern American Musical

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University of Virginia Press, 2020 - English literature - 338 pages
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Broadway productions of musicals such as The King and I, Oliver!, Sweeney Todd, and Jekyll and Hyde became huge theatrical hits. Remarkably, all were based on one-hundred-year-old British novels or memoirs. What could possibly explain their enormous success?

Victorians on Broadway is a wide-ranging interdisciplinary study of live stage musicals from the mid- to late twentieth century adapted from British literature written between 1837 and 1886. Investigating musical dramatizations of works by Charles Dickens, Charlotte Brontė, Christina Rossetti, Robert Louis Stevenson, and others, Sharon Aronofsky Weltman reveals what these musicals teach us about the Victorian books from which they derive and considers their enduring popularity and impact on our modern culture.

Providing a front row seat to the hits (as well as the flops), Weltman situates these adaptations within the history of musical theater: the Golden Age of Broadway, the concept musicals of the 1970s and 1980s, and the era of pop mega-musicals, revealing Broadway's debt to melodrama. With an expertise in Victorian literature, Weltman draws on reviews, critical analyses, and interviews with such luminaries as Stephen Sondheim, Polly Pen, Frank Wildhorn, and Rowan Atkinson to understand this popular trend in American theater. Exploring themes of race, religion, gender, and class, Weltman focuses attention on how these theatrical adaptations fit into aesthetic and intellectual movements while demonstrating the complexity of their enduring legacy.

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About the author (2020)

Sharon Aronofsky Weltman, William E. Davis Alumni Professor of English at Louisiana State University, is author of Performing the Victorian: John Ruskin and Identity in Theater, Science, and Education, among other works.

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