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The phenomenon that was began its long life in the summer of 1971 at Chicago’s Kingston Mines Theatre, in which its authors Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey were acting ensemble members. The show opened February 5, 1971, in a basement theatre where an audience of a hundred sat on the floor on newspaper. The set consisted of backdrops painted on brown paper. At that time the show had far less music, far less plot, and no central characters. But it did have infectious songs like "Greased Lightning," "Beauty School Dropout," "Those Magic Changes," and "We Go Together," and a solo for Patty Simcox that was later cut, "Yuck." New York producers Ken Waissman and Maxine Fox saw the show and recognized its surprising honesty and the appeal of its rough edges. Two of the Chicago cast members, Dinah Manoff (Marty) and James Canning (Doody) would play those roles on Broadway. Manoff would continue her role in the film.

background and analysis by Scott Miller from his book Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, and Musicals

"Gretchen am Spinnrade" – Franz Schubert, performed by Kathleen Ferrier
In high school, at the height of the World War II, Wright fell under the spell of Classical music, with the encouragement of his English teacher. She took Wright to a performance of Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony (B minor, Op. 58), by the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, and the teenage Wright was thrilled to realize it was inspired by the poetry of Lord Byron, one of his first poetic idols. Four years later, at Kenyon College, Wright became obsessed with German lieder and quickly became fluent in German. As with Tchaikovsky's programmatic symphony, the music was directly inspired by words; for Wright, the boundary between the two forms was fluid. When the great soprano Kathleen Ferrier died, the poet wrote an elegy for her that he included in his first book. Ferrier's recording of Schubert's "Gretchen am Spinnrade" was a favorite of Wright's, set to one of Goethe's lyrics for Faust. (Look for a Decca 2-disk set titled .) When Wright's first son was born in Vienna, the poet named him after Franz Schubert.


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Almost every American musical sets up the same challenge for the protagonist – assimilate or be removed. These central characters must make a choice to either change in certain ways in order to join the existing community or they must be removed from that community either by leaving or by dying. In , Harold Hill turns legit in order to join the River City community. In and, the main characters will not (or cannot) change so they must be removed by death. In , Tommy decides he must reject his previous life and change everything in order to stay in Brigadoon and become part of the community. In , Julie and Steve will not play by mainstream society’s rules, so they must be removed, and they leave the Cotton Blossom. In, Quixote/Quijana refuses to live by conventional rules of behavior, so he must die. In , Sandy ultimately assimilates into the greaser community, rejecting her parents’ world view.


Frozen Movie Review & Film Summary (2013) | Roger Ebert

Still, for those who like their musicals more old-school, does follow some of those rules. Jason follows the model of the musical comedy hero of the so-called "Golden Age" of musical theatre, though only to a degree. In those classic musicals, the central conflict is between the hero and an established community. He must either assimilate into that community or be removed from it. These central characters must make a choice to either change in certain ways in order to join the existing community or they must be removed from that community by leaving or by dying. In and , the main characters will not (or cannot) conform so they must be removed by death. In , Julie and Steve will not play by mainstream society’s rules, so they must be removed, and they leave the Cotton Blossom. In , Quixote/Quijana refuses to live by conventional rules of behavior, so he must die. In , Angel doesn’t conform to mainstream gender/sexual roles, so he must be removed too.

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On the other hand, in , Harold Hill turns legit in order to join the River City community. In , Tommy decides he must reject his previous life in order to stay in Brigadoon and become part of the community. In , Sandy ultimately assimilates into the greaser community, rejecting her parents’ world view of morality and sexuality. In , Claude confounds the convention; he conforms to the mainstream society and then is immediately sent to Vietnam to be gunned down and killed. He tries to assimilate and is still removed. The old rules on longer apply, ’s creators were telling us – Vietnam turned everything upside down. Likewise, in the old rules don’t work for Jason. He tries desperately to assimilate, to conform, to fit in, but he still must be "removed" from the community. The rules of old-school musical comedy no longer apply in this more complex world, these shows’ creators are telling us. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s rules and conventions are no longer relevant; they no longer reveal truths about the world in which we live. America has changed.