By Elizabeth L. Wollman
In challenging instances, musical theater historian Elizabeth L. Wollman takes readers on a desirable travel of the grownup musical scene of recent York City's rampant Nineteen Seventies. After the luck of Hair in 1968, the in your price range grownup musical proliferated. the main well-known used to be the long-running "Oh! Calcutta!", yet numerous extra made it to degree: "Stag Movie," "Let My humans Come," "The Faggot," and others. dependent like outdated revues, with thematically interconnected songs and skits, they acquired little recognize from critics, who both condemned them for going too a long way towards hard-core pornography, or for now not being erotic adequate. the general public proposal another way, flooding the theaters and pouring money into box-office tills. Wollman indicates that grownup musicals represented way over a foolish fad from a foolish decade: they mirrored experimentation with newfound sexual freedom, let alone the increase of the women's and homosexual liberation events. She examines the influence of the Stonewall riots on homosexual musicals; how feminism used to be mirrored on level; and the way "porno stylish" and hard-core porn encouraged performances. Even the main middlebrow efforts introduced into concentration the talk among artwork and obscenity, and angst over ny City's socioeconomic prestige. via the early Nineteen Eighties, because the city's economic system recovered and society grew conservative, those musicals disappeared-an indicator of a bigger transformation.Wollman reasserts the importance of this humble (if not often modest) artwork shape. grownup musicals, she exhibits, represented elements of yankee tradition at their messiest and such a lot confused-and hence at their such a lot sincere.
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Extra resources for Hard Times: The Adult Musical in 1970s New York City
As Allen reminds us in Horrible Prettiness, since at least the late nineteenth century, periods of economic hardship in this country tend to favor entertainment forms that serve lower social and economic groups better than they do comparatively high-class forms. Vaudeville, Allen points out, was aimed at lower-class audiences until the Panic of 1893, after which it became solidly associSimilarly the economic downturn of 1907 impelled ated with the middle class. the burgeoning film industry to step up its efforts to build middle-class audiences.
Calcutta! does seem enormously conservative, especially in retrospect. The sketches, all of which were written by white men and performed by an all-white cast, depict nothing but white, heterosexual, middle-class concerns. The burgeoning women’s movement clearly hadn’t made much of an impact on the writers or the members of the creative team—or, as noted earlier, on Tynan’s marketing of Calcutta! as a show that an (active, heterosexual) man might escort a (passive, heterosexual) woman to watch, as some sort of arcane courting aid.
CALCUTTA! Oh! Calcutta! was the brainchild of the esteemed British critic and dramaturge Kenneth Tynan. An ardent free-speech advocate, Tynan was a particularly prominent force in the establishment of the Theatre Act of 1968, which abolished theater censorship in England. 64 Yet once the Theatre Act of 1968 was passed, Tynan began to have second thoughts and eventually decided to open his revue in New York first and in London thereafter. “I’ve been so heavily involved in the censorship fight that my name on a show right now would attract the killers, the bluenoses, who under the new law, you know, can still make trouble,” he explained to Lewis Funke in the New York Times.