Spamalot Musical Theatre Analysis

There is a line in the musical Spamalot where Sir Robin sings to King Arthur; “In any great adventure, if you don 't want to lose ... you won 't succeed on Broadway if you don 't have any Jews!" (PBS, Broadway Musicals). If you can look past the sweeping generalization, Sir Robin’s surprising lyric turns out to be very true about musicals. Historians have recognized that Jewish immigrant culture heavily influenced the content of musical theatre when it was popularized in America during the early twentieth century. But in turn, it was the sociopolitical and racial climate of the 20th century that inspired the creative and thematic content of Jewish productions as well. Because a majority of established writers, producers, and composers of the …show more content…
Commercialized music was, for the first time in American history, used to help listeners confront and digest pressing moral and racial issues.
Second generation Ashkenazi Jews (the children of Eastern European Jewish Immigrants) would unintentionally assimilate into American culture during the 1920s both in and through their influence on popular culture. Following the result of effective cultural translation and representation on the Broadway stage, 2nd generation Jews would make a name for themselves (as they had been doing for generations prior) not by discarding their heritage for a more appropriate one, but by adapting it into the culture which they found themselves in. How Jewishness was and continues to be represented in popular culture plays a large role both in defining and sustaining Jewish identity and also in likening attitudes toward Jews in American society. Additionally Jews, while in the process of discovering their post- immigration identity, would also challenge Americans to consider
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There was rarely a stage production, like The Jazz Singer, that specifically represented Jewish characters in the story. More frequently the characters that explored the stories themes were non-Jews who were representatively groping, like the Jews, for new roles. It became methodical for Jews to write for non-Jewish audiences; they would just disguise their hunger to assimilate in the narrative text. For example, writing for the voice of a half-black woman in Show Boat, music by Kern, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein (raised Episcopalian but the grandson of a German-Jewish impresario) (Leiter). In plays like Annie Get Your Gun, Oklahoma! and South Pacific, whose heroes would make a point to disguise or redefine their identities, were written as veiled meditations on race and assimilation. “They 're love stories, yes, but they 're really sagas”, writes Ms. Most in Making Americans: Jews and the Broadway Musical, about "outsiders who need to be converted, assimilated, or accepted into the group. “The King and I, by Rodgers and Hammerstein, has an exotic setting but nevertheless delivers a rewrite of the American immigrant melodrama that goes back to The Jazz Singer and beyond’ (Fulford). It focuses on a racially defined “old world father”, the king, who can 't assimilate into the new ways of democracy

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