The American Musical: History and Development


215 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88962-828-9
DDC 782.1'4'0973





Reviewed by David E. Kemp

David E. Kemp, a former professor of drama at Queen’s University, is
the author of The Pleasures and Treasures of the United Kingdom.


Peter Riddle, a professor of music at Acadia University, has produced a
concise, insightful, and detailed exploration of the evolution and
development of musical theatre in North America. He traces its origins
back to 18th-century Europe and, in discussing its transformation in
19th-century America, draws parallels with other popular forms of
entertainment of the time (including minstrel shows and burlesque).

The first masterpiece of American music drama was Showboat, but before
its arrival Jerome Kern and P.G Wodehouse had popularized the form. In
the 1930s, which some think was the golden age of musical theatre, Cole
Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, and Lorenz Hart
brought a new sense of realism and satire to the genre. In 1943, the
innovative Oklahoma changed the form again and set the course for shows
like The Sound of Music, Guys and Dolls, and West Side Story.

Riddle’s meticulously researched, engagingly written book includes
sections on Stephen Sondheim and Andrew Lloyd Webber. There’s a
fascinating appendix on Broadway and film, as well as a glossary, a
bibliography, extensive notes, and an index.


Riddle, Peter H., “The American Musical: History and Development,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,