enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館



Musical theatre developed on Broadway in the early 20th century. Its roots lie in European operettas as well as in American minstrel shows, vaudeville, and revue. During the 1920s, there was a boom in musical comedies, which featured jaunty singing and dancing. Following the Great Depression and America’s entry into the Second World War, musical plays emerged, beginning with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s “Oklahoma!” These musical plays emphasised scripted narratives and aimed for more serious dramas, which helped bring into the mainstream the modern-day musical with its blend of spoken word, music, and dance. Reflecting the changing social landscape of America, the music and forms of the musical were revolutionised. For example, a number of rock musicals were created in the latter half of the 1960s, while the 1970s saw the emergence of concept musicals which focused more on concept than on narrative, the leading example of which was Stephen Sondheim’s “Company”. During the 1980s, a number of ‘mega-musicals’, such as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera”, emerged in London’s West End; these were blockbuster musicals that consisted almost entirely of musical numbers and featured extravagant, large-scale production values. In the next decade, Disney started showing an interest in mega-musicals, and it achieved success with a musical version of its animated feature film “The Lion King”. A number of other musical adaptations of Disney films followed, and these productions have helped popularise and globalise musical theatre. The 2000s saw a rise of the ‘jukebox musical’, based on the songs of popular music acts. Musical theatre continues to develop today, driven by its two elements of entertainment and art.