“Tol-de-ri-de-oh!” at every step

Symonds, Dominic (2012) “Tol-de-ri-de-oh!” at every step. In: Song, Stage and Screen VII: The Musical's Global Conquest, 2 - 5 July 2012, Groningen, Netherlands.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive


That way is a very nice way, the Scarecrow said. And sure enough, the road did look appealing, paved as it was with prospects. Far in the distance glittered the twinkling lights of Radio City. “All you need is pluck, luck and talent”, said the hobo. The girl’s face fell. “Oh gee”, she replied, “but I don’t have any pluck”. “And I don’t have any luck”, chipped in the Tin Man. The Lion fumbled and wiped his brow with his tail. “Guess I don’t have any talent”, he said. The vaudeville audience at the Bowery Theatre erupted with laughter.

If The Wizard of Oz can be seen as an allegory of nineteenth-century immigration to America, it throws an unlikely mix of characters together at the foot of a ‘Great White Way’. The colour coding of Broadway like this has racial overtones, and this reminds us that the mix of nationalities thrown into the melting pot of downtown Manhattan was also a mix of different cultural voices, often learning to use a new voice in the discourse of assimilation. This paper explores the performative expression of this developing voice in song, starting conceptually in the song language of the immigrant communities around the Bowery, and gradually moving aspirationally up the ladder of Broadway by way of Tin Pan Alley. I will look specifically at the way in which language play works in Al Jolson’s early song recordings, seeing him as one of Dorothy’s virtual companions exploring the new world of glorious Technicolor opportunity.

Keywords:Wizard of Oz, Immigration, Al Jolson, Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, New York, Performance Cartography
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W310 Musicianship/Performance studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
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ID Code:22451
Deposited On:09 Mar 2016 14:32

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