“…that you might find in a musical”: reclaiming intertextual traditions in Urinetown

Rush, Adam (2016) “…that you might find in a musical”: reclaiming intertextual traditions in Urinetown. In: Song, Stage and Screen XI, 27-30th June 2016, City College of New York.

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


Despite the twenty-first century musical incessantly refashioning a diverse series of popular works, the phrase ‘musical theatre’ continues to inspire flamboyant, and often outdated, images of top hats, feather boas and jazz hands in the minds of its audience. Whilst such excessive images are ingrained cultural perceptions of the art form, rather than universal conventions or tropes, contemporary musical theatre continually recycles its presumed legacy and artistic heritage in metatheatricalising such perceptions in a host of highly intertextual productions. Considering the 2001 hit Urinetown: The Musical as a case study, this paper argues that such ‘metamusicals’ exploit many presumed conventions of musical theatre as an art form, whether flimsy love songs or stock characters, and, in doing so, re-energise a traditional model of musical theatre established in the 1940s and 50s. Rather than performing the back catalogue of a legendary pop group or adapting a celebrated film, such musicals knowingly reference a presumed rulebook that keeps the action in check and, above all things, a ‘musical’. Such productions therefore render musical theatre an art form that cannot succeed without a loving community, a doting heroine and an act one finale sung in counterpoint to drive forward the action. In particular, this paper utilises Hans Robert Jauss’ reception theory to present Urinetown as solely constructed from presumed conventions and traditions, and thus a need for conformity. Furthermore, it identifies the musical as a particularly apt case study through which to extend any consideration of intertextuality beyond specific texts and into a broader conceptual framework.

Keywords:Musical Theatre, Intertextuality, Reception Theory
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W400 Drama
W Creative Arts and Design > W300 Music
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
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ID Code:23218
Deposited On:31 May 2016 17:03

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