Encuc ia of UUorld Drama

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Encuc ia of UUorld Drama
(TlcGraw-Hi
Encuc
ia of UUorld Drama
VOLUME
L-R
Musical Comedy
this dramatic form. Munoz Seca is best
known for comic vignettes of human idiosyncrasies characterized by extreme vulgarity,
puns, and convoluted plots. His plays include
The Revenge of Don Mendo (La venganza de
don Mendo, 1918), a parody in verse with
tragic overtones, one of his better works; The
Prince Juanon (El principe Juanon, 1916); The
Beard of Carillo (La barba de Carillo, 1918);
and You Are Ortiz! (Usted es Ortiz!, 1927).
MUNRO, C. K., pseudonym of Charles Waiden Kirkpatrick MacMullan (1889).
British dramatist born in Ireland. His plays
show the influence of Shaw and that of expressionism. He has been most successful
with, and is best known for, his comedies. His
best plays, At Mrs. Beam's (1923) and Coronation Time at Mrs. Beam's (1938), are concerned with life in a London roominghouse.
See EXPRESSIONISM; SHAW, GEORGE BERNARD.
Among his other works are The Wanderers
(1915); The Rumour (1922), significant because of its early use of expressionistic techniques in the English theatre; Storm (1924);
Progress (1924); The Mountain (1926); Cocks
and Hens (1927); Mr. Eno, His Birth, Death,
and Life (1930); Bletheroe (1931); Bluestone
Quarry (1931); The True Woman (1932); Veronica (1928, 1933); and Ding and Co. (1934).
MUSICAL COMEDY. Musical comedy, perps-frhe-Biost popular-form of theatrical entertainment in the United States, might trace
its beginnings to the combination of music,
dance, and drama that has provided the
popular entertainment of most of the world's
primitive cultures. Its more sophisticated
ancestors have been the ancient Greek comedies, with their musical accompaniments; the
medieval mystery and miracle plays; the
spectacular court masques of Tudor and
Jacobean England; the ballad operas of the
eighteenth century (initiated by John Gay's
highly successful The Beggar's Opera of
1728); and, more recently, the burlesque, operetta, vaudeville, and variety shows of the
late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
See BURLESQUE; MASQUE; MIRACLE PLAY; MYSTERY PLAY; OPERETTA.
Musical comedy began evolving to its present form in England and the United States in
the mid-1800s, with various local influences
conspiring to create distinctly native forms in
each of the two countries. The English stage,
for instance, was long subject to a series of
legal restrictions, dating back to the Restoration, when royal charters created a monopoly
on the production of legitimate drama. Since
drama combined with music and mime was
not restricted under the terms of the charters, English impresarios were free to open
playhouses that specialized in such light entertainment. They were subject, however, to
the rules of censorship imposed by the Lord
Chamberlain (whose authority remained in
force until 1968), and eventually they were
further restricted by the so-called Burletta
License, which forbade the production of
those plays that did not include at least five
musical pieces in each act —another way of
protecting the legitimate-theatre monopoly.
An eager public and a determined management made it possible to soften if not elude
even these limitations by simply adding now
and then a few chords of music to the action
of the play. Eventually, clever producers began making a virtue of the government's restrictions, and by the time the monopoly on
legitimate theatre was dissolved under the
Licensing Act of 1843, there had emerged a
theatre in which music-and-dance pieces
were an integral part of the production. The
Licensing Act, meanwhile, contributed to the
creation of another popular entertainment,
the Music Hall, by licensing some theatres for
music and dance only, with spoken dialogue
of any kind being prohibited. The Music Hall
became, along with the melodrama, the favorite entertainment of the English working
classes, and many of the most popular Music
Hall songs also found their way into
the musical repertoire of the fashionable
theatres of London's West End. There, burlesque and operetta were the popular favorites, beginning in about the mid-Victorian
period. Burlesque was not the racy American
variety; rather, it consisted of witty parodies
and pastiches of familiar plays, operas, books,
and poems, spiced with generous doses of
mockery of topical subjects and famous people. At the same time, the importation of
European operetta and comic opera, with the
attendant lavish costuming and sets, romantic plots, and familiar melodies —all adapted
to the English taste—provided the touch of
the exotic that was long to be the hallmark of
the English musical comedy.
The American musical theatre, which was
not subject to the same restrictions as its English counterpart, developed its own unique
flavor as a result of both native and foreign
influences. Its earliest sources of inspiration
were naturally European. The Beggar's Opera appeared in the United States in 1751,
bringing with it the ballad opera tradition,
233
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Encyclopedia of Ulorld Drama
VOLUME
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Musical Comedy 275
Rex Harrison and
Julie Andrews as
Henry Higgins and
Eliza Doolittle in
My Fair Lady.
New York, Mark
Hellinger Theatre,
1956. [FriedmanAbeles]

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