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When was Broadway's golden age?

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Paul W. Thompson
Broadway Legend
joined:11/29/07
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 03:24am
I'm beginning to adore this thread. Fact is, I've been trying to pin down the end of the Golden Age of the Broadway Musical (1943-?) for most of my adult life! One could make a case for almost any year from 1956 through 1982. And how long should a Golden Age be? Longer than two decades seems odd. Most folks seem to use 1964 or 1965, I think....

It's interesting when you consider this: Most of the time you don't realize an Age has ended until you realize you'r already started a new one. And as 1943 marked a beginning, it would be nice to find another beginning, rather than an ending.

So, when did Broadway seem different than it had been in the late 40s and early 50s? I think you have to consider the onset of television and rock and roll on the observation habits and musical tastes of middle class Americans, and find when Broadway responded to them with something new. And of course, those things were gradual, though Elvis (1957) and The Beatles (1964) and color television (1966?) set milestones.

My best date at present for a new start is 1968. "Hair" moved to Broadway that year, and competed against "Promises, Promises" at the 1969 Tonys. And what did 1967 give us? Not much. So, I'm comfortable with 1943-1967 as the Golden Age, with the Silver Age as 1968-1993. I think the present age (Bronze?) is 1994-2018 or 2019 (we're almost ready for something new!). And the prior age (Stone?) was 1927-1942. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

After Eight
Broadway Legend
joined:6/5/09
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 07:41am
'27-'42 is "stone," '68-'93 is "silver"??!!!

If you're sticking to that story, then get someone else to revise it for you.
Paul W. Thompson Profile Photo
Paul W. Thompson
Broadway Legend
joined:11/29/07
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 01:14pm
I was kidding in calling 1927-1942 the Stone Age. But I don't think that's a pejorative term, btw.

When trying to name ages, what terms should we use? Iron Age and Heroic Age are the only ones left, besides Stone, Gold(en), Silver and Bronze. I'm pretty sure I don't want to call anything the Space Age or the Dark Ages.

Let's go up to six ages, and let's try these:

THE BLACK CROOK started the Stone Age (1866-1902)
THE WIZARD OF OZ started the Iron Age (1903-1926)
SHOW BOAT started the Silver Age (1927-1942)
OKLAHOMA! started the Golden Age (1943-1967)
HAIR started the Heroic Age (1968-1993)
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST started the Bronze Age (1994-201?)

Maybe the Platinum Age will be next!
themysteriousgrowl Profile Photo
themysteriousgrowl
Broadway Legend
joined:11/10/10
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 01:20pm
CHURCH DOOR TOUCAN GAY MARKETING PUPPIES MUSICAL THEATER STAPLES PERIOD CUM OIL
Updated On: 12/6/12 at 01:20 PM
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Kad
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/05
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 01:22pm
The "Ages" are deliberately placed in order; you can't really shuffle them around.
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JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 01:27pm
I called this thread "When was Broadway's golden age?" to call attention to the fact that Broadway has never been more popular than it is right now.

But people are always bashing Broadway and saying that now, right now, is the middle of the lead age. I was thinking of this as I thumbed through The Season- written in 1967-68 it bemoans the dearth of quality shows of late as well as attitudes that will certainly doom Broadway to financial ruin. Some of the horrible, no good shows Goldman bemoans are cluttering Broadway? Hair, Hello Dolly, Judy Garland at the Palace, Mame...all shows I would have killed to have seen.
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
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newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 01:47pm
But, again, the important question to ask is - "does popularity automatically bestow quality?"

More people saw Avatar than have seen Citizen Kane; does that mean Avatar has more quality? More people have read The Da Vinci Code than have read Middlemarch - does that mean the former book is the product of a more golden era of literature than the latter?

I think any evaluative statement based upon nothing but sales numbers is pretty empty. Talk about quality, sure, and talk about sales if it interests you, but don't confuse the two.
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JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 01:55pm
So Broadway shows are so popular right now because they are so bad? I certainly understand that popularity does not equal quality but don't you think that somehow, some way, unprecedented popularity is perhaps possibly a good sign for Broadway? MORE people are attending Broadway shows and giving them a standing ovation and somehow that's a BAD THING? That is absolutely what's been decreed on this board this week.
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
newintown Profile Photo
newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 02:06pm
If more people are attending Broadway shows than ever before in history (and I should say that I never place blind trust in "facts" like that - it may be true, it may be an exaggeration), it probably has more to do with increased tourism and global economy than the quality (subjective as it is) of the current product on offer.

And I think anyone who has seen a range of what's been offered on Broadway, from Showboat through Scandalous knows that the nature of what's offered has changed fundamentally.

"So Broadway shows are so popular right now because they are so bad?

No, that's not what anyone says. What I'm saying is to compare number of tickets sold to any perception of inherent increased quality in the product isn't a coherent approach (even though, on a reductive level, it might seem to make sense). Too many other factors are left out of the equation.

About standing ovations: if you really believe that increased standing ovations reflect increased quality, I really don't think we can even discuss the concept. People are standing up these days because they're used to standing up.

Updated On: 12/6/12 at 02:06 PM
EricMontreal22 Profile Photo
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 02:11pm
Newintown, I think popularity and influence does play a part (more than sales). Have these shows had any effect on the mainstream (the way a ton of musicals and plays in the 50s did), combined with quality. Otherwise the term doesn't make sense, personally. I mean my golden age of musicals is the 70s--but Chorus Line, maybe now Chicago, and maybe a few others (Evita?) were the only ones that really got much non theatre exposure.
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tazber
Broadway Legend
joined:5/10/05
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 02:19pm
The Golden Age was specifically from October 20, 2005 - December 11, 2005.

Question answered.
....but the world goes 'round
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JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 02:23pm
I KNEW I could count on you Taz! Thanks!

On another note, why does no one want to hear good news about Broadway? And does it matter if it's bright-eyed standing-O giving tourists filling the seats or sullen, bitter theater bitches who spend the whole ride home posting how ghastly what they just saw was?
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
newintown Profile Photo
newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 02:25pm
I think that other shows from the 70s that had "cross-over" success would be Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, and Annie. Maybe also Pippin, The Wiz, Rocky Horror, Godspell.

But I do really believe that, if Broadway attendance is at some significantly all-time high, it's more because tourism is at a high, and one of the things most tourists in NYC expect to do is go to a Broadway show, particularly one of the tourist cafeterias like Mamma Mia, Phantom, Wicked, or Chicago.
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newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 02:29pm
"...why does no one want to hear good news about Broadway?"

If you're one of those people who believe that anyone who criticizes something you adore is a cynical nasty old unhappy meanie, then you can believe that.

If, on the other hand, you'd like to really get to know how someone might have valid different aesthetic values than you do, then the conversation will be (trust me) vastly more interesting.
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JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 02:29pm
Do you think that is a bad thing?
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
newintown Profile Photo
newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 02:31pm
What's a bad thing?
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themysteriousgrowl
Broadway Legend
joined:11/10/10
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 02:34pm
They call me mad, but one day, when the history of Broadway’s Golden Age is written, they will mark my name well -- Sidney Applebaum!
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newintown Profile Photo
newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 02:48pm
No, you must be Don Ameche's sister.
JoeKv99 Profile Photo
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 02:48pm
Newintown: Do you think it's a good or bad thing that tourists who visit New York think it's important to take in a Broadway show? (I'll confess I think it's a wonderful thing- maybe because when I can afford it I am one of those tourists.)

And I apologize- I missed your whole post ripping me for not valuing your opinion.

I am curious- WHY on a board full of theater lovers is news that Broadway had it's most (financially) successful year ever greeted with so much skepticism and outright contempt? To me it seems obvious that NO MATTER WHAT the state of Broadway, the "experts" or "Fans" will hold that epoch in contempt- like Goldman did in his book. It is only in retrospect, after forgetting all the forgettable shows, do the "pros" proclaim perfection?



No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
Updated On: 12/6/12 at 02:48 PM
newintown Profile Photo
newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 02:59pm
What is "p erection?"

"Do you think it's a good or bad thing that tourists who visit New York think it's important to take in a Broadway show?"

Honestly... I don't think I have any evaluative opinion on that at all. If they stopped, I don't think I'd worry; Broadway will go on - it was there before millions of tourists scurried through Times Square.

"WHY on a board full of theater lovers is news that Broadway had it's most (financially) successful year ever greeting with so much skepticism and outright contempt?"

Is that a real question or are you being disingenuous? You must have been exposed to the idea that hard-core fans of any art form deplore what they see as degradation of the quality of that form by pandering to dilettantes and know-nothings. Haven't you? It happens in every art form - opera, ballet, movies, visual art.

In other words, there are some who believe (and who am I to say they're wrong?) that the the best works of art are above the comprehension of the masses; and the things that the masses hold dear are cheap and inferior.

You might not agree with that point of view, but it's nothing new. The concepts "elitism" and "refinement" are opposite sides of the same coin.

Updated On: 12/6/12 at 02:59 PM
Idiot Profile Photo
Idiot
Broadway Star
joined:10/9/10
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 03:00pm
"I am curious- WHY on a board full of theater lovers is news that Broadway had it's most (financially) successful year ever greeted with so much skepticism and outright contempt?"

For the same reason people hate the Kardashians.

The thrust of your stance is based in a business concern -- financials. Most of the people here are artists in some form, not business people. The artistic mind never celebrates the success of mediocrity.
JoeKv99 Profile Photo
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 03:17pm
I am glad you made that Kardashian comparison, Idiot. It helps me to understand the contempt people feel for their beloved art form. I guess I don't really like theater much as I enjoy most shows I see and I want them to be successful. There are good hits and bad flops- and vice versa.

I love Broadway because it gives me a thrill to see a show. I don't expect perfection every time I buy a ticket and am rarely so disappointed by a show that I can't find something to enjoy about it. I guess I keep my eye on the doughnut and not on the hole.
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
newintown Profile Photo
newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 03:29pm
And you seem to feel like a superior being because of it. Congratulations.
JoeKv99 Profile Photo
JoeKv99
Broadway Legend
joined:12/27/04
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 03:48pm
I am SO glad you feel that way!
No good can possibly come from using this vast wasteland of error and deliberate deceit. You should get off of it and warn others away. You should make sure your children and grandchildren know what a corrupt and morally bankrupt institution it truly is.
EricMontreal22 Profile Photo
EricMontreal22
Broadway Legend
joined:10/31/11
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 06:57pm
"I think that other shows from the 70s that had "cross-over" success would be Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, and Annie. Maybe also Pippin, The Wiz, Rocky Horror, Godspell. "

Fair enough--JCS was of course a huge hit in the US with tons of concert tours before the staged version--forgot about Grease. I still thinkChorus Line must be added to the list--the tour was massive, and my even a non theatre person like my mom living in a small Canadian town remembers hearing about it...
Someone in a Tree2 Profile Photo
Someone in a Tree2
Broadway Star
joined:10/9/12
When was Broadway's golden age?
Posted: 12/6/12 at 07:46pm
To threadjack the conversation back to the more fruitful topic of comparing golden ages, I'm siding with EricMontreal-- My favorite decade of great musical theater works is probably the 70's heyday of the Prince/Sondheim partnership. But since I was actually seeing shows on Broadway for much of that decade, my mind irrevocably insists that any Golden Age must have happened earlier than I could remember. Makes no sense empirically, but Golden Ages are always always in the past, aren't they?

And what constitutes an Age? For me, it's a period when the very nature of how a show works changes for all time. Once changed, the history of Broadway moves forward (though individual shows will lag behind the curve). OKLAHOMA announced the integrated musical was here to stay, and Broadway never looked back.

The difficulty is that ages are constantly overlapping. CABARET and COMPANY proclaimed a musical could be built on concept rather than plot, but LOVE LIFE had flirted with the concept musical back in the 40's. I'd say that PASSION (a show I didn't like) showed a new way to build musicals in which songs weren't songs so much as arias. THE LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA and maybe NEXT TO NORMAL are heirs to this kind of writing. HAIR (and YOUR OWN THING) are credited with kicking off the age of the Rock Musical, an age which I guess is still going strong with AMERICAN IDIOT et al. But these shows live side by side with all those classically integrated shows in the R&H tradition like RAGTIME and (God help us) NEWSIES.

Inevitably the so-called ages all overlap and contradict each other. Maybe we have to leave it to the historians another decade or two from now to break the last 30 years into coherent ages. :)

Updated On: 12/6/12 at 07:46 PM

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