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Review - Is it too late to take away Stew's Tony Award?

In the latest edition of Opera News, Michael Portantiere asks Stephen Schwartz, Adam Guettel, Jason Robert Brown, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Michael John LaChiusa, Stephen Flaherty and Stew for their opinions on the difference between opera and musical theatre.

Now, this is a widely discussed subject and I certainly respect any educated opinion. Jason Robert Brown's answer comes closest to my own belief that opera is an art form where the music and its presentation is traditionally allowed to supersede the needs of the drama, while musical theatre is a collaboration of art forms whose priMary Function is to serve the story and characters.

But I was physically angered by the words of last season's Tony winner for Outstanding Book, Stew, who explained, "I think it's confidence - musicals lack the confidence that operas have in music's ability to get the job done alone and tell the story."

What.

The.

Hell?

Confidence? Because musical theatre gives significant focus to the power and charm of words you believe that shows a lack of confidence?

Did Betty Comden and Adolph Green display a lack of confidence in Leonard Bernstein's music when they wrote funny scenes and touching lyrics for On The Town?

Would My Fair Lady have been a superior piece if Frederick Loewe had the confidence to allow his music to overwhelm Alan Jay Lerner's words?

Was Oscar Hammerstein a detriment to the work of Jerome Kern and Richard Rodgers?

You certainly have every right to dislike musical theatre's unique balance of spoken word, sung word, music, design and movement, but it's ignorant to put down an entire art form because its goals are not to your taste.

The beauty of great music and its ability to bring out emotions is undeniable. But music can never be as specific as words. From Lorenz Hart and George Abbott to Dorothy Fields and Peter Stone to Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, musical theatre became what it is because great lyricists and bookwriters added wit, drama and specific meaning to the work of great composers.

It's called Musical Theatre, not Theatrical Music.



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