Analysis Of The Black Crook: The First American Musical

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In 1866 an new show premiered in New York City. It was The Black Crook, and its performance was, as the late theatre and arts reporter/critic Cecil Smith states, “...the first major triumph of Broadway over the monopoly of Europe on the one hand, and the Bowery on the other.”Many musical theatre historians believe that The Black Crook should be considered the first American musical. However, by analysing the styles that came before The Black Crook, as well as those that developed after, one can say that this is not true. Though The Black Crook is still an important piece of theatre history, the title of ‘The First American Musical’ should be given to George M. Cohan’s Little Johnny Jones, first performed in 1904.
To understand why The Black
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The structure of a minstrel show was set in three acts. In the first act, the entire ensemble performed together, while the second act was a collection of variety acts. The third act consisted of a loosely organised sketch, known as an ‘afterpiece’. This would begin to transfer through the later forms of theatre and help establish the theatre known today. Patinkin says “it’s the first glimmerings of what eventually became the musical comedy”. The structure of the musical show is a detail that changes throughout theatre history. It is one of the reasons historians consider The Black Crook to be the first American musical, as it was one of the first major and successful shows to have a continuous …show more content…
The Black Crook was not originally written as a musical theatre work in the first place, in fact it’s creation was a complete accident. The original production of The Black Crook was originally supposed to be a “melodrama without music” as stated by the production’s producer, William Wheatley. At the same time, producers Henry Jarrett and Harry Palmer were also planning to put on a production, for which they had imported a French ballet company. Unfortunately for them, the theatre they had been planning to use for their production burned down, leaving two producers and entire ballet troupe with nowhere to go. However, Jarrett and Palmer were able to meet with Wheatley and convince him to join forces with them, thus creating the musical spectacle now known as the Black Crook. Composer and Broadway conductor Lehman Engel states “The scenery and lighting were elaborate. More than 100 ballet dancers, all exhibiting their legs - or, as they were then referred to, limbs- in tights, were employed. The opening performance lasted five-and-a-half hours. The newspapers were unimpressed by the melodrama, but enthralled by the spectacle, particularly the female beauty; and The Black Crook was flocked to by the public whose anticipation was further heightened by attacks on the show from outraged