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Musical Comedy

  • By: Christopher Lynch
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

Musical comedy is a theatrical entertainment that emerged in the 1890s and flourished through the 1940s. Musical comedies contain alternating passages of dialogue and song in a variety of styles, but the music is always light in character and simple in construction, in other words non-operatic, allowing for performance by singers without classical vocal training. The plots tend to be set in present-day (at the time of the plots' writing) New York City and are predominantly light vehicles for star performers. Stars' onstage personas, comedy routines, and song and dance acts, often derived from vaudeville, are loosely interwoven with insignificant and frivolous narratives. Musical comedy is therefore more diversionary entertainment than serious drama. Although it faded in popularity in the mid-20th century, its theatrical ...

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