Pal Joey: The History of a Heel (Broadway Legacies)
When Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey opened at the Barrymore on Christmas day, 1940, it flew in the face of musical comedy convention. The characters and situation were depraved. The setting was caustically realistic. Its female lead was frankly sexual and yet not purely comic. A narratively-driven dream ballet closed the first act, begging audiences to take seriously the inner life and desires of a confirmed heel. Pal Joey: The History of a Heel presents a behind-the-scenes look at the genesis, influence, and significance of this classic musical comedy.
Although the show appears on many top-ten lists surveying the Golden Age, it is a controversial classic; its legacy is tied both to the fashionable scandal that it provoked, and, retrospectively, to the uncommon attention it paid to characterization and narrative cohesion. Through an archive-driven investigation of the show and its music, author Julianne Lindberg offers insight into the historical moment during which Joey was born, and to the process of genre classification, canon formation, and the ensuing critical debates related to musical and theatrical maturity. More broadly, the book argues that the critique and commentary on class and gender conventions in Pal Joey reveals a uniquely American concern over status, class mobility, and progressive gender roles in the pre-war era.
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