Shakespeare and the American Musical by Irene G Dash. Indiana University Press, 2010. Read in April and May 2014.
Since I love musicals this seemed like a must read. I don’t know quite what I expected – some deep analysis of how Shakespeare has influenced the whole world of musicals maybe. That’s not what I got and I must confess I was a bit disappointed. The book has five chapters about the Shakespeare plays that have been made into musicals: The Comedy of Errors (The Boys from Syracuse), The Taming of the Shrew (Kiss Me Kate), Romeo and Juliet (West Side Story), Twelfth Night (Your Own Thing) and Two Gentlemen from Verona. When I got over my disappointment however I found it a very interesting read.
In quite a lot of detail Dash describes the adaption, the stage setting, the music, the humour, the gender roles, the society in which the musicals were first done. The Boys from Syracuse, for example was first done in the late 30’s, Kiss Me Kate in the late 40’s, West Side Story in the 50’s, Your Own Thing in the 60’s and Two Gentlemen from Verona in the 70’s. This represents an awful lot of changes and shifts in attitudes towards gender, ethnicity, nationalism and many other importance societal questions.
Now looking through the book to write this, I realise that it is a very interesting book indeed and I will probably read it again.