Cover image for 150 years of popular musical theatre
150 years of popular musical theatre
Lamb, Andrew.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
x, 380 pages : illustrations ; 27 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML1700 .L24 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



From the Parisian operettas of Jacques Offenbach in the 1850s to such current blockbuster musicals as Les Misérables and Rent, musical theatre has given joy to audiences throughout the world. This lively book--an illustrated history of popular musical theatre--provides a compendium of fascinating details about the origins and development of the genre over a century and a half.
Andrew Lamb moves from country to country, showing how different cultures interpreted and were influenced by different types of musical theatre. He examines, for example, the development of the European operetta style from French and Viennese works to such less-well-known schools as the Spanish zarzuela. He also traces the evolution of English-language works from the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan and American vaudevilles and extravaganzas to the latest Broadway and West End musicals. For each significant work he provides a brief description of the plot and references to the principal musical numbers. While his focus is on composers, librettists, and lyricists, he also gives information about principal performers, directors, and other creative influences. In a masterful way he conveys the differences between works of the same composer and works by various composers, and shows how they reflect changing cultural tastes and musical and dramatic conventions. Displaying a deep and wide-ranging expertise, this authoritative book is an invaluable resource for all lovers of the musical theatre.

Author Notes

Andrew Lamb is a British musicologist, writer, and broadcaster who is well known as an authority on operetta and musicals.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

To cover every form of popular music theater from mid-nineteenth-century French operettas to British and American musical comedies to late-twentieth-century rock operas (a genre he doesn't seem particularly fond of) in little more than 350 pages, as Lamb does in this well-researched, nicely illustrated volume, is most impressive. Unfortunately, Lamb isn't an interesting writer. He is content to deliver one dry fact after another, rarely dwelling longer than a paragraph or two on any one operetta or musical. And Lamb's ambition to mention every writer, composer, and musical of note guarantees that even the most influential artist, such as Franz Lehar, is given the bum's rush as Lamb plunges on to the next personality or show. How much more captivating the book would have been had he taken time to tell an interesting story or two. As it is, it's better as a reference than as a read. --Jack Helbig

Publisher's Weekly Review

Both informed and engaging, 150 Years of Popular Musical Theatre by British musicologist Andrew Lamb traces the development of modern musical theater from its beginnings in Paris roughly a century and a half ago to productions seen today on Broadway, in New York's East Village and the West End of London. Lamb contends that the dawn of the Industrial Revolution brought an increase in the uneducated working population to urban centers where the demand for "less sophisticated, more accessible theatrical entertainment" gave rise to the operetta, particularly as created by Jacques Offenbach. From there, Lamb proceeds across Europe to America, where he follows musical theater through various countries and composers, concluding with Jonathan Larson's rock opera Rent. 35 b&w illus. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Lamb, a British musicologist, writer, and broadcaster, has really done his homework for this incredibly detailed history of popular musical theater. From the earliest European operetta styles of France and Germany to the modern musical of the United States and Britain, Lamb covers every turn in the development of musicals. Though well indexed, this is not so much a reference book as a historical narrative. Lamb's intent is to provide a discussion of the composers and their works, with special attention paid to their place in the evolution of the genre: "Focus is on the various creative teams in turn, rather than necessarily on dealing with key works in chronological order." Major performers, producers, and directors are also discussed. This thoroughly enjoyable read is guaranteed to provide happy surprises for even the most avid fan. Recommended for academic and public library theater collections. Laura A. Ewald, Murray State Univ., KY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.