History and Musicals by Laura Frankos

Guest Blogger: Laura Frankos is the author of The Broadway Musicals Quiz Book. This post was originally published on StageNotes.net.

I’m an historian by training and I’ve been addicted to musicals since childhood.  Not surprisingly, I have a special love for musicals and show tunes referencing historical themes.  A few of my favorites: the opening of Japan to Western trade in “Four Black Dragons,” Pacific Overtures; business monopolies and Social Darwinism in “What a Remarkable Age This Is,” Titanic; disputes in western land use in “The Farmer and the Cowman,” Oklahoma!; national marketing in “Rock Island,” The Music Man; and, of course, the entire score of 1776.

Eventually, I managed to combine my two obsessions in The Broadway Musical Quiz Book.  While the subject matter is geared towards die-hard fans, it’s also an anecdotal history of Broadway, so readers can learn to tell Jerome Kern from Jerome Robbins.  Teachers of the dramatic arts could use the book with their classes on musical theatre history, both in surveying the development of the musical and in studying key figures.

But what about social studies teachers?  There’s a specific quiz on U.S. history, one devoted entirely to 1776, and questions on English and French history as well.  Some examples:

1.  True or false: Les Misérables is set during the French Revolution.

2.  How many characters in Ragtime were based on real people?
A. 9
B. 10
C. 11
D. 12
E. 15

3.  Which song lyric refers to the U.S. diplomatic policy of improving relations with Latin America?
A. “America”
B. “Conga!”
C.  “What’s New, Buenos Aires?”
D.  “The Men Who Run the Country”
E.  “How Can You Tell An American?”

For the answers to this quiz, visit StageNotes.net!

The Broadway Musical Quiz Book includes nearly 80 quizzes on every aspect of the Broadway musical, including sections devoted to the careers of major Broadway stars, songwriters, directors, and producers, ranging from Ethel Merman to Stephen Sondheim. It also features thematic quizzes – such as musicals set in France, adaptations from literature, food and drink, British shows, references to sports, biographical shows, and jukebox musicals – and quizzes covering each decade from 1900 to the present. With over 700 shows mentioned, and over 1200 questions, The Broadway Musical Quiz Book is detailed and thorough: the answer section doesn’t merely list the answers, it provides further information on the quizzes’ subjects (and often on wrong answers, too!). The Broadway Musical Quiz Book is more than just a compendium of trivia; it’s a anecdotal history of musical theatre, with something for everyone who loves The Great White Way!

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