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StEx a concept musical? 
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Post StEx a concept musical?
I've just read Sondheim and Lloyd Webber - The New Musical. It constantly uses StEx as an example of the concept musical. Is StEx considered a concept musical? If so, what is the theme, the concept or the metaphor?

Just curious.

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Mon May 28, 2007 4:57 am
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Mumsytype wrote:
I think Starlight Express was one of the first musicals to have an entirely anthropomorphic cast?

Nope. CATS came RIGHT before it. StEx was written between CATS and PotO

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Tue May 29, 2007 9:38 pm
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Mumsytype wrote:
I'd think the concept was putting a story about a child's train set onstage, turning people into carriages, engines and freight.


I don't think that is what is meant by "concept" when talking about "concept musicals"...

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Tue Jun 05, 2007 2:46 pm
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What is? Explain the concept behind Concept musicals? Not terminology I'm familiar with.

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Tue Jun 05, 2007 3:48 pm
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http://www.musicals101.com/1970bway2.htm

Musicals101 wrote:
Concept musicals are built around a concept rather than a traditional plot. In One More Kiss: The Broadway Musical in the 1970s (New York: Palgrave, 2003), Ethan Mordden defines a concept musical as "a presentational rather than strictly narrative work that employs out-of-story elements to comment upon and at times take part in the action, utilizing avant-garde techniques to defy unities of time, place and action." Once a subject or situation is raised (marriage, love, finding a job, etc.) characters can comment on or illustrate aspects of the subject. There is a storyline, but it is there to illustrate the central concept.


When I think of concept musical, I think ACL.

McMillin has a good definition with some examples:
Quote:
The book of a concept musical is often controlled by a theme or a metaphor....The film of Cabaret was made early in the history of the concept musical—1972. In the years just preceding, Sondheim was teaming with Hal Prince on Company (1970) and Follies (1971), two concept shows that, in different ways, look back to the revue tradition without losing contact with the sophistication of the modern book show. Then, in the same year that Chicago tried to make its way on Broadway, 1975, Michael Bennett took up the brilliant concept of making a musical, A Chorus Line, about the audition and rehearsal process that lies behind the musical itself, and Sondheim and Hal Prince mounted Pacific Overtures, which used Kabuki stage techniques to deal with the westernization of Japan. Thus, by 1975, the concept musical had arrived. It had received a jolt of British energy in 1971 with the Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock treatment of Scripture in Jesus Christ Superstar, and it would receive another jolt when Lloyd Webber was inspired to put T. S. Eliot’s book of poems, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, into a revue of numbers for the cats themselves—a concept musical that threatened to run forever.)


http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8290.html


Tue Jun 05, 2007 5:49 pm
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Musicals101 wrote:
Concept musicals are built around a concept rather than a traditional plot. Once a subject or situation is raised (marriage, love, finding a job, etc.) characters can comment on or illustrate aspects of the subject. There is a storyline, but it is there to illustrate the central concept.


Quote:
The book of a concept musical is often controlled by a theme or a metaphor.... It had received a jolt of British energy in 1971 with the Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock treatment of Scripture in Jesus Christ Superstar, and it would receive another jolt when Lloyd Webber was inspired to put T. S. Eliot’s book of poems, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, into a revue of numbers for the cats themselves—a concept musical that threatened to run forever.)


I can partly agree with JCS. The style of the show illustrate it's themes, yet I don't think most of the musical numbers support the metaphor. I have really no idea how Cats can be seen as a concept musical, as noone has been able to detect what it's subject is or how the separate numbers illustrate it 8O

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Wed Jun 06, 2007 2:17 am
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Surely the concept of Cats, then is that of Cats? Considering the personification of feline characters...

I don't think Starlight Express does fit this category. It DID originally have a clear plot. Child falls asleep, his toy trains come to life and race. The little guy wins and gets his girl. It's not shakespeare but it is enjoyable.

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Wed Jun 06, 2007 9:11 am
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Belle wrote:
Surely the concept of Cats, then is that of Cats? Considering the personification of feline characters...


But cats isn't a theme or a subject, unless you call "catness" a theme..? Cats could have been a metaphor for something, but isn't - as ALW has claimed himself.

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Wed Jun 06, 2007 12:00 pm
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Dvarg wrote:
I can partly agree with JCS. The style of the show illustrate it's themes, yet I don't think most of the musical numbers support the metaphor. I have really no idea how Cats can be seen as a concept musical, as noone has been able to detect what it's subject is or how the separate numbers illustrate it 8O


I think McMillin comes up with a pretty good idea for the "concept". He says that Cats is a revue show. The show follows many aspects of the revue presentation: the visual spectacle of the show, dance numbers, comedy sketches, and satirizing of contemporary figures and literature. The spectacle is easy to see. Jennyanydots and her troupe of tap-dancing beetles, and the "comedy sketches" would be the Dog Battle and Growltiger.

That leaves us with the satirising... Now, despite ALW's protestations to Hal Prince, Cats is rich in satirising and metaphor: Jennyanydots is the Edwardian nanny; Bustopher Jones, the dandy, and Skimbleshanks is the embodiment of the the Victorian work ethic. There were some modern satires added as well--Tugger as a modern rock star spoofing Elvis, Jagger, Ricky Martin, or whoever's the rock star of the day may be.

So, it's a revue about Cats are putting on a revue for themselves. It's strung together with a thin plot about a "choosing" someone to be reborn and a kidnapping subplot. Then there are the "interpretive" glimpses of plot of how the different characters interact with one another.


Wed Jun 06, 2007 2:47 pm
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I would say the concept of Cats is the personification. We're looking at human behaviour through the mirror of the Cats. If it's satire, it's in the gentlest, most affectionate and good-natured manner. All the Cats (bar Macavity) are very likeable. The recurring theme throughout the show, which could be seen as a concept, if that we see the Cats given human characteristics (I've seen cats dance solo plenty of times - but I've never seen a group stick to choreography!)

However I can't see how you could relate the theory to Starlight Express. The show has fairly stereotypical characters, immediately recognised by the audience. It has a clear, simple storyline (when the director bothers to include it) supporting a lot of spectacle, music and dance. The motif of toy trains in a child's dream doesn't represent or mean anything significant - the show doesn't have anything deep to say about the nationalisation of train companies! The moral is simply "Believe in yourself and you can achieve".

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Wed Jun 06, 2007 3:30 pm
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Belle wrote:
The moral is simply "Believe in yourself and you can achieve".


Even though it's not a very sophisticated theme, it at least seems more like one to me, than anything I can detect in Cats. The problem is, I don't see how the majority of the musical numbers have much to do with it. They appear more like characterizations of the different personalities.

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Wed Jun 06, 2007 3:53 pm
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I always thought STARLIGHT EXPRESS was the musical version of The Little Engine That Could.

Andy.

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Tue Jun 26, 2007 5:56 pm
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