Irving Berlin's American Musical Theater

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


"The mob is always right" was the idea that charged Irving Berlin's career in American popular music. Taking off from that claim, this book represents a wide-ranging exploration of America's greatest songwriter and his role in creating twentieth-century musical theater. Drawing on past scholarly efforts and a vast store of recently released archival material, the book strives to break new ground in focusing on Irving Berlin's half-century of work for the Broadway stage-a career that tracks the development of American musical theater itself. The book traces a fundamental paradigm shift from early twentieth-century values of variety entertainment, manifested in Berlin's revues and revue-like comedies, to an increasing emphasis on coherent, well-crafted scripts for musical comedy, in which songs were more thoroughly integrated into the plot. Throughout, Berlin maintained a unique balance by fitting musical numbers tightly to their show contexts, and addressing their historical moment, while preserving their integrity as individual songs that could have their own lives in the musical marketplace as jazz and cabaret standards, and as popular classics whose sheet music enjoyed pride of place in the piano benches of American homes. Like Berlin's songs and shows, the book is designed for a wide readership of musical theater aficionados as well as serious students of music, drama, and popular culture-and anyone interested in the story of a poor immigrant boy whose life and work expressed so well the American dream.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages408
ISBN (Electronic)9780199933358
ISBN (Print)9780195398267
StatePublished - Apr 6 2012


  • American dream
  • American musical theater
  • American popular music
  • Broadway
  • Entertainment
  • Immigrant
  • Irving Berlin
  • Musical comedy
  • Popular culture
  • Revue
  • Songs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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