(Michael Feingold’s article appeared in the Village Voice, 8/8.)
Back in the 1920s and '30s, musical shows were silly and trivial. Audiences went to them to escape the grim realities of everyday life. Then the musical theater turned earnest. But American culture always has another trick up its sleeve: While the once-frivolous form was cranking up its dark sobriety, its target audience, nurtured by the increasing barrage of the electronic media, became ever more obsessed with trivialities, ever more eager to shove aside the serious matters it needed to confront. Reality? For most Americans, the word now means a genre of TV entertainment.