By Charlie Schill,
The Herald Journal
Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014

Three of the four offerings of the Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre’s 2014 season comprise an enjoyable lesson in the evolution of Broadway shows in the 20th Century.

“The Student Prince,” which opened July 11, is a prime example of an operetta, a late 19th century theatrical style that blurred the lines between opera and popular music of that era. While these musical hybrids continued to be popular in America in the early 20th century, they were largely eclipsed by song-and-dance revues with little dramatic content by the 1930s.

The premiere of “Oklahoma!” in 1943 is generally considered to be the birth of the modern American musical. That production, which built on theatrical innovations first seen in Jerome Kern’s “Show Boat” in the late 1920s, is renowned as Broadway’s first fully successful integration of singing, dancing and acting to achieve a dramatic stage experience. The UFOMT’s current production of “Oklahoma!” debuted July 10.

In the midst of a golden age of modern American musical comedy, the so-called rock opera was pioneered by impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber beginning in the 1970s. The local debut of “Les Misérables” on July 12 is living proof that these glitzy musical extravaganzas don’t have to be devoid of heart and soul.

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