Spring 2022

Musical Theater Analysis

Listed in: Music, as MUSI-215


Katherine A. Pukinskis (Section 01)


Musical theater tells its stories through a blend of spoken words in scenes and text in song. In combination with music, words blur the edges between “real life” and “song” in a performance, clouding our understanding of where reality begins and ends in the theater. Text can communicate a message; it can become the driving force for musical motives. Each week in Musical Theater Analysis, we will look at musicals such as The Color Purple, Waitress, Ragtime, Hadestown, and Rent to unpack how music helps tell the story and shape characters through harmony, melody, motivic development, text, and text setting, all working together to shape the overall structure, content, and resultant effect of a performance. We will emphasize musicals written in the past thirty years (or revived after 2000), with a focus on diversity of stories, styles, and composer representation. The musical as a primary source will be supplemented by listening, score study, as well as readings on reception, poetry, and other critical analyses.

Requisite: Must be able to read music and have a basic understanding of music theory. MUSI-111 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Pukinskis.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: By the end of this course, students should be able to: develop methods of close listening and analysis within the genre of musical theater, hone skills in speaking and writing about analysis on a local (single piece) and global (entire show) scale, apply methods of analysis to unfamiliar and new existing work, and use these methods as a tool for creation. Weekly Assignments: Each week we will balance our time exploring a musical and an analytical or compositional topic. Students can expect that a normal homework load will involve listening to/watching a musical multiple times, reading an article or chapter related to the show or relevant compositional tactic, and analyzing one song from the assigned musical or reading. Longer-term creative projects: In addition to regular analysis, students will do small creative projects that engage with text, story telling, and music in the form of song. Final Paper and Presentation: In lieu of a final exam, students will either do an analysis or composition project with an accompanying paper and give a presentation. Students with documented disabilities who will require accommodations in this course should be in consultation with Accessibility Services and reach out to the faculty member as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations can be made in a timely manner.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2022