During the 1990s, a sudden outpouring of new musical talent flooded both Broadway and off-Broadway. Dubbed at the time by both critics and scholars as creating New Theater Music, these challenging composers were and continue to be drawn to atypical and less outwardly joyful material and possess affinities for atonal chords and complex harmonies, placing them more in the company of Sondheim than of Schwartz. This group includes such artists as Adam Guettel, Michael John LaChiusa, and Jeanine Tesori, and when PARADE premiered on Broadway in 1998, its composer-lyricist Jason Robert Brown was listed among the impressive group of up-and-comers thought to be continuing the trajectory of the American musical in the Sondheimian vein of darker, challenging, and more operatic works.
Using PARADE as a case study of these New Voices, this thesis explores this particular musical in both production and in critical reception. The purpose of the production analyses of both the Broadway and London premieres is to demonstrate specifically how this musical has (or has not) worked onstage to engage audiences both intellectually and emotionally, as well as its potential to do so in the future. The analyses of the critical receptions that follow then work to further demonstrate how PARADE, and these two specific productions, worked (in)effectively to engage audiences, as well as to reveal any gaps, biases, and strengths in the critical analysis itself: elements critics largely focus on or disregard, the language with which they discuss elements of both the musical and its productions, and their distinctions between the productions and the musical itself. Critics shape the way audiences receive musicals through their written opinions, whether they desire to do so or not, and so to better understand the critic is to better understand the review is to better understand the production is to better understand the basic musical form. PARADE, an amalgamation of traditional and newer techniques and topics, is ideal for a case study of critical and musical analysis. Critical analyses of its Broadway and London premiere productions provide the perfect opportunity to discover how this musical works to engage audiences, how critical receptions alter over years and miles, and how both production choices and critical reviews affect and aid the continuing trajectory of the American musical.