- 西洋比較演劇研究 (ISSN:13472720)
- vol.15, no.1, pp.33-47, 2016 (Released:2016-04-01)
On Broadway and West End, the new millennium regarded as an era of juke-box and movie musicals. However, there is another trend, including Urinetown (2001), The Producers (2001), Avenue Q (2003), Spamalot (2005), The Drowsy Chaperone (2006), The Book of Mormon (2011), and Something Rotten! (2015). These shows share several aspects that differ from juke-box musicals and movie musicals. This essay aims to reevaluate these musicals as metamusicals: an alternative genre of musical theater that emerged around the 2000s. Regarding this kind of musicals, Kathryn Edney argued that City of Angels (1989) was one of the first “hyper-aware” musicals. In Showtime, Larry Stempel referred to shows such as Urinetown, Avenue Q, and The Drowsy Chaperone as “self-reflexive.” Osanai Shin categorized The Producers, Spamalot, and The Drowsy Chaperone as “meta musicals”—along with revivals of backstage musicals such as Kiss Me, Kate (1999) and 42nd Street (2001). Reviews by notable theater critics, such as Ben Brantley, also share this viewpoint regarding these musicals. However, while they mention the possibility of the emergence of a new genre of musical theater, their analyses are sporadic and disagree on some points, such as which shows might be included in this new trend. As the analysis of this essay reveals, these shows are basically musical comedies filled with self-references but not necessarily backstage musicals. Rather, these musicals are saturated with inside jokes, parodies, and self-referential spoofs even though they are not necessarily backstage musicals. In this regard, there is a sharp distinction between the shows produced before and after the turn of the century. As in The Drowsy Chaperone, The Book of Mormon, and Something Rotten!, self-referential jokes are not merely a device of musical comedy to entertain its audience. Instead, they consists the main body of the show. In these metamusicals, characters are aware that they are in musicals. In fact, they are hyperaware of their existence in a musical. They comment on how musicals should be and how they feel about certain songs, and they often complain about the show they are in. At the same time, the plot of the show comments on itself as being a musical. All in all, metamusicals examine the relevance of the conventions of musical in this postmodern world.