Reclaiming the Musical Burlesque: A Reconstruction of the 1855 Musical Score to John Brougham’s Po-Ca-Hon-Tas: Or, The Gentle Savage
Date of Degree
American Popular Culture | American Studies | Music | Theatre and Performance Studies | Theatre History
Musical Theatre, Musical Burlesque, John Brougham
Most historians begin their musical theatre chronologies with the 1866 premiere of The Black Crook. However, a few respected scholars cite Po-Ca-Hon-Tas: or, The Gentle Savage, John Brougham’s 1855 musical burlesque, as an important development in the art form’s earlier evolution. The neglect of Brougham’s work is often justified for two reasons. First, his practice of creating lyrics to pre-existing melodies reduces his work to second-tier status. Second, because none of Brougham’s musical scores are extant, it is impossible to recreate a performance of his work and access its qualities. I offer two responses. First, as our contemporary musical theatre has grown so dependent upon reuse of existing musical material, is it not time to rethink our prejudices towards Brougham’s methods? Might we even regard him as a creative artist 150 years ahead of his time? Second, by building upon information Brougham offers in the published libretto and research presented by musicologist William Brooks in a 1984 American Music article, it is indeed possible to reconstruct a reasonable facsimile of the original score to Po-Ca-Hon-Tas. The purpose of this capstone project is to create a piano-vocal score featuring musical settings of all forty sung texts notated in Brougham’s script. Used in conjunction with the published libretto, this score will allow any modern musical theatre historian, student or aficionado to mount a performance or concert presentation of the work, hopefully engendering more meaningful discussion as to the importance of mid-nineteenth century musical theatre genres.
Drobny, Christopher, "Reclaiming the Musical Burlesque: A Reconstruction of the 1855 Musical Score to John Brougham’s Po-Ca-Hon-Tas: Or, The Gentle Savage" (2019). CUNY Academic Works.