'You've Got to Be Carefully Taught': Canonical Concerns in American Musical Theater
Addresses the issue of canonical works of musical theater, wondering how a show's commercial popularity, stylistic innovation, representativeness, or historical influence apply specifically to American works. Contends that these questions have to do with the identification of values. Argues that all theater is ritualistic, symbolic, and value-laden in some way, noting that it follows that a crucial part of pedagogy about theater is laying bare these foundation stones. Puts forward a simple hypothesis: that Americans as a group tend to prefer comic theater that is filled with (1) dynamic physical activity and (2) intellectually accessible stories often based on familiar political, historical, or sociological themes. Suggests that one of the cherished myths of America is its self-image as the meeting place of the world's peoples and races. Informs that another mythic trope of America is "the Land of Opportunity." Touches on ideas of gender and physical activity.