Musical Theater As Representation of American Culture

Musical culture is an influence on person’s music cognition which includes personal preferences and musical memory. Music has always had a big impact on people and on the culture of the society. In the United States, there are two popular genres: musical theater and opera. People often compare these styles, regarding the first one as a pure entertainment, while the other one is considered to be a cultural experience. In reality, both of these genres can be educative and enjoyable at the same time. Though, considering the fact that musical theater has influenced the American culture since the beginning of the XX century, it can be concluded that it is more representative in the United States than opera. Besides, there are many other reasons for such a popularity of this genre.

Musical theater is a dramatic production that tells a story by combining acting, singing, and dancing. Most of people think that musical theater is aimed only at entertaining its audience, though the plays of this genre always have an important message hidden in them. Many plays highlight different cultural, political, social, and economic issues of the American society. The Broadway Musical impacted many essential topics that are typically not discussed by the public: racial injustice and Civil Rights, mental health problems and homosexuality.

Historically, the musical theater in the US has undergone many serious changes. For example, in the 1970’s, after about 60 years of stability, the Broadway shifted its focus on creating exceptional special effects. In the last forty years, the musical theater seems to be headed into another subgenre. According to Heather Nathans, Associate Professor of Theatre at the University of Maryland, when the rock “gave way to the spectacle musical, shows like Cats, Phantom of the Opera and Starlight Express came to rely less on story and more on technology” (Nathans, 2019, para.15). Thus, it all proves that the genre of musical theater remains an important cultural experience in the United States, despite those fundamental changes that occurred throughout the history.

In conclusion, theater is an essential part of the American culture. Musicals play the biggest role, as it is the genre that has been throwing light on important issues of people’s life, attracting attention of public to the problems that are generally not discussed out loud. Besides, the Broadway shows successfully fulfill their recreational function, being a great entertainment as they usually use gorgeous special effects, good singing and dancing.


Nathans, H. (2019). Musical Theater in America. Putting it Together: Words & Music. The Kennedy Center. Web.