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DRAMA 171 A: The Broadway Musical

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:20pm
KNE 210
David Armstrong
David Armstrong

Syllabus Description:



DRAMA 171a: The Broadway Musical:

How Immigrant, Jewish, Queer, & Black Artists Invented America’s Signature Art Form

Spring Quarter, 2024

T/Th 2:30 —4:20 pm

Kane Hall 210

Course Description:

This historical and cultural study of the Broadway musical examines how this uniquely American art form was created predominately by people marginalized from mainstream society; surveys its evolution including the mid-20th Century “Golden Age” and its current 21st Century resurgence; and explores how musicals have both reflected and shaped American culture — especially regarding issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, social justice, and equity.

Course Objectives:


  1. To analyze how numerous culturally diverse theatrical and musical traditions merged to create the Broadway Musical.
    2. To understand the evolution of the Broadway musical, including the societal and economic forces that led to its birth, and how it developed and changed over its more than 125-year history.
    3. To gain knowledge of the most significant composers, lyricists, librettists, directors, choreographers, producers, and performers of the Broadway musical both past and present.
    4. To learn the vocabulary, form, and structure of musicals — how they have
    traditionally been put together, and how those rules have evolved, changed, and have creatively been broken.
    5. To analyze the principal themes and recurring subject matter of the musical (racial prejudice, transgressive women, social justice, and equality) and the historical significance and cultural legacy of key works in the musical theater canon.
    6. To recognize the role that musical theatre plays in shaping the world around us and our daily lives.
    7. To foster cultural literacy, critical engagement, and reflective community membership.




Musical Theatre is the most collaborative of art forms and it relies on the talents and commitment of people from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. In this spirit, your experiences and viewpoints are integral to the success of the class. Be on time, be present, be prepared, and share your voice.


Course Policies:


Participation is vital to the course, and you are expected to attend every class on time, prepared and ready to participate in discussions and activities. For absences due to University-sponsored events, or unforeseen medical or family emergencies, please provide documentation so that tests or assignments may be made up.

Adding & Dropping

If you would like to add The Broadway Musical, please attend the first week of class and let me know that you would like to add. Add codes are available at the discretion of instructors, in order to keep the class sizes manageable. Students who do not attend class during the first week will be dropped from the class without notice.

Class Content

Throughout history, theatre and performance have grappled with complicated subject matter, including violence, sex, and psychological and emotional conflict. To this end, much of the world’s theatre and performance is “adult-themed” and includes references to or representations of violence, intimate sexual activity, and adult language (including coarse terms, obscenities, and slurs). Performance is a forum in which the world’s conflicts can be contemplated and discussed, and performance can often even be a tool for positive change. As such, the School of Drama believes the formal classroom environment and related academic activities, including productions, lectures, and other events, should be respectful spaces where sensitivity to personal
backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs can be balanced with rigorous and thoughtful discourse. If you believe material and/or experiences in the course will compromise the success of your learning, please consider one or more of the following options:

  1. approach your instructor and share your concern: you may be able to find a suitable alternative arrangement or assignment.
    2. contact a Livewell Student Advocate in Health and Wellness who will help determine how a past incident may be impacting your academic success and will work with your courses and professors:;
    3. contact UW Student Coaching and Care, which has staff trained to help students in distress and in need of multiple levels of support:



Much of the work done in The Broadway Musical is collaborative. Please show your colleagues respect by attending classes, arriving to meetings on time, communicating in a respectful and timely manner, and keeping to an agreed-upon schedule for each stage of project work.

Due Dates

Out-of-classroom assignments will lose 20% of their value, per each 24-hour period after they are due and will not be accepted after the third day. Exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis. All tests are administered on the days outlined in the syllabus.


Laptops may be used in lectures for academic purposes, such as taking notes, translating, or looking up materials. Laptop users are asked to sit in the front rows of the room. Using laptops for diversionary purposes is distracting to the students around you, detrimental to their educational experience, and is therefore prohibited. The use of mobile phones is likewise distracting and also prohibited during class. This includes texting and taking pictures. If you need to talk or text, please step outside the room. The use of electronics in class is at the discretion of your instructor. Please respect your classmates’ educational time and investment, and the distraction-free environment we cultivate.


No textbook is required for this course.

Instead, students will be required to listen to two 30-minute Broadway Nation podcasts prior to each lecture, as well as occasional readings and other recordings as assigned.

(Note: A small percentage of the cost of a standard textbook will need to be applied to watching video captures or movie versions of assigned Broadway musicals on BroadwayHD, Amazon, Apple+, or other streaming services.)

Assignment Descriptions:

Engagement (26 Points)

Engagement includes preparing for class by listening to assigned podcast episodes in advance of each class and then actively engaging during class through Q&A (questions & answer) sessions, real-time polls, breakout group discussions, and routine practice quizzes.


Show Evaluations (504 points – 42 points each)

After viewing the assigned recording, fill out a Show Evaluation Form and submit on Canvas.

  1. The 1971 film version of the 1964 stage musical Fiddler on the Roof.
    2. The 1969 film of the 1964 stage musical Funny Girl.
  2. The TV adaptation of the 1906 stage musical Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway.
    3. The 2021 video capture of the 1934 stage musical Anything Goes!
    4. The 1999 video capture of the 1943 stage musical Oklahoma!
    5. The 1958 film of the 1949 stage musical South Pacific.
    6. The 1962 film of the 1959 stage musical Gypsy.
    7. The 1962 film of the 1957 stage musical The Music Man.
    8. The 1961 film of the 1957 stage musical West Side Story.
    9. The 1982 video capture of the 1980 musical Sweeney Todd, (not 2007 movie!).
  3. The 1998 video capture of the 1981 musical CATS.
    11. The 2007 film of the 2001 stage musical Hairspray.
  4. The 2017 video capture of the musical Come From Away.


Discussion Posts (170 points)

You will write a discussion post in response to the following videos or readings and a discussion prompt:

1: Watch the first section of the movie version of the musical Show Boat. (30 points)
2: Watch and compare Agnes De Mille’s original version and Susan Stroman’s revival version of the “dream ballet” from Oklahoma! (30 points)
3: Read the script for Company and listen to the Original Cast Album (40 points)

  1. Read the script for A Chorus Line and listen to the Original Cast Album (40 points)
  2. Research current Broadway Season and the 2024 Tony Award nominees. (30 points)


The prompts for these will vary and are designed to demonstrate engagement with the material.

Midterm Exam (100 points)

All lectures, productions, and readings up to this point in the quarter could be on the exam.

Final Project – “Pitch A Musical” (100 points)
This is a collaborative project in which teams of students working together will identify “source material:” an existing story (novel, short story, play, film, or nonfiction) that has not previously been musicalized, and then create a pitch for why and how that source material could be adapted into an effective musical. Synthesizing various aspects of analysis covered in this course, this project incorporates imagination, research, creativity, and persuasion.

Final Exam (100 points)

Will cover all course material since the midterm exam, as well as analytical or structural
concepts from the entire course.

Extra Credit (10 points each)
Submit additional show evaluations from a list of musicals TBA.


Grading Procedures:

An Incomplete is given only when the student has been in attendance and has done satisfactory
work until within two weeks of the end of the quarter and has furnished proof satisfactory to the
instructor that the work cannot be completed because of illness or other circumstances beyond
the student's control. To request an incomplete the student must complete the Incomplete Grade
Request form (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.). To obtain credit for the
course, an undergraduate student must convert an Incomplete into a passing grade no later than
the last day of the following quarter. An Incomplete not made up by the end of the following
quarter (summer excluded) will be converted to the grade of 0.0 by the registrar unless the
instructor has indicated, when assigning the Incomplete grade, that a grade other than 0.0 should
be recorded if the incomplete work is not completed. The original Incomplete grade is not
removed from the transcript.

Change of Grade Policy

Except in case of error, no instructor may change a grade that he or she has turned in to the
registrar. Grades cannot be changed after a degree has been granted.

Grade Appeal Procedure

A student who believes he or she has been improperly graded must first discuss the matter with
the instructor. If the student is not satisfied with the instructor's explanation, the student, no later
than ten days after their discussion with the instructor, may submit a written appeal to the
Executive Director of the School of Drama with a copy of the appeal also sent to the instructor.
Within 10 calendar days, the Executive Director should consult with the instructor to ensure that
the evaluation of the student's performance has not been arbitrary or capricious. Should the
Executive Director believe the instructor's conduct to be arbitrary or capricious and the instructor
declines to revise the grade, the Executive Director, with the approval of the voting members of
their faculty, shall appoint an appropriate member, or members, of the faculty of the School of

Drama to evaluate the performance of the student and assign a grade. The Dean and Provost
should be informed of this action. Once a student submits a written appeal, this document and all
subsequent actions on this appeal are recorded in written form for deposit in a department file.


Plagiarism is defined as the use of ideas, words, or creations from a publicly available work
without formally acknowledging the author or source through the use of appropriate quotation
marks and/or references. Both the University of Washington and the School of Drama take
plagiarism very seriously. Plagiarism may lead to disciplinary action by the university against the
student who submitted the work. Any student who is uncertain whether their use of the work of
others constitutes plagiarism should consult the course instructor for guidance before submitting


Support and Accommodations:

Disability Accommodations

The School of Drama places great importance on the experience of all students in its classes.
Students who have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students
(DRS) should communicate their approved accommodations to the professor at their earliest
convenience and make an appointment to discuss their needs in the course.
Students who have not yet established services through DRS, but who have a temporary health
condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not
limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts),
should contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or or DRS offers
resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or
temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive
process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University
of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal
and state law.


Equal Opportunity

The University of Washington reaffirms its policy of equal opportunity regardless of race, color,
creed, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, or status as
a disabled veteran or Vietnam-era veteran. This policy applies to all programs and facilities,
including, but not limited to, admissions, educational programs, employment, and patient and
hospital services.

Safety and Evacuation

Evacuation routes are posted throughout the building. In case of a fire, please evacuate and go to
the evacuation assembly point, locations of which are posted on building walls. In case of a
power outage or earthquake, please stay where you are and, for the latter, protect your head and
neck. Students with disabilities which could impair evacuation should notify the instructor early
in the quarter so accommodations can be made.

Standards of Conduct and Academic Integrity (see WAC 478-121)

The following abilities and behavioral expectations complement the UW Student Conduct Code.


All students should attempt to communicate effectively with other students, faculty, staff, and
other professionals within the School of Drama, expressing ideas and feelings clearly and
demonstrating a willingness to give and receive feedback. Students must be able to reason,
analyze, integrate, synthesize, and evaluate in the context of the classes they take, and to engage
in critical thinking in the classroom and other professional settings.


Students must demonstrate the emotional maturity required for the utilization of intellectual
abilities, the exercise of sound judgment, and the timely completion of responsibilities in their
classes. Further, students should maintain mature, culturally sensitive, and respectful
relationships with students, faculty, staff, and other professionals within the School of Drama.

Students must be willing to examine and change behaviors when they interfere with productive
individual or team relationships.

Problematic Behavior Documented

Problematic behavior will be documented by the School and, if deemed appropriate, forwarded
on to the University Committee on Community Standards and Student Conduct. If a pattern of
behavior or a single, serious lapse in the behavioral expectations becomes evident, the steps
below will be followed, and the student will be advised that their continuation in the class and/or
major is in jeopardy. The student’s instructor and/or appropriate program advisor or teaching
assistant will document, either verbally or in writing, the concerning behavior and notify the
student that they are receiving a warning. Notification of the warning will be forwarded on to the
Executive Director of the School and to the Committee on Student Conduct and Community
Standards via email or in hard copy. The warning identifies what the concerning behavior was
and warns that any further disruptions or concerning incidents will result in the student being
asked to leave the class. When incidents occur that represent a significant impact to the program
or its participants, students may be asked to leave immediately without prior warning.

Student Concerns about a Course, an Instructor, or a Teaching Assistant:

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as the use of one’s authority or power, either explicitly or
implicitly, to coerce another into unwanted sexual relations or to punish another for their refusal
to engage in sexual acts. It is also defined as the creation by a member of the University
community of an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or educational environment through
verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

If you are being harassed, seek help—the earlier the better. You may speak with your instructor,
your teaching assistant, Drama Undergraduate or Graduate Advising, or the Executive Director
of the School. In addition, the Office of the Ombud (206 543-6028) is a university resource for
all students, faculty, and staff. The Community Standards and Student Conduct Office
( is also a resource for students.

Concerns about Instructors

If you have any concerns about a course or the instructor in charge of a course, please see the
instructor about these concerns as soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with the
instructor or not satisfied with the response that you receive, contact the School of Drama’s
undergraduate or graduate advisor. If you are not satisfied with the response that you receive,
make an appointment with the Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director in Hutchinson
101 to speak with the Executive Director.

Concerns about Teaching Assistants

If you have any concerns about a teaching assistant, please see them about these concerns as
soon as possible. If you are not comfortable talking with the teaching assistant or not satisfied
with the response that you receive, contact the instructor in charge of the course. If you are not
satisfied with the response that you receive, you may follow the procedure previously outlined,
or contact the Graduate School in G-1 Communications.


Course Schedule:

Can be found on the Drama 171a Canvas Home Page



Catalog Description: 
Historical and cultural study of the Broadway Musical and how this uniquely American art form was predominantly created by outcasts from mainstream society; surveys its evolution including the mid-twentieth Century "Golden Age" and its current twenty-first Century resurgence. Explores how musicals have both reflected and shaped American culture - especially in regard to issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, social justice, and equality.
GE Requirements: 
Diversity (DIV)
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
January 17, 2024 - 3:26am