Me and Juliet: Innovative metatheatrical musical comedy

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Abstract

Me and Juliet was the only musical comedy written by Rodgers and Hammerstein. This paper explores the reception of Me and Juliet relative to the way it functions as metatheatre. Although the show is most often portrayed as a relative failure within the output of Rodgers and Hammerstein and reviews of the original 1953 Broadway production were decidedly mixed, the ambition of Rodgers and Hammerstein to reflect on musical comedy with this original musical comedy serves as a pre-emptive critique of the criticism. A fascinating sequence that opens Act II, in which the audience is portrayed discussing the show during the interval, misremembering the songs and debating whether theatre is dead, serves to illuminate prevailing receptions of Broadway musicals. It shows how Rodgers and Hammerstein were acutely conscious of the consumption and criticism of musicals and it highlights how Me and Juliet is a complex and ambitious show that fundamentally reflects on tropes and attitudes and puts the life and death of musical theatre at the heart of its character driven narrative. How, then, can we account for its criticism and might there be a new way to consider the merits of the show based on appreciating its metatheatre?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCambridge Companion to Rodgers and Hammerstein
PublisherCambridge University Press
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 11 Dec 2022

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