Wollman, Elizabeth L
Oxford University Press, USA
In Hard Times
, musical theater historian Elizabeth L. Wollman takes readers on a fascinating tour of the adult musical scene of New York City's rampant 1970s.
After the success of Hair
in 1968, the low-budget adult musical proliferated. The most famous was the long-running Oh! Calcutta!, but countless more made it to stage: Stag Movie, Let My People Come, The Faggot, and others. Structured like old-fashioned revues, with thematically interconnected songs and skits, they received little respect from critics, who either condemned them for going too far in the direction of hard-core pornography, or for not being erotic enough. The public thought otherwise, flooding the theaters and pouring cash into box-office tills. Wollman shows that adult musicals represented far more than a silly fad from a silly decade: they reflected experimentation with newfound sexual freedom, not to mention the rise of the women's and gay liberation movements. She examines the impact of the Stonewall riots on gay musicals; how feminism was reflected on stage; and how porno chic and hard-core porn influenced performances. Even the most middlebrow efforts
brought into focus the debate between art and obscenity, and angst over New York City's socioeconomic status. By the early 1980s, as the city's economy recovered and society grew conservative, these musicals disappeared-an indicator of a larger transformation.
Wollman reasserts the significance of this humble (if hardly modest) art form. Adult musicals, she shows, represented aspects of American culture at their messiest and most confused-and thus at their most honest.