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‘FAIRY LAND WAS NEVER LIKE THIS!’: FINIAN’S RAINBOW AND THE FANTASTICAL REPRESENTATION OF E.Y. HARBURG’S SOCIO-POLITICAL IDEALS

Birkett, Danielle (2016) ‘FAIRY LAND WAS NEVER LIKE THIS!’: FINIAN’S RAINBOW AND THE FANTASTICAL REPRESENTATION OF E.Y. HARBURG’S SOCIO-POLITICAL IDEALS. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

Written to condemn racism and promote a socialist society, Finian’s Rainbow is a thought-provoking presentation of lyricist E.Y. (Yip) Harburg’s worldview. First appearing in 1947 during the Golden Age of Broadway, the piece was warmly received by audiences and ultimately ran for 725 performances. Following this successful opening the hit musical transferred to the West End, but its reception was apathetic. Nevertheless, over the next few years revivals were frequently staged across America and Europe and in 1968 the musical was released as a motion picture starring Fred Astaire and Petula Clark. More recently, however, interest in the show has faded: the unusual narrative, which juxtaposes Irish whimsy with socialism and anti-racism propaganda, has been deemed old-fashioned, and fears of commercial failure have hindered performances of the work. The writers’ contradictory intention to attack racism and capitalism within a commercial vehicle is the fundamental concern of this thesis. Across the study, primary sources (in particular working scripts, musical and lyrical sketches, scores, cut songs, unreleased recordings, productions files, newspaper clippings, lectures and correspondence) are employed to illuminate the creators’ priorities and concerns during the development of the show. As the tension between the subject matter and the requirements of the genre became increasingly apparent, these documents reveal that the team exploited five aesthetic and thematic devices: fantasy, satire, folklore, Stage Irishness and melodrama. By using secondary sources to provide a critical framework for assessing these five themes, this study reveals their importance in overcoming the musical’s foregrounding of what could be at the time considered anti-hegemonic values of anti-capitalism and anti-racism within a commercial musical entity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Music (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.702634
Depositing User: Mrs Danielle Birkett
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2017 13:54
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:34
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/15928

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