Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical metatheatre, or: Why Billy Bigelow had to die | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 8, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1750-3159
  • E-ISSN: 1750-3167



Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical theatre has tended to resist interpretations that view it as an affirmation of the musical theatre itself, as an effort to construct the musical theatre’s historical roots, and as a means of insisting on its centrality to human (or, at least, American) survival. The term metatheatre may encapsulate this persistent trope in R&H’s world. For, despite the term’s slippery connotations since its coinage more than 50 years ago, it serves as a concise way to accentuate a broad, yet not fully recognized, phenomenon in their work. Metatheatrical numbers, scenes and patterns emerge in The King and I, The Sound of Music, and South Pacific that help to illuminate the previously unrecognized metatheatricality of Carousel.


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