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Frank Zappa and musical theatre: ugly ugly o'phan Annie and really deep, intense, thought-provoking Broadway symbolism

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The performances of Frank Zappa were renowned for their theatricality and Zappa himself claimed that Nobody has combined music and theatrics in the way I have. Aside from Zappa's legendary and theatrical stage performances, some of his specific compositions have a consciously dramatic narrative that can be fruitfully analysed as remarkable and thoroughly provocative examples of musical theatre. In particular, two works stand out: Joe's Garage Acts I, II and III (1979) a bleak yet humorous satire set in a science fiction dystopia, and Thing-Fish (1984), a narrative-driven drama that explicitly explores yet subverts the Broadway musical form in its uncompromising investigation of AIDS and its social and political impact. In addition, both works demonstrate a disruptive and eviscerating satirical use of sexuality and sex.

Keywords: Frank Zappa; composition; music; narrative; theatre

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Glamorgan.

Publication date: December 12, 2006

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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