March 15th, 2016

music by tiger_tyger

(no subject)

The secret life of the American musical : how Broadway shows are built by Jack Viertel.

p. 164- 166

For many shows, the question of where to drop the curtain must have been difficult to answer. Is the anticipation harder to bear than the act itself? "What will happen?" better than "Look what just happened!"?

West Side Story used a variation of a classical technique to answer the question, the finaletto. Finaletto is a fancy opera term that refers to a piece of music that ends a scene. Often, it suggests a small cluster of reprises or intertwining songs. It doesn't end the whole show (that's the finale ultimo ). A proper finaletto may take many forms, but it often manages to convey a group of differing points of view from different characters, letting us know that there are clearly defined conflicts and differences of opinion at this point in the story. But it also, by reprising familiar melodic strains in a small bouquet, reminds us of how these people feel and what they've been through emotionally. Finaletti were de rigueur in the operettas and musicals of the '20s and '30s but were still often in use in the '60s, though you find them less often today. And the shows that used them don't have to be high minded just because the word is Italian; the first act of How to Succeed concludes with a finaletto -it's even labeled that way in the playbill. But the Tonight Quintet from West Side Story is probably the finest of them-except it doesn't end the act, and it's only partly a reprise.
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