This chapter illustrates how veteran Broadway factotum Lehman Engel—in one of the first books that dealt with the substance of American musical theater and its history—delineated the distinguishing traits of what he called “the contemporary musical.” Most of the representative works that Engel discusses fall within the limits of the Fifties, and almost all of the plot-related characteristics he mentions are things that indeed come into focus when regarded through such Fifties-specific lenses as American foreign policy, race relations, the burgeoning youth culture, and sexual politics. Engel's observations on the moral qualities of many of Broadway's principal males are not so sexy, but nonetheless relevant to the profound societal changes that America experienced during the Fifties. Meanwhile, Engel writes that the leading ladies of the contemporary Broadway musical exhibit a lifelike dimension.
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