Date of Award
Theatre & Dance
Jessie Glover, Ph.D.
First Committee Member
Lori Kay Harvey
Second Committee Member
Jennifer Merkowitz, DMA
Broadway, Orchestra, Musical Theatre, Orchestration, Musicians, Pit
Other Theatre and Performance Studies | Performance Studies | Theatre History
The number of musicians in a Broadway pit orchestra has always been a point of contention between the American Federation of Musicians, Local 802 and the League of American Theatres and Producers. These two organizations have had many collective bargaining agreements that have helped dictate and alter the size of orchestras on Broadway. On one side you have the musicians, who are concerned with preserving jobs and the musical integrity of a show, and on the other you have the producers who are trying to ensure the overall and financial success of the show. This thesis examines these orchestral changes through a technological, economic, and societal lens to help understand the basis for these changes. I give special note to the difference in orchestra size and orchestration inherent in many Broadway revivals. Differences in orchestra size and in many cases changed orchestrations are examined through six different case studies. The case studies look at musicals from some of the major composers of Broadway musicals over the last 70 years and include “Being Alive” from Company and “The Worst Pies in London” from Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim, “A New Argentina” from Evita by Andrew Lloyd Webber, “The Last Night of the World” from Miss Saigon by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, “Be Back Soon” from Oliver! By Lionel Bart, and “I Can’t Say No” from Oklahoma! By Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. There has been a trend on Broadway that has resulted in the number of musicians in Broadway pit orchestras to diminish. Changes to the makeup of the orchestra affect new musicals as well as revivals. In some instances, these differences in orchestration result in fundamental changes to the music, which alter the original musical aesthetic and emotion of a given piece.
Krygielski, Kyle, "In the Pit: The Sight and Sound of Broadway Pit Orchestras" (2020). Distinction Papers. 87.