ISSN: 17503159
First published in 2007
3 issues per volume
Volume 10 Issue 2
Cover Date: June 2016
Big possibility: Moscow, and musical theatre’s subjunctive dramaturgy
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Authors:  Zachary A. Dorsey 
DOI: 10.1386/smt.10.2.195_1

subjunctive,dramaturgy,Moscow,temporality,liminality,utopia,magic if,backstage musicals

Grammatically speaking, many, many key songs and moments in musical theatre rely on the subjunctive, a grammatical mood that is used variously to express openness, hopefulness, wishfulness and possibility, as well as doubts, opinions, judgements and fears. Tevye’s ‘If I Were a Rich Man’ from Fiddler on the Roof is such a prime example of the subjunctive that it is often invoked in grammar guides and textbooks that seek to teach the proper use of this mood. This article explores the phenomenon that I describe as ‘subjunctive dramaturgy’ – the way that the spirit of the subjunctive mood underpins and crackles through the musical genre. I argue that particularly when amplified by speech, song and dance, the subjunctive mood helps to join character, actor and audience in a shared affective experience. One big intervention that subjunctive dramaturgy makes is that it encourages practitioners, audiences and musical theatre scholars to look beyond always pursuing temporal enquiries, such as with the musical’s often investigated nostalgic impulses or utopic drives. The subjunctive sits adjacent to time, and its study reveals the large meaning-making possibility and untapped potential in understanding the expansive, contradictory, messy and multi-directional nature and energies of the musical form. In this article, I analyse subjunctive moments from a number of classic American musicals, and I examine as case study Nick Salamone and Maury R. McIntyre’s Moscow, a seldom-produced musical from 1998 that I contend both reveals and teaches to its audience the merits of seeing and singing the subjunctive.
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