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Broadway Backstage: A Musical Theatre History Seminar

May 5, 2021 - June 23, 2021

Wednesdays, 7-8:30pm
Instructor: Barrie Gelles
Cost: $20 per class; $135 for the full eight-week session
About the Course

This course explores the uniquely “American” theatrical form – the Broadway musical. The musical, as a popular art form, holds a powerful place in our contextual understanding of U.S. culture, history, and sociology. Through this course, participants will gain an appreciation for analyzing musical theatre, an understanding of its place in theatre history, and an appreciation for the ways in which the critical study of musicals can illuminate social and contextual aspects of U.S. history.

We will focus on “ways of reading” musical theatre: participants will learn about the aspects of musical theatre, the function of music, the intricacies of staging, and the power of performance. We will also build upon these skills and focus on “ways of looking” at musical theatre: participants will engage in the critical analysis of select musicals that will enable them to further appreciate musicals and understand their contextual importance in cultural and social histories.

The course materials will include librettos, archival photographs, video clips, supplemental readings, and more! Participants will be sent the librettos (script) and links to the original Broadway cast album prior to each session. There are no required assignments and no required readings – but Barrie will provide plenty of materials for those who want to do some voluntary homework!

Course Schedule

Sign up for the entire eight-week course and save! Or sign up for individual topics that fit your interests and schedule.

Class Session Class Topic
Wednesday, May 5 “Never Say No”: Musicals that Didn’t Make it to Broadway (Yet)
Soft Power; The Fantastiks; KPOP; Octet; A Strange Loop; The View Upstairs
Wednesday, May 12 “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”: Musicals that Adapt Shakespeare Plays
As You Like It (2017 – the Public Works production co-adapted by Shaina Taub and Laurie Woolery); Kiss Me, Kate; The Donkey Show; Your Own Thing
Wednesday, May 19 “Everything’s Up to Date…”: Revivals and How they Change Stories
Spring Awakening; Oklahoma; Company
Wednesday, May 26 “I’m The Greatest Star”: The Evolution of Stars and New Talent on Broadway
Gypsy; Funny Girl; Head Over Heels; Hello Dolly; Tina
Wednesday, June 2 “Opening Doors”: Participants’ Choice!
Wednesday, June 9 “There’s No Business Like Show Business”: The Tony Awards
Wednesday, June 16 “Hundreds of Stories”: A Discussion on the New Film Version of In the Heights – a conversation about the highly anticipated movie version of In the Heights that will premiere on HBO Max and in select theaters on June 11th.
Wednesday, June 23 “You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow”: The Rumored 2021-2022 Season

Note: This course content is subject to change.


About the Instructor

BARRIE GELLES is a theatre scholar, director, and teacher. She is a PhD candidate of Theatre and Performance at The Graduate Center, City University of New York where her research emphasizes the study of musical theatre aesthetics as a way to examine how the recurring themes and tropes in Broadway musicals recreate, reframe, and reclaim narratives of Jewish American cultural history and collective memory.

Barrie teaches musical theatre history, theatre history, acting, directing, and public speaking at many NYC colleges; she currently teaches at Baruch College, Marymount Manhattan College, and NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. She regularly presents her research at the annual conferences of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and the American Society for Theatre Research.

Barrie directs new musicals, rarely produced musicals, and re-envisioned revivals of musicals wherein she uncovers a new story while remaining loyal to the original text. At Gallery Players she has directed The Baker’s Wife, Seussical, Marry Me a Little, A New Brain, Once Upon a Mattress, and Little Women. She also created and continues to curate Overtures, a new musical developmental reading series at Gallery Players. For more information, visit barriegelles.com.

“Barrie Gelles’ musical theatre history class is something I look forward to every week. She’s warm and funny and gives a new perspective to old classics and new favorites alike. I’ve learned so much!”


“When I saw the opportunity to get a bit more structured education through Gallery Players–a respected organization that I’ve long admired–I jumped at the chance. For a reasonable price, I found myself learning about everything from Jewish and Black representation in musicals to famous flops. Barrie’s knowledge is vast, and her casual and approachable style are ideal for both novices and experts alike.”


“Gallery Players’s Broadway Backstage classes, lead by Barrie Gelles, are the most fun I had learning in years. Barrie is a phenomenal teacher and takes musical theater history very seriously. She leads every class with enthusiasm thus making class more than informative, but an absolute good time.”


“Barrie’s deep knowledge and enthusiasm for musical theatre is so apparent in this seminar- it’s such a treat to have the opportunity to learn from her each week!”

Registration is on a first-received, first-enrolled basis until the maximum class size is reached. We reserve the right to cancel any online class that is under-enrolled at any time. If a class is cancelled, we will notify you at least 24 hours prior to the start of class and tuition will be refunded.
If we receive your request to withdraw from a class at least one week (7 days) prior to the first day of class, you will receive a full refund. If we receive your request less than one week (7 days) prior to the first day of class, you will receive a 50% refund. There are no refunds after the first day of class.


May 5, 2021
June 23, 2021