The musicals he is focusing on are: In Trousers by William Finn; March of the Falsettos, Falsettoland, Falsettos and A New Brain by William Finn and James Lapine; The Human Comedy by Galt MacDermot and William Dumaresq; Wings by Jeffrey Lunden and Arthur Pearlman; Hello Again by Michael John LaChiusa; Rent by Jonathan Larson; The Wild Party by Andrew Lippa; The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown; and Caroline, or Change by Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner.
Bádue asserts that these American sung-through musicals are challenging the tradition set by conventional book musicals. In a sung-through musical, nearly all of the story development is communicated in song. The music adds more layers to scenes that could easily be spoken, Bádue said.
In 2015, Bádue travelled to New York City and interviewed some of the sung-through musical composers: Finn, MacDermot, Tesori, LaChiusa, Lippa and Lunden. The composers spoke to him about the writing process of their respective musicals, explaining their compositional approaches, techniques and style choices. He also went to the Library of Congress to study the papers of Jonathan Larson, creator of Rent.
“It’s been very interesting to see how much he changed and matured as a composer and songwriter over the seven years it took him to create Rent,” Bádue said.
“He was a songwriter more than a playwright, so his best response to enact a scene or depict a dramatic situation was always composing a new song. He never aimed at creating a sung-through score. It was simply what resulted after years of songwriting.”
Rent has received some scholarly attention since its 1996 debut, unlike the other musicals and composers in Bádue’s dissertation. Musicology has only recently started to accept musical theatre as a scholarly topic, he said. Bádue hopes his dissertation will help expand both fields.
“Once upon a time, some authors and scholars argued that American musical theatre started dying after 1980,” he said. “But at this time and age, when something like Hamilton becomes a cultural phenomenon, it's clear that musical theatre has never died. Musical theatre scholarship has to do its part to demonstrate that.”