by Martin Brady
Vanderbilt University associate professor of musicology Jim Lovensheimer believes we can learn a lot about ourselves as a society by paying attention to the entertainment we choose. And so, with his entry in the 2011-12 Chancellor’s Lecture Series, Lovensheimer will illustrate how musical theater productions are not merely entertainments with witty lyrics and catchy melodies, but also vehicles for providing serious commentary on the social and political issues of contemporary times.
With his strong academic background in theater, music and art, Lovensheimer joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 2002. More recently, he authored South Pacific: Paradise Rewritten, an exhaustive study of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Pulitzer- and Tony-winning 1949 blockbuster. Other topics that Lovensheimer has explored include the work of composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim, the constructs of masculinity in Cold War-era musicals and the relation between disco and gay culture of the 1970s.
This sort of erudite, big-picture discussion is rare even in larger showbiz towns, and Lovensheimer’s address deserves to attract an intellectually curious audience of musical theater mavens. The event is free to the public; seating is limited and available on a first-come basis.