On Stage

KMUW commentator Sanda Moore Coleman looks behind the curtain to give listeners (and play goers) a bit of history and perspective.

Tune in on alternate Mondays or subscribe online at iTunes.  


Disney is well known for taking the fairytales of our childhood, sweetening them, and turning them into animated musical extravaganzas for children. Beauty and the Beast was originally a French tale, written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, but it has been translated and retold almost from the moment it first appeared in print in 1756.

Google Images / Creative Commons

  Looking for an antidote to the typical holiday entertainment fare? Consider a musical comedy that celebrates the simple pleasures of beer and sports while contemplating life’s deeper meanings. Guys on Ice takes place in an ice-fishing shack in Wisconsin. The book and lyrics are by Fred Alley, with music by James Kaplan.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The story of Cyrano de Bergerac, a man who is perfect in all ways but one, is based only loosely on the life of an actual man. The real Cyrano was a playwright and an expert swordsman, he did have a cousin, and she did marry a baron. His nose was largish.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

The word “opera” comes from the Latin word for “work,” but it wasn’t until 1639 that the word was used to describe a theatrical piece that includes poetry, vocal music, orchestral music and dance.

Opera first appeared on the world stage in 1598, with the production of La Dafne in Florence, Italy. Ottavio Rinuccini wrote the book, known as the libretto, and Jacopo Peri composed the musical score. The music has long been lost to us, but the libretto survives mostly intact.

TheeErin / Flickr / Creative Commons

Like jazz, stand-up comedy is an American invention.

"It’s just a jump to the left!"

For the uninitiated, those words might sound like the directions to Wile E. Coyote’s weaponry from Acme. But for those in the know, they are an invitation to dance… To dance The Time Warp.

Yes! And...

Sep 15, 2014
Andrew Currie / Flickr / Creative Commons

Improvisational comedy is a bit like watching a flying trapeze act: the excitement comes not simply from the skilled moves of the performers, but from the danger inherent to the act. Except in the case of improv, there is never a net.

Cassell's History of England (Public Domain) / Wikimedia Commons

Although King John reigned for 17 years, until his death in 1216, England officially broke up with him in 1215, when the barons declared civil war and forced the king to sign the Magna Carta.

Frequently, the word “farce” is used to describe a ridiculous situation that did not end well, such as a political campaign or a sports finals match, but in the theatre world, farce means fast, funny and fun.

Wikimedia Commons

Let’s talk melodrama—cue suspenseful organ music, please.

Almost everyone thinks they know what melodrama is, but the art form has taken many shapes over the years, influencing (and being influenced by) everything from the morality and mystery plays of the Middle Ages to Italy’s commedia dell’arte.

“A Tale of Mystery,” by Thomas Holcroft, was the first English play to be known as a melodrama. It was Gothic, in keeping with what was popular in 1802.