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The Musical is a marriage of Operetta, or Light Opera, and the British and American Music-Hall acts of the 1890s. The American composer Irving Berlin added another vital ingredient to the Musical - Jazz.

Early Musicals had very thin storylines, and the songs were little more than decoration. All this changed in the 1920s with Jerome Kern's groundbreaking shows, especially Show Boat, which made the songs central to the story and covered more serious subjects.

The 1930s saw the sophisticated music and lyrics of Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and Lorentz Hart. But it was Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! which, in 1943, ushered in the golden age of the Broadway Musical. Stephen Sondheim, Hammerstein's pupil, emerged as a brilliant composer in the late 1950s.

More recently, Rock Music has made its presence felt in Musicals, and in the 1970s and 1980s, British shows, especially those of Andrew Lloyd Webber, began to dominate the world of Musicals.