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date: 22 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the adaptation of Jerome Kern’s Roberta from its origins as a novel into first a stage musical and then a film. The chapter notes that the movie Roberta provides an early and much-overlooked blueprint for how to adapt stage musicals into screen musicals. For example, it observes that the film achieves a manageable length while allowing audiences to hear most of the score of the stage Roberta, either as a song (sometimes sung by a different character) or as generous orchestral background music, plus several new songs. Despite also having to accommodate the specific talents of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (thus making it a double star vehicle as well as a Broadway-Hollywood adaptation), the film’s treatment of the music adds up to something extraordinary and may illustrate a phenomenon that would not be repeated in a film adaptation of a Broadway stage musical until Bob Fosse’s reimagining of Hal Prince’s Cabaret in 1972.

Keywords: Jerome Kern, Roberta, Oscar Hammerstein II, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers

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