In Tune with the Times

Ref: C2341673

This is a history course based on some of the best-known musicals and operettas. Writers of these works often dealt with complex social, political and historical issues while providing an entertaining show with great songs. Show Boat, described as the first true musical, is set in the southern states of America under conditions of systematic discrimination against the black population after the abolition of slavery; racial tensions also feature in West Side Story and South Pacific. The politics and society of Paris in the 19th century form the background to Les Misérables, Orpheus in the Underworld, and others; the economic difficulties of Germany and Austria in the 1920s and 30s, the nationalist backlash against perceived decadence, and the rise of the Nazis are depicted in Cabaret and the Sound of Music. Also included in the course are the strange censorship of the Hollywood Production Code; the Swinging Sixties in pop musicals; and how musicals have changed in recent years.

Course aim

This course aims to show how musicals and operettas reflect the historical context in which they are written and often contain important political and social commentary, sometimes satirically presented.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Give three examples of musicals that reflect problems in society at the time they were written
  • Illustrate how the personal backgrounds of composers and lyricists have affected choice of subject matter
  • Assess the effect of the Hollywood Production Code on the quality of film musicals produced in the period of its operation
  • Identify some changes in Parisian society in the 19th century that are reflected in musicals and operettas

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • Some method of taking notes

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here

Download full course information sheet

In Tune with the Times


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact

Visa Credit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Debit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Electron payments supported by RBS WorldPay Mastercard payments supported by RBS WorldPay Maestro payments supported by RBS WorldPay JCB payments supported by RBS WorldPay Solo payments supported by RBS WorldPay
RBS WorldPay Payments Processing