A musical comedy is a theatre production that incorporates musical numbers into the story. Many stories have been told through this genre, but there are a few recurring themes that are integral to many of them. Musical comedy has its roots in French productions from the mid-19th century. The style spread and continued to develop in the United States throughout the 20th century.
Various recurring features tend to be mainstays of musical comedy. Plots tend to be positive and there is often a moral at the end of the story. "Good" always overcomes "bad," and the boy always gets the girl, leaving the audience feeling uplifted. Glamorous musical numbers that involve catchy music, beautiful costuming, and, occasionally, even special effects are also an important element. It is this element that arises from the genre's roots in burlesque and operetta productions.
The origins of musical comedy begin with the French composer Hervé, who is credited with the development of the operetta. Several other composers produced many popular operettas throughout the latter half of the 19th century. Translations made their way onto stages in London and New York and introduced the people there to world of musical theatre. The first show of this kind that actually originated in the United States is thought to have been The Black Crook, which opened in New York in 1866. It is believed that these early operettas paved the way for the development of musical comedy as it is known today.
In the early 20th century, musical comedy began to emerge as its own art form and developed a more uplifting and patriotic feel that American audiences could relate to more easily. This was due largely to the work of George M. Cohan, who wrote the well known song, "Give My Regards to Broadway," among many others. Following Cohan's early creations, the genre flourished as composers such as George Gershwin and Irving Berlin contributed their works.
Musical comedy continued to grow in popularity throughout the rest of the 20th century. Artists such as Rogers and Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Bob Fosse all left their mark on the genre. In 2011, musical comedy remains a popular form of theatre production.