The Exploration and Expansion period ranged from 1943-1959; and was the successor to the Broadway Musical. This era contained many important features such as use of popular singing styles like the female belt voice and male baritone, and dance scenes which advance the plot of the musical. ‘Oklahoma’ was seen as the pivotal work from the Broadway Musical to this new era. It reached new heights in terms of the degree of integration it incorporated into the show.
There are only 12 musical numbers in the show however, they are reprised and developed in such a way to further the flow of the drama and to connect and portray character relationships. For example, when Laurey appears on stage, she sings material from Curley’s ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’ to convey her relationship with him. Also, in order to show his villainous nature, Jud’s song ‘Lonely Room’ is in a minor key; the only piece in the show not in a major key.
Music in ‘Oklahoma’ is also integrated in such a way that it reflects the context in which the musical is set; ‘Farmer and Cowman’ has a folk-like element to it and uses folk-dance to accompany the music illustrating the country setting of ‘Oklahoma’. This was the first show to expand its degree of integration past musical techniques and incorporate costumes into the show also. Rodgers stated that ‘the orchestrations sound the way the costumes look. This musical also features ballet; a popular dance style of this time. This dance routine was employed to reveal the plot without the need for speech. Throughout the Exploration and Expansion period, many musical genres were explored. ‘Oklahoma’ in influenced by the Romantic style; this is evident through the use of chromaticism featured in the opening number, ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’, and also through the strong melody (with added chromaticism for tension) in ‘People Will Say We’re in Love’.
Furthermore, in ‘Kiss Me Kate’ music featured in Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew’ is an idiom of Renaissance style music, with the use of melisma, a cappella singing, the changing of modes, and renaissance style language, ‘Thy’ and ‘Thou’ featured in ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’. Another feature of Renaissance music employed in ‘Kiss Me Kate’ is the pavane dance rhythm of a minim and two crotchets. In addition to the use of musical features from the Romantic and Renaissance periods, ‘Guys and Dolls’ take inspiration from the Baroque era for their opening musical number, ‘Fugue for Tinhorns’. Fugue for Tinhorns’ from ‘Guys and Dolls’, is a number which demonstrates musical integration within the drama.
The term ‘tinhorns’ refers to gamblers who believe themselves to be better than they are. By calling this piece a fugue; Loesser is mocking the tinhorns by making their simple rounds seem more sophisticated than they are. The strict imitation provides the perfect setting for the three gamblers talking over each other, singing in counterpoint. Syncopation and triplet rhythms present in this number are associated with the ‘guys’ throughout to show their fun, energetic nature. Fugue for Tinhorns’ was not however, just an amusing number used to poke fun at the three characters who sang it, it was also a revolutionary opening; a movement away from the classic chorus line opening which took life from the innovative opening from ‘Oklahoma’. ‘Oklahoma’ was the first musical ever to stray away from the traditional opening chorus line with sustained use of chorus throughout. Instead of this, it opened with the protagonist, Curley, singing a solo piece, ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’ with the first verse sang unaccompanied and off-stage.
In addition to this, the musical does not contain any chorus numbers until the beginning of the second act. During this era, musicals began to adopt and use a greater range of popular musical and dance styles. The dominance of the female belt voice and male baritone became central during this time with the role of Adelaide in ‘Guys and Dolls’ being intended for belt voice, and the roles of Curley from ‘Oklahoma’, Fred from ‘Kiss Me Kate’ and both Sky and Nathan from ‘Guys and Dolls’ are written for the male baritone.
Strong big band influences in the orchestra with more focus on the brass and reeds than on strings became common practice also with the orchestra in ‘Guys and Dolls’ consisting of 5 reed players, 5 brass players, and only string players. ‘Kiss Me Kate’ contains both Renaissance and contemporary styles of music, the latter demonstrated through the song ‘Too Darn Hot’ which is a jazz number and also through ‘Why Can’t You Behave’ which in a blues style.
Furthermore, ‘Guys and Dolls’ makes use of a wider range of popular musical genres including hymn style in ‘Follow the Fold’, Gospel style in ‘Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat’ and a blues/ jazz style in ‘Adelaide’s Lament’. Along with the development present in regards to the musical features of this era, developments in recording and broadcasting enabled these musicals to be brought to a wider range of audiences, leading to longer runs of shows and more frequent revivals.