Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #9 (From THE BAND WAGON)

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In a way, this clip reminded me of a vaudeville, going from song to dance to acrobatics. Everyone participated, even poor Oscar Levant who can't sing. Each one hands off to the next one without highlighting any one person. It is different from other musicals because of the collaborative aspect, although, going back to the idea of vaudeville, when we saw the 4 Cohans, there wasn't a star or leader on the stage. So maybe, in terms of 1940s musicals with a star, it is very different but only because it harks back to an earlier time.

The men aren't dressed all in suits, but they are all dressed in colors that harmonize. Standard men's wardrobe colors of blue, black, and gray. Even Astaire's socks were blue. Nanette Fabray stands out as a woman among men, but wearing a dress and also a red flower or scarf on her belt. She is the pop of color in the scene.

In the beginning, everyone is trying to convince Astaire that he should get on board with their ideas for a play. The three of them work as a team. He begins to agree with them, and from that point, the cohesiveness of the group is in play. They work seamlessly together, even playing little jokes like the lighting of the cigarette and then disappearing and then moving along into more song and dance.

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1.  As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed?

     The overall theme of this number is one of comeraderie and friendship. Not only are Astaire, Fabray and Levant’s characters old friends but along with Buchanan’s character they all team up to do a show that celebrates both friendship and their individual entertainment skills, all of which more or less depend on complimenting each other. You can’t help but feel a sense of fun and enjoyment in watching this scene.

2.  What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific.

     Asatire, Levant and Buchanan are all dressed in suits which make them all visually relatable and complimentary while Fabray is dressed in a classy, 1950s-style blouse/skirt ensemble that not only compliments her three male counterparts but also blends in beautifully with their costuming as well. 

3.  What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song?

     The staging is very show-business driven and even has a strong feeling of classic Vaudeville of the 1920s, where there was plenty of humorous gags, playful choreography and some acrobatics and definite sense of joy both for all the performers (with the possible exception of Buchanan who has a certain stiffness to his performance, but that’s just me) as well as the audience. FOr those of us who really enjoy musicals,I’m sure I can speak for everyone that it makes you smile and chuckle out loud at least once or twice during this terrific number.

 

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1. This number is a real ensemble number. Everyone is participating and it feels very equal. There's no romance involved, unlike a lot of other clips we've watched. They all get to have fun together, it feels very casual, like they're genuine friends. 

2. Everyone is wearing fairly muted colors that are similar to each other. It's all subdued, not much flashy about any of them. That way not one person is meant to stand out, they get to complement each other as equals. There's one red flower to brighten things up, but it doesn't distract or overtake at any point.

3. As I mentioned above, it's very clear that they're all friends and used to having a great time together. It could only be good friends that would go so far to cheer up another person like they do. They look like they've been performing together in vaudeville for years

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As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed?

They respond listen and respond to each other as a group. No single character is doing all the talking or performing. Each is on is contributing a "bit". Previous musicals tended to feature one - or two - stand out performers possibly supported by a chorus line or numerous extra dancers.

What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific.  Astaire and Levant are in suits - Astaire more polished than the sports-jacketed Levant. Buchanan is a more arts-fartsy theater guy so he is in a glorified leisure suit with a cravat no less. Fabray is in a traditional feminine wide-skirted dress. So, each is represented a particular character the 50s audience is familiar with - yet they are all getting along and working together. Color-wise - I see grey, white, blue, black and a touch of red (in Fabray's rose pinned at her waist). SO the group is dressing as individuals but linked. Levant and Fabray are in grays, white and black (and are the married pair), Their white accents match Astaire's white shirt and his navy pinstripe suit and blue tie blends with Buchanan's shades of blue leisure suit.

What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song?  They touch each other a lot and do simple dance steps in unison. They support each other (the acrobatic scene), They share ideas. The even light each other's cigarette (Levant and Buchanan). No one is left out of the fun.

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As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed?

the scene is probably about persuasion. The fact that the information is divided into 3 parts to try and make up the mind of the fourth character, makes this scene different from what we have been watching up till now. There’s no evident separation or any kind of undertone that makes one stand out more than the other.

What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific.

The color tones of the clothing against the red sharp of the background indicates that the ensamble is not the main focus in this particular performance scene.

What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song?

The staging and interplay helps define each character’s role. Looking at the scene alone and not the whole movie, you see that even though all characters have equal importance, they each play a separate job reference.

 

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The Band Wagon is not one of my favorite musicals because of the story. However, I really, really enjoy the music in this movie. Nanette Fabray is one of my favorites, as is Oscar Levant.

I noticed that at the beginning of the movie that Fred Astaire plays a loner, but his friends Lily and Lester bring him back to the stage community where he becomes one of the gang. However, after the play bombs on opening night, Tony (Fred) finds himself alone again at the after-party--until he stumbles on the gang at their own much better party. Again, Tony is welcomed into the group, and this time he becomes their leader by keeping the group together by financing another go at the play--restructured to run as originally written by Lily and Lester. Tony goes on to prove that he is a great addition to the group.

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All four dance in concert really with each other. It's strange for Fred Astaire to be on the outside and not the center of attention or going after the girl. 

All the men are in suits and none other than the blue one is flashy at all. It doesn't take away from any of them. Her skirt is actually the most visual thing of the wardrobe. It's a huge skirt and geometric. I think the costuming is subdued to fit the conversation and scene, they were just talking and broke into song. Also the backgrounds are larger than life so they have a place in the scene. 

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1.  At the beginning of this clip, Astaire is to be convinced by the other three to join those three's idea.  Then, Astaire shows he is sceptic but listening.  Finally, Astaire is convinced to join and collaborate.

     But at all three stages, all Four performers are never separated as TWO Sides of people completely.  AT the Beginning, Three are AROUND the One, i.e. Astaire, to convince at Astaire's Left and Right, leaving the Front View clear for the camera, of course.  During the talk, the Three does take turns to APPROACH the One, i.e. Astaire, from Astaire's Left and Right, with moving Around Astaire's front and back, but Still Leaving the front view Clear to the camera.  Finally, Astaire agrees to join and Four people move together in mainly Linear and, some Circle, formations.

     There is NO Moment of Solo act while singing.  Throughout the clip, there are always more than One person in the scene, 2, or, 3, or all 4, no matter if any musical sentence is performed by Only One person or NOT at any given moment!  All of these can be considered Different from other musical films, or even considered as the Opposite to other musical films.

2.  Each person dressed in "business" to "business casual" for a semi-formal meeting at the backstage.  You can tell what each's job and status is from the costume each has on.  For example, Astaire's whole Matching Suit Set shows Astaire is more established if comparing to Levant's wearing separates.  Then, you have Buchanan wearing something people Typically associate with male artists and male show/film directors ......  Look at the scarf on his neck!

     Since this film was made as a Colour Film, i.e. NOT a B&W Film, Colours are important to attract audience' attention for their viewing enjoyment.  Thus, for a business meeting, i.e. NOT A Show, NOT A Party, all Four wears what considered Normal at the 1950s, e.g. NO bling-bling, NOthing skimpy, guys in dark or neuter colours, ...... etc..  So, the Backstage with all these Bright-Coloured props and sets gives the Contrast to make these Four performers "Stand Out".

3.  While Astaire, Buchanan, Fabray, and Levant are carrying the Song together, you can see easily that Levant does NOT perform the Tap Dance.  He basically Walks Around as the Comic Relief to bring up the next element for the Song to progress.  For example, he brings a ladder to pass Astaire and Buchanan as the Staging.  But, this ladder is So Unnaturally Long that Fabray even has enough time to pass Astaire and Buchanan to flirt with them as the Interplay.  But, Guess What?!  Levant shows up Again at the other end of that ladder as another Interplay!

     Another example to answer this question is, while all Four seemingly forming the Pyramid as the Staging, Levant actually walks forward to break the illusion for your surprise and/or laugh as the Interplay.

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1. Like everyone mentioned everyone is dancing in unity and keeps building on what the other person brings. Previous musicals seem to have 1 person focused and the rest are the background dancers. 

2. All the outfits are blue and gray and are not fancy for the time period. The men in are in casual suits, and Fabray is in a nice day dress. Nobody is outshining the other. There's nothing glamorous or top hat white tie or tails! 

3. Every character seems to bring their specific qualities to the number. Fabray is the female and brings the cheeky sexiness, while Levant does all the gags. The other three dance and while Astaire and Buchanan do some old comedy bits. Levant also takes a back seat to the other three letting them shine while he's behind the scenes. 

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  1. As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed?
    • Pulling from Top Hat in which we discussed how Fred & Ginger were in a battle of the sexes, constantly upping the others move, or showing they can do it, too, this scene is different.  Here we have 3 men and 1 women, who are all doing the same steps as an ensemble.  The men are not showing the lady how it's done, and she's not taking a back seat to wait to be shown.  Similarly, they are all very familiar with each other.  The way the grab each others arms when they have a new idea, or thought, seems very platonic, where in the past, the women touching a guy was romantic.  Their vocal interplay also show how the thoughts are streamlined.  One has a solo that states a thought, the other then continues with the same thought, without it becoming a "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better" scenario, where they are always disagreeing.
  2. What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific.
    • Even though they all have an individual style, the color palette works between them all.  For example, Astaire and Levant both have on dark pants, but differ in suit jacket color, navy and grey, respectively.  Fabray ties into this with a grey skirt.  Levant has a white shirt, as does Fabray and Astaire.  I like how Fabray is in more of a women's skirt suit to play on her equality to the guys.  Levant also has a blue tie, which ties into Cordova's light blue ensemble, but mimics Astaire's blue pin-stripe suit.  I feel Cordova's sticks out the most being light blue, and might have been better suited with grey pants, and maybe a blue jacket, as he is the only one with light blue.  However, as you can see, it all still works together quite well. 
  3. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song?
    • In On the Town, it is made note that the taller character was usually in the middle to make a balance between the trio, however here we have a quartet with varying size and gender.  The staging in constantly changing and rotating so that not one specific character is in the center being featured, or stuck on the same side.  They also don't play off specific strong suits that often.  Astaire could obviously be the main attraction with many dance moves, but instead he stays with the others.  They each also have their hand in the slap-shtick of the jokes, rather than picking out characters that might typically do gags.  This also ties into my thoughts from the first question, showing how they all grab each others arms/shoulders in very familiar, platonic ways, showing how they are comfortable with each other, and know each other well.

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All the characters move very cohesively; very fluid. No one person really sticks out; they all have equal talent. In previous musicals it was either 1 or 2 people that showed their impressive talents. The rest of the ensemble just faded into the background. 

All the costumes have a very cool, neutral tone to them. No one specifically sticks out among the group. As the number progresses they are put in front of a harsh red, warm background which allows all of them to stick out but continue to seem equal.

The staging either has them set 2 x 2 or all together. Really neither actor is specifically showcased. Again displaying a cohesive, fluid performance.

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1) The four characters are part of a cohesive ensemble, they each have an equal part in the musical number. At first they surround sitting Astaire but he quickly joins them in song and dance. Each one sings and includes one another in a jovial manner. In reality, Astaire is the only dancer and Fabray is the true singer. They all take part in the action except for Levant in the dance number.Their rendition of "That's Entertainment" is full of expressive moves and the clever use of props. In past musicals, there was usually a star or two top entertainers in the show. This movie is a show within a show because the "out-takes" and bad rehearsals are entertaining and key to the story.

2)The men are dressed in casual suits in tones of blue and gray. Fabray is in a "casual" cocktail dress in par with her partners. Their individual outfits sort of fit their parts i.e. director with a kind of smoking jacket.

3)During the number all three members dance and move around in hopes of convincing Astaire to be part of the show.Eventually he joins in, it's a message to the viewers that he has been convinced. Quite clever! I agree with "chillyfillyinak" the Minnelli intentionally holds back Astaire's dance moves in this scene. We all know he can outshine the others but ...he doesn't. So smart.

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1. For the ensemble number in "The Band Wagon" (1953), instead of having leading actors, it seems that Jack Buchanan, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray and Fred Astaire are all singing as an ensemble that would stick together.  It seems like they are carefree and easygoing when they are singing "That's Entertainment."

2. They are in their regular street clothes (of the early 1950s) instead of wearing elegant/fancy costumes for the number (Buchanan's smoking jacket with a purplish-light blue tone, Levant's gray suit, Fabray's cream-colored pattern dress and Astaire's black suit).  

3. It seems that the interaction between Buchanan, Levant, Fabray and Astaire are playful throughout the number, with a sense of togetherness as the four are trying to make it big on the Broadway stage to appeal to any tasteful audience. 

Fun Fact: The song in the ensemble number, "That's Entertainment" would serve as the inspiration for the hit MGM feature film musical retrospective series trilogy (released in 1974, 1976 and 1994).

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What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific

The costumes are all complementary to each other. The men seem to be wearing variations of the same suit. Of all of them, I suppose Buchanan's stands out the most for being the lightest color, but the palette is nonetheless limited to blues, whites, and blacks. Fabray's dress stands out for, well, being a dress, but even this remains in the aforementioned color spectrum (gray, after all, is a mixture of white and black).

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1. The clip starts with Jeffrey falling and the rest of them rushing to help him up. He starts singing and they all take turns singing, but they all sing the corus together. The dancing is everyone doing the same steps except for the girl who is sometimes twirled by the guys. They all get a turn at some kind of gag that involves at least one other person. So not one of them outshines the other three. Unlike the earlier musicals where the best talent was front and center.

2. Lily and Lester are dressed in gray and white to separate them as a couple. Tony and Jeffery are both dressed in blue. All three men are wearing suits, but Jeffery’s is more casual. So they are all dressed in neutral colors in the same type of clothes. The only exception is that Lily has a red flower on her dress, which is probably to emphasize that she is feminine.

3. It starts with Jeffery trying to convince Tony to do a show. Then Lily and Lester join in to convince Tony at the same time, like they are really one person. When they all start dancing Lester takes off and Lily dances with Tony and Jeffery, like she is comfortable working with them. Tony and Jeffery knock hats off of each other as a gag, maybe they rival each other. Lester lights Jeffery’s cigarette then hides from him, so maybe Lester try’s to pull fast ones on Jeffery. And when they do the pyramid Lester walks away leaving his wife to carry his load, like maybe she cleans up his messes.

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Let me begin by saying this is quite possible my favorite song. I love the way everyone is equally used in correlation to each other. All seem to be having a grand time, while complementing each other. There talents are showcased as a unit instead of individuality. 

The use of the props was excellent, the ever growing ladder, the red wall where they all seemed to climbed upon, only to have Mr Astaire walk away.. Funny I kept waiting for him to break out in a solo dance as in earlier musicals. 

The costumes were of equal value, basically the same color with the exception of Miss Fabrays red flower on her waist. Love it !!!!! 

Such a fun clip to watch .. Thanks for using this clip. 

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I think its a bit of stretch to say the Band Wagon is a good example of American conformity, American exceptionalism, gender conformity, etc. I don't know. Maybe I just don't want to see 50s musicals in that light. I don't think they are that intentionally different on a cultural level than the musicals of the 40s. There's just a greater level of finance, expertise, sound and set design. It IS the era of the blockbuster musical. That I agree with. 

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What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song?

 

The staging reflects Tony's insecurities.  He's a has-been according to Hollywood, and he hasn't performed live/on stage in years.  He feels out of his element, thanks to the prospect of working with the hot shot Jeffrey Cordova.  Tony has a pretty close relationship with Lester and Lily, but he can't connect even with them because he's feeling a bit sorry for himself.  Lester and Lily have sung Jeffrey's praises since the moment Tony arrived in New York--how innovative he is as an actor, director, producer, writer, etc.  As Jeffry begins his sales pitch, Tony glances furtively at Lester as if to say, "You've got to be kidding me!  I am NOT buying what this guy is selling."  The other characters try to cheer him up and convince him he's part of the ensemble, no longer a solo act.  He can depend on them, and this project will be a grand adventure!  It doesn't take Tony long to enthusiastically join in the fun.  Part of their routine feels straight out of Vaudeville with the (little bit) hokey but funny visual jokes and the witty lyrics.

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Many of the earlier musicals had a 'star' of the song, a lead in the scene. In this, everyone was equal.  There were times when only two were active, yet the transitions were so fast and the group came back together quickly it really appeared to be a well choregraphed team. 

The same goes for the costumes, they all coordinated and looked like a group.  When looking at them all four on set, they all seemed to blend together.  Your eye was not drawn to any one thing.

The transitions were great - everything timed so well.  It was fun to watch and re-watch!

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1. Unlike most of the earlier musicals we've seen where an individual performer, or in some cases a pair of performers, were able to show off their talents in a relatively individualistic number, in "That's Entertainment!" the four performers are more cohesive and team-oriented in all their interactions, from their dialogue to their singing and even their dancing. No one person is really allowed to outshine another, and rather than be upset and become competitive about it, they seem to be happy about it and really enjoy working together.

2. All four characters are dressed in relatively sedate, conservative clothing in complementary shades of blue, grey, white, and black. While each person is dressed in a style fitting with their occupations (a more artistic lounge coat for Buchanan's director, basic suits for Levant and Astaire, and a tasteful dress for Fabray), no one really stands out, and instead fit together into a visually appealing yet cohesive whole, though I do think that Fred Astaire's dark suit does make him stand out slightly from the other three performers.

3. Like the rest of the number, the staging is dependent on coordination and cooperation from all four performers, even if it entails their absence, as shown in Oscar Levant's handkerchief exit! The dances and songs would fall apart if any one of the team failed to play their parts, and shows how interdependent the characters are on each other, not only for this brief musical interlude, but in the larger context of the film.

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As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed?

In this scene, each member of the group helps out the others by providing props, physical support, etc.  In earlier musicals the performers often performed individual routines that paralleled their partner, but didn't often directly include them.

What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific.

The first thing I noticed were the colors.  Astaire and Buchanan, the two single men, are dressed in blues while the married couple are in matching gray and white outfits.  All of the clothing is unremarkable, everyday dress, not theatrical costumes.

What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song?

I noticed that the writers often dealt with the props, bringing the handkerchief, carrying the ladder, etc.  The performer didn't stray too far from signing/dancing/acting.  The director bounced between acting/singing and promoting the show to his potential artist.

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2.  I noticed the husband/wife are wearing complementary outfits of cool gray and white, while the other two are in blue shades.  I also noticed the geometric patterns, in every ensemble.  Her skirt and Fred's stripes being the obvious examples.  But one character has dark blue rectangles on the shoulders of his lighter blue shirt.  The husband's blazer also has a subtle geometric pattern.  Watching today, I sort of think this indicates the "straight" laced or "square" trope that the powers that be wanted us to think the '50s stood for.  I'm sure I'm being anachronistic, but it makes me wonder.  True, Nanette has a splash of red, flare if you will.  But otherwise, it's not just cool grays and blues, but the structured geometric patterns that strike me.  No floral prints, no organic patterns.  Everything is has a structured pattern that conforms to the individual character which in turn, conforms to the larger group.  They're not the same, but they coordinate.  Another way to put it is that no one's outfit falls out of line.  literally.  It's all lines, rectangles and structured geometry.  Even the diamond shape made with their bodies in the dance sequence reiterate this point.  (Miles away from the paisley wallpaper we'll see in My Fair Lady.) 

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1. As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed?

All four perform as equals. There is no leader, and no true individualism in this musical number. The overall theme is that of conformity, and working together, two chief ideals of the 1950s. 

2. What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific.

The men all wear suits, of subdued and muted colors. Fabray's dress is rather subdued, as well. There is nothing flashy, or striking, about any of their costumes. This ties in again with the theme of conformity.

3. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song? 

Again, all four dancers perform as equals. Nobody gets a chance to stand out or really shine, they all play off each other's strengths. The entire number conveys a sense of unity.

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1. Even though Astaire's character is seated in a chair which draws us visually towards him, the attention is given to the other actors during their solo phrases as the other three look directly at that soloist and freeze allowing that soloist "center stage" by voice and movement.  They share the spotlight.  No one person dominates the scene. There's no 'one ups-manship.'  Lester, Jeffrey, & Lily equally need Tony as much as he needs them refresh their careers.

2. Lester and Tony are in simple suits (work attire for their careers of the era) of classic colors, Lily in neutral tones. Jeffrey shows some color but not bright color (in the precursor leisure suit of the 1970's).  Again, no attention given to any one specific character.  Their clothing also indicates that the friends are at the same economic level.

3. Staging indicates a playfulness between all; that they are capable of working well together having equal temperament:  the 4 strike a poise of unity but then Lester walks away, Lily pushing for equal blocking as Jeffrey and Tony upstage her in their little trio dance, Lester re-enters the scene at the front of the ladder then at the end of the ladder -- all is done in friendly competition.

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“That’s Entertainment” demonstrates the Nationalism that was prevalent in 1950’s America. The cast was understated in their dress so as not to express individuality, but the set was brightly colored. The setting — the actual set along with the lyric being sung — is the star of this show. If “the world is a stage” and “the stage is a world of entertainment”, one must look to the grand scheme, the greater good, rather than concentrate on the triviality of the few or the one. The world and all it has to offer is what the audience is directed toward, and it is possible to think about the vivid examples provided in the song rather than the motivation of each character performing the number. The American Way is alive and well in this number. 

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