Lying in the Middle

Musical Theater and Belief at the Heart of America
Author: Jake Johnson
Imagining a better world from regional and local stages across the nation
Cloth – $110
Paper – $24.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 10/19/2021
Cloth: 10/19/2021
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About the Book

The local and regional shows staged throughout America use musical theater’s inherent power of deception to cultivate worldviews opposed to mainstream ideas. Jake Johnson reveals how musical theater between the coasts inhabits the middle spaces between professional and amateur, urban and rural, fact and fiction, fantasy and reality, and truth and falsehood. The homegrown musical provides a space to engage belief and religion—imagining a better world while creating opportunities to expand what is possible in the current one. Whether it is the Oklahoma Senior Follies or a Mormon splinter group’s production of The Sound of Music, such productions give people a chance to jolt themselves out of today’s post-truth malaise and move toward a world more in line with their desires for justice, reconciliation, and community.

Vibrant and strikingly original, Lying in the Middle discovers some of the most potent musical theater taking place in the hoping, beating hearts of Americans.

* Publication supported by a grant from the General Fund of the American Musicological Society, supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

About the Author

Jake Johnson is an associate professor of musicology at Oklahoma City University and the author of Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America.

Also by this author

Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America coverThe Possibility Machine cover


"This book is very well written. . . . Highly recommended." --Choice

"Refreshing and eye-opening . . . Lying in the Middle is an excellent exploration of what lies behind the musical and it is meant to be." --Kansas History


"With an unlikely cast of polygamists, conservative Christians, senior citizens, and aspiring stars who end up cookie cutter performers, Johnson’s polemic for and against the Broadway musical (and how all of us use it) cuts to the heart of our post-truth moment."--Todd Decker, author of Show Boat: Performing Race in an American Musical