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"Who Tells My Story?": The Enduring Conversation About Race on Broadway

Authors:

Abstract

Theater, no matter the form, has always been about communication between two communities, two cultures. The culture of the actors on stage communicate the story to the culture of the audience. The audience is always a guest, a newcomer, to the community that has been created in the theater. I say always, because one of the beautiful things about live theater is that no two performances are the same. Each night, something is different - from how a line gets said to the actors on the stage. In early 2016, a friend of mine introduced me to Hamilton: An American Musical (2015). I had known about it. It was really hard not to. I had been avoiding it because the prominence of Rap music was a turn-off for me. I am a white person who grew up with the strong impression that I should not be listening to Hip-Hop music because I am white. I was never told explicitly, but I had inferred it from the way people around me - white people - reacted to white people who were visibly engaged in Hip-Hop culture. Also, whenever I had heard rap music on the radio it had vocals that I could not understand, usually because the music overpowered them. I assumed that the music of Hamilton would be something I would not want to listen to, let alone enjoy. When my friend urged me to let her play the third song, “My Shot,” for me, I let her. I figured I would not like it and be able to move on. I could not have been more wrong. As I became more and more interested in the show, I made a deal with myself: you can become a massive, sometimes obsessive, fan if you use it productively in your research. In this essay, I focus on musical theater that is produced in the theater district in New York City, more commonly known as Broadway. Since its beginnings at the start of the 20th Century through today, Broadway musical theater has used a combination of theatrical styles, musical genres, and choreography to tell stories from all cultures and backgrounds. But, as time goes by and the culture outside the theater’s doors change, the kinds of stories told on stage, as well as how they are told, has changed as well. That change is the subject of this essay. Broadway musicals have gone from being dominated by whiteness in all areas - creation, production, music, choreography, story, and audience - to reflecting the cultural pluralism of the nation.
“Who Tells My Story?”
The Enduring Conversation About Race on Broadway
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+
$$Holler if Ya Hear Me,$
9+HamiltonHoller9+
In the Heights West Side Story
  :73)$9;  
   '  
$
<
$Hamilton7

   7   <       
    
%=8$
!$$!
$$

$
4 | 
$

        
 

      &       
'
    7  
7


7


     
  7        #
     $      
    * 

Literature Review
   $     7    
$$
#$!$7
65
<
       

: * Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater 

./,/$7
>!>!>!
&,21/**
$
?@$* Musical Theater: A History       
@$$
       
A$7@$$
            
+
   7
   (   7 
7+
 
7
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(:+*A Critical Companion to the American Stage Musical'
           
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  4  Studying Musical Theater: Theory and Practice <  
=  (           

    7
    B  !  
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"$:7&"
*$$(*
 $

Summary
7

     
 3 )$  $  "
"$B
>>!$

          7   B Shuffle Along
Porgy and BessShow BoatThe King and IWest Side Story
      

7B
The WizMiss SaigonBring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da FunkOn Your Feet!West Side Story
8 | 
E.//-FHoller If Ya Hear Me!Spring AwakeningE./,4FFella! The Band’s Visit
?:*RENT:!<<
7!In the Heights!$
7!Allegiance"7

; Hamilton: An American Musical 
$
7""
$ 



The Band’s Visit$
< < ,/&
./,2Hamilton
$$9
Birth of “The Great White Way”
C++D
7$
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              
.G(C$B&&AAD,20
69
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 ! #$
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$  

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'7I
The Other at the Beginning

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2
  > >    -
0+A Critical Companion to the American Stage Musical,
1+04
4Showtime5.
5+A Critical Companion to the American Stage Musical1.
I+-",/
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10 | 
 >
$
+,21/
',/
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&    
     7 
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BWest Side Story
,-1/East Side StoryRomeo and Juliet: 
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            
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:&+
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0,+A Critical Companion to the American Stage Musical-0
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14 | 
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!!!
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     
$04 &
<
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Reclaiming Agency
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0I+A Critical Companion to the American Stage Musical,4I
16 | 
,-I4!$The Wizard of Oz The WizThe
Wiz: The Super Soul Musical “Wonderful Wizard of Oz”
$&02
3)$=:3&,-I2
The Wiz Live!   3  ./,4 %        
 $  
$ The Wizard of Oz$
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&&
      & & &       
&1,
Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da FunkE,--5F C
$  ,--/D1.    !      
$&+

710 =
$11+
   
7$
+‘Da Noise/ ‘Da FunkHoller If Ya Hear Me!Holler If
Ya Hear Me!./,1'$7$
1,+A Critical Companion to the American Stage Musical,I,"I.
1.Showtime55,
10@$Musical Theater: A History.-5HC3A(B<=!
;D05.
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18 | 
  7!   14
=
15
about '     
  $1I &          
               
12  '$
: < ;1-  

&$$./,5A
             $ : <
4/
.///.//- Fela! 
3;@&"
=<=<"
 '    7 & 
+              
  @*    
$4,On Your Feet!E./,4F
   :7:$ Dreamgirls
14@$Musical Theater: A History0,/
15C3A(B<=!;D05."50
1I8CJA)A<*<=D
12C8BJA)A<*+$D
1-$C8BJA)A<*<$<; D
4/:C$<JA)A<*8&D
4,CFela!D
619
:7!
4.The Band’s VisitE./,IF
  &7%> 
  < &   
$  
&!!!
!&
<40
$.//-
    West Side Story        $  
 :!<<& < & 
?41            
:7:7+Spring Awakening./,4
=+=

7*$7
,- &
 : $         
=&:44
 
>7 RENT  In the Heights
Allegiance RENTE,--5F$La Boehme
4.COn Your Feet!D
40CThe Band’s VisitE<FD
41CWest Side StoryD
44CSpring AwakeningE<FD
20 | 
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4IIn The Heights Original Broadway Cast Recording
42AHAMILTON #Ham4Ham 11/27/15 with George Takei & the Cast of ALLEGIANCE
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<
N
+             
$>
&(
'!
America Then and America Now
Hamilton$$
       
   & $           
&&
&&>@C
&&D&5,<$
4-C3A(B<=!;D051
5/CAllegianceE<FD
5,<<Hamilton: The Revolution00
22 | 

(   C J*  J*D5. A
CD

Hamilton
<$$
             
$<

50<&7:
@&$&
&&&&
An American story
Hamilton     &7 A "    
"&
A7$
              
$
51!
%
Told using American music
5.G(C$B&&AAD,21
50C.//<BJA*&81/:<DH+
A Critical Companion to the American Stage Musical,24
51G(C$B&&AAD,2-
623
<!78O
'((P%$
<8O
   %  >
@?((?&
;?A
(&
8
      B    
>Holler*
   <    
8*A
    
$
A
54
& <  &7:
$
  ##
$7

<:#
+(#
54@$Musical Theater: A History0,.
24 | 
88O
$(&
And American dance
 & $      
";8""($"
   $  
AC(D
;
                
55
By Americans
!;;<
<;

5IA$
:($
(8 &
     '
          

$52
Who tells your story?
55<<Hamilton: The Revolution,01
5IG(C$B&&AAD,-/
52G(,-4
625
    & 
  & & 
CD;
;  5-          
I/
    '         < 
$&
      
:>?&C
*
$&DI,%(
     I. >$QR>$RQ>   3
  A<N?<= =
<#:N?
              
I0
+S A
+          !
  A "T,/ "   
   $   "
$"
5-G(,-/
I/G(,-,
I,<<Hamilton: The Revolution,5/
I.<<,,5
I0<<,1-
26 | 
       
$I1
A Revolution on Broadway?
Hamilton
$$9+

$$
Changes in and connecting with audiences
& Shuffle Along ,-.,./,0!,1

./,I!,2
1/5
.///:7,,1
I,////./,/!,,I4+

  +          

Changes in Broadway
&   & & % & * E&&%&F 
Ethnic Representation on New York City Stages 2015-2016    
           Hamilton 
=+* Spring Awakening    &
I1<<,4-
I4C:8J=>&*;./,I"./,2D
627
!$04U+$
.,U   :7  2U   &  4U  C< N3 &
&=D,UI5
Hamiltonneed

  +     ,41U    !   
+Carousel./,2?A"
         &      
Hamilton"$<,2//
./,-$Wicked$3
need The
Band’s Visit,/&<&<&
< ; && '


$$
     II   
            
$
'+Hamilton 
        7     
'
I5C 83)$./,4!./,5D
IIStudying Musical Theater: Theory and Practice-4
28 | 
'<(
<A
            

(#C+my9D
629
Works Cited
CAllegianceE<FDWikipedia;,/./,-BNN$NN79
V&WEFOV22.5021I1
$+C8BJA)A<*<$<; D
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution././,I
BNN'NN!!N!!!$!!
!!!N30=?I@&A&31:3N
@C.//<BJA*&81/
:<DBillboard.2./,2
C3A(B<=!;DThe
Cambridge Companion to the Musical+& %8:
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%./,I
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