All The World's A Stage Musical theatre has the power to bring to the surface underlying political and social messages through their storylines and characters. The eternal relevance of the topics discussed allow the themes and context to transcend time and affect audiences of all eras.

I. The Beginning of Change: The Rodgers and Hammerstein Era

Often referred to as the most influential duo in the creation of Modern Musical theatre, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II came together after having show slumps within their other writing teams. The unsuspecting writers changed Broadway and the way musicals were written forever. Their legacy creates a continuing impact on the world of musical theatre today. Writers still accredit Rodgers and Hammerstein, several decades later, for their innovative musicals. Prior to Rodgers and Hammerstein, musical theatre was not as political and radical as it has become today. They forged the path for creating musicals that not only provided entertainment, but struck the audience with a strong emotional response. They started a wave of socially and politically active musicals that not only affected contemporary audiences, but future audiences as well.

“[Hammerstein’s] lyrics were about truth, above all, in language natural to the characters and setting, expressing real, simple emotions, fears, and hopes, language that seemed utterly natural and never called attention to itself as art” (Rebels With Applause, 36)

Oklahoma!

The 1998 Revival Cast of "Oklahoma!"

Oklahoma! is considered to be one of the first concept musicals in American history. They created a story that enveloped social anxieties and community trouble. While the show may, at first glance, not seem to be tremendously deep in meaning, the story's underlying message of Laurey's safety creates for rich characters and connections to the audience's world. The threat of Jud Fry, the farm hand, to Laurey's safety is what makes a deeper meaning to the seemingly simple decision of who to take to the Box Social.

Oklahoma! was revolutionary in several ways. First, it was one of the first concept musicals, meaning its message about community safety and responsibility was more important than the actual plot. It was also the first musical to use dance as a plot advancement technique. Rodgers and Hammerstein included the ballet dream sequence for the purpose of enhancing the story, not just for the sake of having a long dance sequence in the show as previous shows (i.e. Showboat) had done. They played with the idea of long form scores, in which the songs were no longer a pause in the story, but used to advance the plot along.

A still from the Dream Ballet Sequence in Oklahoma!

Oklahoma! was also very different from its predecessors in musical theatre because it opened with a single, offstage, a cappella voice, as opposed the very popular large, full ensemble dance number. The song paints a picture of the setting of the show, as well as gives the audience insight into Curly's character.

The entire score was different from any other musical at the time, as well. Rodgers went out with the jazzy and cute scores of the other contemporary musicals and wrote Oklahoma! with a dramatized score that was able to tell the story just as much as the libretto, or the book (dialogue) of the show. Their shows were real and honest, which a lot of musicals at the time seemed to lack. Rodgers and Hammerstein were also different from the norm in using their reprises for a reason, and not just to repeat a catchy tune. The use of reprises in shows after Oklahoma! never went back to being a mere time-filler, or means of repetition. After Oklahoma!, writers used reprises to advance their plot and to create a sophisticated connection of plot elements.

“The chief influence of Oklahoma! Was simply to serve notice that when writers come up with something different and it has merit, there would be a large and receptive audience waiting for it” (from Rodger's Autobiography, mentioned in Strike Up The Band, 51)

South Pacific

South Pacific, a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical of Rodgers and Hammerstein, deals with issues of race, war, and injustice. This was the first time that theme became a driving force for both primary and secondary plot and characters. Based on James A. Michener’s novel, Tales of the South Pacific, South Pacific focuses on the American military stationed in the South Pacific Islands. While the war context allows for military characters and a political underscore, it is the story of love and prejudice that plays a more important role in the musical.

The relationship between Nellie Forbush, an American Military Nurse, and Emile De Becque, French planter who lives in the South Pacific, is the central love story of the show. While both characters are caucasian, Nellie initially cannot see past the fact that Emile had children with a Polynesian woman. His mixed race children are not something she can accept in the beginning of the show. It is not until the end of the show when Emile’s life is in danger that her love for him overtakes her racial bias.

Commenting on interracial relationships was not enough through the story of Nellie and Emile, thus the subplot of Lt. Joseph Cable and Liat, a young Polynesian girl and daughter of peddler Bloody Mary, is very important to the story as well. Lt. Cable’s conservative upbringing taught him prejudices about supposedly inferior races. Cable’s love for Liat is challenged by his preconceived notions of interracial relationships being wrong. He ultimately avoids facing his bigotry and sacrifices his love and himself in a dangerous air mission. Cable’s cowardly actions reflect not only his inability to live with himself knowing his family would discover his relationship with a Polynesian, but they show the intolerance of biracial relationships during this time period.

"You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" is considered one of the most blatant and effective songs regarding race in musical theatre. It is very famous for its early understanding of the evils of bigotry. In a time when most of the country was not in favor of interracial relationships, this song challenged audiences with the question, "Why are we taught to hate people for the way they look and where they come from?" sung by Lt. Cable and Emile De Becque, "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught" is the heart of the musical. It is where the central meaning of the show is expressed in frustration by the two characters who are involved in interracial relationships. A challenging topic for when it was written, the message of race is still pertinent to today's world and contemporary issues of racism and bigotry.

The King and I

The King and I was perhaps the most influential piece of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s career. It tackled concepts and themes never before attempted by musical theatre. The King and I could be considered to be more profound as it ages and continues to be relevant as time goes on. The political story of Westernization, loss of tradition, assimilation, and diplomacy continues to connect with the present as much as it did in 1890’s Siam. Perhaps more profound than the politics of the show, however, is the message of gender dynamics and slavery. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s intent was to pose to their audiences a moral question, not simply to entertain. Although “risking commercial success”, they created “the most subtextual love story the musical theatre had seen” (Band, 65).

“This is a show about the complexity of real love, not the idealized simplified love usually found in musical comedies of the 1920s and 1930s. This was an impossible love, an adult, intellectual, and political Romeo and Juliet” (Band, 65).
Stills from the 2015 revival of "The King and I" (starring Kelli O'Hara and Ken Wantanabe)

In keeping with their tradition of including ballet sequences to advance the plot and characters, The King and I has, possibly, the most important ballet sequence in all of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s shows. “The Small House of Uncle Thomas” is “a piece commenting directly on the show’s central issues through the use of dance and literary allusions” (Band, 64). The show argues that polygamy is slavery. The King treats his wives as subhuman and only there to be servants to him. When the women read Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom’s Cabin and perform the ballet, there is a deliberate comparison of the two time periods. The King and I’s connection to slavery is a way in which the story transcends time and the message of Uncle Tom's Cabin is not only targeting American racial oppression, but the unfair gender dynamics of Siam in the 1890s. The musical’s story is powerful regardless of the date in which it is performed and audiences leave with the notion of change. The social dynamic message is one that will always be relevant in our society and Rodgers and Hammerstein did this deliberately.

A still from the ballet sequence, "The Small House of Uncle Thomas", in the King and I

Anna Leonowens is a strong and independent female unlike any other prior character in musical theatre. She is not afraid to challenge the King’s authority, in fact she does this frequently throughout the show, as she sees injustice in the way he runs his home. Through Anna Leonowens, “Hammerstein created a strong female lead as a way of investigating attitudes towards women”, something that hadn’t been done before (Jones, 154). Anna’s strong presence created a new element in musical theatre, a strong and independent female that did not rely on a love story. While the King and Anna’s relationship can be read as a romantically-tense one, it is not the dominating plot structure of the show. The King and I comments on the capabilities of women and the discriminations that women face in society. The idea of female inferiority is something that is still being fought against, and The King and I’s message of female independence allows it to be pertinent in today’s society and not just that of 1890s Siam. The King’s wives call Anna “sir” throughout the show. This is a way in which they not only express the strength and independence of her character, but they argue the inferiority of women as an issue in society.

In the finale of the show, as the King is on his deathbed, he instructs his eldest son to step into the role of King and to begin asserting his power. He argues that submitting to the King is degrading and thus needs to stop. The King argues that this desire to change is the fault of Anna’s powerful presence in the palace, showing that the female character can be just as influential as a male.

The King and I won the Tony Awards in 1952 for Best Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical, Best Scenic Design, and Best Costume Design. In 1985, Yul Brynner won a special Tony Award The King and I. The show was revived again in 1996 and won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, Best Scenic Design, and Best Costume Design yet again. In 2015, The King and I was revived again and received the Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Musical again. Kelli O'Hara won Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her role as Anna Leonowens, and Ruthie Anne Miles won her first Tony (Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical) for her role as Lady Thiang. In 2015, the show also won the Tony for Best Costume Design for the third time.

II. Concept Musicals Sweep the Stage

After Rodgers and Hammerstein’s revolutionary wave of new musicals emerging on the stage, many other writers felt inspired to write concept musicals. Not only were writers wanting more politically and socially challenging shows, but audiences craved musicals that had more substance than those prior to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s. The new wave of musical theatre continued and more and more musicals were being written with social issues and politics in mind.

Cabaret

In 1966, John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Joe Masteroff's musical, Cabaret, took the broadway stage. While there have been many revisions of the show, the same intent to shock broadway audiences has been there from the beginning. Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin, Cabaret takes place in Berlin during the rise of the Nazi regime. With the social corruption in America regarding civil rights occurring at the same time, Cabaret was written with the intent of being politically pertinent to other time periods. The story of ignorance, decadence, and carelessness gives the audience a major wake up call.

Alan Cumming and the 2014 Cast of Cabaret in the opening song, "Wilkommen"
An illustration of the original set design for Cabaret, featuring a trapezoid-shaped mirror below the marquee reading "Cabaret".

The original set design of the show had a trapezoid-shaped mirror hanging above the stage. This mirror was the most important part of the set design, as it connected the meaning and intent of the show. The mirror forces the audience to see themselves as the bystanders of the corruption that occurs onstage. It forces them to see themselves in Nazi Germany, asking the same question as Fräulein Schneider in the show, "What would you do?". The mirror was tilted to reflect "the cabaret performers from a distorting perspective", making the show seem almost as a hallucination (Garebian, 48). The original director of Cabaret, the very famous Hal Prince, wanted to really stress the connection that the story had with contemporary America. He used the mirror as a way to make the audience see themselves in the show, and thus see the actions in the show in their contemporary civilian life. In Fräulein Schneider's song, "What Would You Do?", she asks the audience just as much as she asks Cliff and Sally what they would do if they were in her shoes. After breaking off her engagement with Herr Shultz due to his being a Jew, Schneider can see the impending doom that is headed towards Berlin while others believe it will soon blow over.

Similar to the themes of South Pacific, the song "If You Could See Her" begs the question, "Why do we judge people based on race, gender, religion, and appearance?" In this number, the Emcee questions this using the metaphor of being in a relationship with a gorilla. As ridiculous as this seems, the song expresses a very powerful message about anti-semitism. In the song, the Emcee states that if we could see this gorilla through his eyes, they wouldn't wonder at all why he's in love with her. Towards the end of the song, he asks, "Is it a crime to fall in love?", which gives the audience more sympathy to his cause. It is not until the end of the song that the audience realizes the purpose of the piece. The Emcee's lyrics state, "If you could see her through my eyes, she wouldn't look Jewish at all" (Cabaret; Act II, Scene 3). As soon as this line lands, the audience realizes the much greater issue at hand. Through this seemingly simple song, Kander and Ebb express a deep social and political message by getting the audience to realize that regardless of something like religion, we should still show compassion for others and treat others humanely.

Part of Cabaret's brilliance stems from its intent to last forever. The show was written during and has always been revived during turning points in history regarding homosexuality, politics, and civil rights, among other landmark time periods. Each time Cabaret is revived and revised, it grows more and more extreme and powerful in order to keep up with the changing eras that it comments on. Regardless of the time in which it is produced, Cabaret's 1930s Berlin setting is relevant to contemporary issues.

When interviewed in 1987, Joel Grey, the original Master of Ceremonies, said that he "Once again saw compelling parallels to Cabaret's original message in the violent, uncertain world around [him]" (Zink). He also stated that "Political and sociological aspects of what is going on in the world today (1987) seemed enormously pertinent" (Zink).

Emma Stone as Sally Bowles in the 2014 Broadway cast of "Cabaret"

Cabaret deals with politics, homosexuality, anti-semitism, and decadence. The reckless behavior and ignorance to political warnings are what cause the downfall for many of the characters, especially Sally Bowles, who refuses to acknowledge the importance of being politically aware. The musical is one that never fails to surprise, as it is provocative and brutally honest about society and the world. With every revision and revival, Cabaret becomes more of a powerful story while still conveying the paralleled story of 1930s Berlin with the contemporary era.

The Fantasticks

While only ever Off-Broadway, The Fantasticks is the definition of a concept musical due to its entire existence revolving around a metaphor. The Fantasticks is a metaphorical love story between Matt and Luisa, whose love is tested by El Gallo, who states that "Without a hurt, the heart is hollow" (The Fantasticks, "Try to Remember").

The show uses several images and symbols to convey an overall metaphor about the necessary challenges that a relationship must undergo in order to be real, and not like the stories we read and see on stage. The use of the moon, a very central symbol in the show, expresses the fantasy life that Matt and Luisa live in. They are comforted and protected by the moon's beauty. When the moon in gone and the sun has risen, Matt and Luisa's dream is over and they are no longer sheltered by the perfection that moonlight provided. According to Scott Miller in his in-depth look at The Fantasticks, the sun and moon are the conflicting forces that cause dispute and imperfection in relationships. In the opening of Act II, El Gallo expresses in verse the concept of the moon being the perfect life, and the sun bringing the story back to reality:

In the song, "Round and Round", El Gallo has taken Luisa away and is teaching her and Matt the difficulties of real life. While Matt is taken by other characters (Henry and Mortimer) to experience the brutality of the real world, El Gallo takes Luisa on a trip to experience the world herself. He gives her a mask to view the horrific things that are happening to Matt in the real world. When she wears the mask she doesn't see the distress that Matt is in, but merely sees it through a rosy lens that makes it seem like a game. When she takes off the mask, the truth is revealed to her and she sees the bad things happening to him. The mask is used as a metaphor again, for being blind to the real word problems and instead living life very narrow-mindedly. When the mask is on, Luisa sees life in the moonlight, but when the mask is off, she sees life in the sun.

The Fantasticks is a musical that is often overlooked because it has never been on Broadway, but the story is rich and has an abundance of meaning. The world's longest running musical with 21,452 performances, The Fantasticks is one with rich meaning, not about politics but social ideology. The show expresses themes of living in the real world and not idealizing aspects of life. The Fantasticks tackles the idea of imperfection and enduring hardships, and thus makes is more relatable to audiences. The musical discusses very normal social issues regarding idealism and gives audiences something of reassurance that difficulties and obstacles are necessary in the real world.

A Chorus Line

Often considered one of the greatest musicals of all time, A Chorus Line deals with social issues regarding homosexuality, self degradation, desperation, and job insecurity. Nothing can come close to the realism of A Chorus Line's story. A series of personal stories, the show is based off of the real lives of the original cast. Creator Michael Bennett gathered several dancers in a room for twelve hours and interviewed them about their lives in the performing arts. He then took those stories with his creative team and crafted the musical that is A Chorus Line. The stories of each member of the line are real encounters from their lives, making the show all the more intimate and personal.

A still from the iconic finale, "One".

A Chorus Line takes on a new form of theatre and does not follow the trends of broadway at the time. The one-act show led to an intimate atmosphere and a strong connection with a group of strong and vastly different characters. The fact that the musical is one act allows no interruption in the story that the audience connects with. Throughout the "audition process" in the show, the audience learns more about each character and feels strongly connected to their stories. According to Scott Miller in Strike Up the Band, A Chorus Line creates a new genre of musical theatre: the documentary musical, in which characters are based on real people and uses their real words (musicals like Evita and Hamilton followed this trend).

"It will be the end of chorus lines as we know them. The audience will be horrified at how the chorus line robs the dancers of their personality. We will do every kind of chorus line, and the audience will be appalled at the inhumanity of it. They won't be able to applaud. They'll be speechless" (Michael Bennett on the finale of "A Chorus Line")

Although Michael Bennett's chorus line finale did not only end in an applause but an uproar, unlike he intended, the musical still displays the major social issue of conformity. Getting to know the characters throughout the show gives the audience a connection to each and every one of their stories and personal struggles. After bonding with each member of the line, half of them are still rejected from the show, but those who make it into Zach's (the director character in the show) production are stripped of their identity and placed into a chorus line, like "an assembly line, faceless, nameless cogs" (Band, 141). This idea of conformity and taking away individualism is something Michael Bennett wanted to prove in his show stopping finale, however audiences tend to give it a massive standing ovation instead of his intention of the inability to applaud.

A Chorus Line is considered to be one of the most real and truthful shows in Broadway history. It made audiences look at dancers and anyone in need of a job in a realistic way. The show was not just a fantasy that audiences could escape to for two hours, but rather the harsh reality of real life. The musical was nominated for twelve Tony Awards in 1975 when it first came out. The musical also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A Chorus Line has only been revived once on Broadway since it debuted in 1975. The process of casting the revival was an immense challenge, as discussed in the documentary film "Every Little Step", which takes an in depth look at the creation of the original show and the difficulty of casting the 2006 revival. Because the show was based on real people and those original actors were essentially playing themselves and telling their own story, the directors were worried about making the revival feel just as real and personal as the original production. A Chorus Line is now the sixth longest running Broadway musical with 6,137 performances. The show revolutionized theatre in many ways. It brought forth the issues of job insecurity, conformity, and homosexuality, and it led to a new form of theatre, called "Documentary Musicals". The musical allowed for different races and genders and sexual orientations to be treated as equals all on the same audition line. A Chorus Line is honest and faces the audience with the truth, which impacted future Broadway shows to follow in its footsteps.

III. Pop and Rock: Musicals With Modern Twist

Hair

Famous for its hippie style, Hair took Broadway where it had never been before. As a commentary of the hippie movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hair was disorganized, chaotic, random, and yet, sophisticated in its intent. The musical was the first rock and roll musical to hit the Broadway stage and its unrhymed lyrics and minimal plot brought Broadway out of its show-stopping slump. Hair "rejected every convention of Broadway" by being so outlandishly different than any other musical before it (Rebels, 67). While the show was unconventional and disliked by a lot of people, it became a massive hit.

Hair comments on racism, war, sexism, violence, and other social issues through the form of satire. By depicting these issues in very extreme ways, the musical points out how absurd and offensive these issues can be. The show challenges the audience to evaluate their own behavior and prejudices through the exaggerated and psychedelic depiction in Hair. The musical begs for freedom, liberation, and peace, which was best communicated by hippies. The hippie movement rejected the "mainstream culture" and posed a lot of questions about how our society functions. The use of hippie characters was a deliberate mechanism to make the audience understand the societal issues through the eyes of the oppressed, while also remaining upbeat and wildly fun.

Much of the hippie movement was centered on opposition to the Vietnam War. While this context was specific to the 1970s, the desire for peace in our world is still prevalent today and the show's message about liberation and peace is always pertinent to contemporary audiences, as we do not live in a perfect world and we still face injustice today. The character Claude in Hair feels very strongly against the Vietnam War, as did a large number of Americans, and he struggles with whether or not he should burn his draft card. In Act II of Hair, Claude takes the audience on a drug trip to expand the story and conflict, as many hippies believed drugs broadened and cleared the mind. He uses drugs to try and reach clarity about his dilemma. Throughout the drug trip, the audience sees Claude go to war and get brutally murdered. This portion of the show expresses the hippie perspective of the evils and horrors of war. By using a drug trip as the mechanism to have this occur in the plot, the show connects both politics of the time and the hippies' social opinions. In the finale of the show, "The Flesh Failures", the show's themes are brought together: commentary is made about war, liberation, consumerism, racism, and numerous other societal problems that the show argues we need to fix in order to live in a peaceful and just society. When Claude returns at the end from Vietnam, he is treated as if he is invisible, as veterans were when they returned from war because they seemed to have betrayed the country by fighting in a war that shouldn't have been happening in the first place, according to the hippie perspective.

The musical ends on a somber note. While many believe "Let The Sun Shine In" to be an upbeat finale, it is not simply just a fun ending to the musical. The purpose of the song is to urge the audience to do something about the issues in our world. It is a wake up call to take action against societal problems that we face. The song argues that we must "let the sun shine on the darkness around us" before we can reach the peaceful state that the hippies so desire (Rebels, 79). Hair was revolutionary in being a discombobulated, chaotic work of art that brought together a lot of serious themes through a seemingly not so serious voice. The musical allows for issues to be depicted satirically in order to raise greater attention to the absurdity of the society we live in. Hair was the first musical to have rock and roll music and a very incoherent plot structure, and it revolutionized modern musical theatre and broadened the horizons for what theatre can do.

Rent

Considered by many as one of the most revolutionary musicals of all time, Jonathan Larson's Rent tackled a lot of challenges that other musicals had never dared to touch. Based on the opera La Bohème, the story of Rent comments on the bohemian lifestyle of the 1990s during the AIDS epidemic. The show is written in two styes of melodrama. The first being providential melodrama, in which the setting is universal and is not constrained to a specific time period. Rent embodies this form of melodrama in the story's pertinence to other time periods and locations. The story of Rent can be applied to many different scenarios because of its messages of love and celebrating life. The second form of melodrama that Rent embodies is materialist melodrama. In a materialist melodrama there is a set time period and location, which Rent does have (1990s New York City). A materialist melodrama also tends to put happy endings at risk, which Rent very clearly does in its discussion of the AIDS epidemic. Rent combines these two forms of melodrama to express a tragic story of love and death, while also an optimistic view of celebrating the life that we have remaining.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Rent is the title itself. The title has several different, and very important, meanings. The first being the economic challenges that the characters face, as they are young and struggling to get a job post college. Another meaning of the title is the temporary lifestyles that the characters seem to live in. They live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to keep any type of security and permanence in their lives. This is also similar to the bohemian lifestyle which the show embodies: living unconventionally and not restricting oneself to social norms, thus living an unbinding life. The temporary lives that the characters live are connected with their shortened lives due to disease and their fleeting relationships. Another definition of the word Rent is to be torn. This relates to the musical through the characters being "torn between love and dignity, between anger and pain, between the fear of intimacy and the fear of being alone (Band, 190). Yet another definition of the word Rent is to be "shredded in grief or rage" and also means to be "torn open by painful feelings" (Band, 190). All of these definitions of the word Rent are applicable to the meaning of the show, and Jonathan Larson chose this title deliberately. Rent is a musical that exposes social challenges and tragedies very honestly and the title gives the reader a sense of this painful exposure.

Fun Home

A very contemporary and recent addition to the Broadway world, Fun Home tells the story of the autobiographical story of Alison Bechdel on her journey of discovering herself and her sexuality. In the graphic novel Fun Home, in which the musical was adapted from, Alison takes the reader through her childhood and adolescence while on a journey of self-discovery and sexual awakening. In the story, Alison discusses her relationship with her father as a rocky one. While they did not get along extremely well, she and her father were actually very similar. Observing Alison's father's life and Alison's own life throughout the musical expresses the complexity of relationships and sexuality. The musical, Fun Home, brings a strong awareness of sexual discovery and the LGBTQ+ community. Alison's homosexuality gives her character more depth and social importance. Fun Home stresses the importance of exploring our individualism, as well as becoming comfortable in our own skin. The social message that Fun Home emits is first, an accolade to homosexuality, and additionally a story of acceptance and love.

A still from Fun Home showing Alison at three different stages in her life

An interesting element of Fun Home are the multiple literary references. Alison's father, Bruce, has a fascination with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Bruce's life is very similar to that of Fitzgerald, for example, they both had very unhappy marriages. It is deliberate for Bechdel to include this element in her autobiographical story, not only because it is accurate to her story, but because it allows Bruce's character to be illuminated by other characters. The novels that Bechdel mentions in her story (The Great Gatsby, Wind in the Willows, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, In Search of Lost Time) all foil Bruce and give him more depth and understanding to the audience. In the musical, Bruce can be more thoroughly understood through these literary references, as it is difficult to really see inside of him because of Alison's rocky relationship with him.

"I think what was so alluring to my father about Fitzgerald's stories was their inextricability from Fitzgerald's life" (Fun Home)

Alison Bechdel's story is mostly dominated by her relationship with her father. While they were both gay and both having trouble understanding themselves, they never had a very close relationship. It is this juxtaposition that makes Fun Home a powerful show. It is honest, and at times painful, because everyone knows how difficult growing up is and the musical dramatizes the challenges and obstacles of self discovery. While not everyone can exactly identify with Alison, audiences can connect with her desire to learn about and discover herself. The story takes sexuality, identity, and relationships and displays them in a very raw and honest way, showing the audience the real challenges of growing up, and not the idealized versions that are often performed.

Kiss Today Goodbye and Point Me Toward Tomorrow

What the Future of Musical Theatre Holds

Musical theatre is on the up and up. While at several points in time people have been known to say "the theatre is dead", modern musicals are still being born and causing a surge of revitalization in the Broadway community. Musical theatre has grown into an art form in which strong political and social messages are communicated to audiences. This content is what has made musicals more than just entertainment, but something that drives the story with greater intention. Musical theatre's powerful stories are not restricted to the time periods in which they are set, told, or written. In fact, these political and social messages transcend time and remain pertinent to audiences of all eras. Musical theatre is an art form that has the ability to strongly impact the audience's emotions, opinions, and understanding of the world. By writing shows with powerful messages and intent, musical theatre has an even greater ability in strongly affecting an audience. After analyzing the musicals of the past several decades, it is clear that musical theatre is not dead, like many seem to claim. New musicals are being written all the time, with stories containing intense meaning and purpose. The future of musical theatre will most likely continue to be a powerful source of communication and shed light on issues, injustices, and opinions.

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