The Great White Way: Race and the Broadway Musical

The Great White Way: Race and the Broadway Musical

by Warren Hoffman

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Broadway musicals are one of America’s most beloved art forms and play to millions of people each year. But what do these shows, which are often thought to be just frothy entertainment, really have to say about our country and who we are as a nation?

Now in a new second edition, The Great White Way is the first book to reveal the racial politics, content, and subtexts that have haunted musicals for almost one hundred years from Show Boat (1927) to Hamilton (2015). This revised edition includes a new introduction and conclusion, updated chapters, as well as a brand-new chapter that looks at the blockbuster musicals The Book of Mormon and Hamilton.

Musicals mirror their time periods and reflect the political and social issues of their day. Warren Hoffman investigates the thematic content of the Broadway musical and considers how musicals work on a structural level, allowing them to simultaneously present and hide their racial agendas in plain view of their audiences. While the musical is informed by the cultural contributions of African Americans and Jewish immigrants, Hoffman argues that ultimately the history of the American musical is the history of white identity in the United States.

Presented chronologically, The Great White Way shows how perceptions of race altered over time and how musicals dealt with those changes. Hoffman focuses first on shows leading up to and comprising the Golden Age of Broadway (1927–1960s), then turns his attention to the revivals and nostalgic vehicles that defined the final quarter of the twentieth century. He offers entirely new and surprising takes on shows from the American musical canon—Show Boat (1927), Oklahoma! (1943), Annie Get Your Gun (1946), The Music Man (1957), West Side Story (1957), A Chorus Line (1975), and 42nd Street (1980), among others. In addition to a new chapter on Hamilton and The Book of Mormon, this revised edition brings The Great White Way fully into the twenty-first century with an examination of jukebox musicals and the role of off-Broadway and regional theaters in the development of the American musical.

New archival research on the creators who produced and wrote these shows, including Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, and Edward Kleban, will have theater fans and scholars rethinking forever how they view this popular American entertainment.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813563343
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication date: 02/18/2014
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 264
Sales rank: 1,172,150
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

WARREN HOFFMAN, PhD, is the author of The Passing Game: Queering Jewish American Culture. He has worked professionally in the theater for more than ten years as a program director, producer, theater critic, and playwright.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Overture: All Singin'! All Dancin'! All White People? 1

Act 1 1927-1957

1 Only Make Believe: Performing Race in Show Boat 31

2 Playing Cowboys and Indians: Forging Whiteness in Oklahoma! and Annie Get Your Gun 56

3 Trouble in New York City: The Racial Politics of West Side Story and The Music Man 82

Act 2 1967-2012

4 Carbon Copies: Black and Interracial Productions of White Musicals 113

5 A Chorus Line: The Benetton of Broadway Musicals 143

6 Everything Old Is New Again: Nostalgia and the Broadway Musical at the End of the Twentieth Century 167

Exit Music 203

Notes 213

Bibliography 235

Permissions 241

Index 243

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