Month: October 2020

“Bread and Love” of Two Female Characters in American Musicals

         From the birth of musicals as a distinctive art form on stage in the early 1900s to the golden age in the 1950s, Broadway has witnessed an evolution of musicals. First, modern musicals remixed elements of music and gradually took the place of European operetta characterized by romantic light music. Second, encounters of culture arose…

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The King and I: The Lab Report

In the world of reductionist scientific studies, scientists have created a pretty set system to determine if one thing has an impact on another or not. First, you want to eliminate confounding variables to ensure that the only difference in what you are looking at is the “independent” variable you put in place. This way,…

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The Musical Fetishization and Appropriation of Asian Cultures

In Western musical academia, we assign certain modes and scales to Asian music. We direct actors to use offensive accents, dress them in stereotypical costumes, makeup, compose derivative melodies, and thus continue to reinforce these racist standards in our musical consumption. Two extraordinarily popular musicals, Miss Saigon and The King and I, rely upon such…

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The Silence of White Violence: Racialized Perceptions of Masculine Aggression in Miss Saigon

By Maya P. “Sir, is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just happy to see her?” For Miss Saigon characters Chris and Thuy, I am disappointed to say that the answer is both. The 2017 Broadway revival of Miss Saigon, written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boubil and directed by Laurence Connor…

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The Symbiosis of Sexism and Saigon

Broadway musicals have a knack for hiding things in plain sight. Hadestown’s entire plot seamlessly blends into the onstage set, and Hamilton conceals Lin-Manuel Miranda’s suspect vocals in harmonies with Leslie Odom Jr. and company. For Miss Saigon, the camouflage is much more sinister and pervasive. Despite the original production receiving 11 Tony nominations and…

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The Madame Butterfly Effect

by Lily Jaremski            “A virgin will give them a treat/ Lower your eyelids and play sweet/ Men pay the moon to get fresh meat.” The Engineer’s first words about Kim do not bode well for a feminist storyline in Miss Saigon. Clearly, she is nothing but meat to be gobbled up, much like the other…

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Women and their Destinies: Agency (or Lack Thereof) for Women on the Broadway Stage

by Ilana Cohen Broadway musicals use stereotypes understood by audiences to shed light or comment on truths within society. One stereotype that the American musical utilizes is the stereotype of womanhood and femininity. American women were expected to be graceful, pure, beautiful, and domestic. They were supposed to act demure and dignified at all times…

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A Puzzlement – How America’s Brand of Toxic Masculinity Slithers Through Broadway

Schuyler Kresge In the American empire, bigotry is serpentine in nature. It lies in wait in the tall grass, slithering closer to any unsuspecting individuals and eagerly strikes. While this representation is confined to metaphor, the truth is that the venom of bigotry has worked its way to the very core of America and the…

Read more A Puzzlement – How America’s Brand of Toxic Masculinity Slithers Through Broadway

Love in the Fall of Saigon

The 1989 musical Miss Saigon reframes the tragic love story of the 1904 opera Madame Butterfly around the Vietnam War and fall of Saigon. The writers Alan Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg explore the meanings of family and motherhood through Chris’s relationship with main character Kim and Ellen, his American wife following the war. By setting…

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The Savior and the Saved: How White Feminism Victimizes Women of Color on Broadway

Everyone wants to play the hero. In every story, the audience bears witness to the transformative journey of a character, or characters, who gain the strength to face the challenges inherent in a narrative plot. The musical stage is no different. What was once a role restricted to prototypical protagonists–white, straight, males– has become a…

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Toxic Masculinity in A Tux

By: Elicia O Funny Girl portrays Nick Arnstein as an irresistibly charming yet domineering young man who reeks of self-entitlement——characteristics that distract others from his Jewish ethnicity and hypnotize them into affirming his carefully crafted façade of untainted whiteness. However, Fanny’s contrasting feminine Jewish status often threatens to expose Nick’s fragile ego. As a lower-class…

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The Power of Race in Women

While two very different musicals, we can find similarities in the two main characters from Miss Saigon and The King and I. Both productions have a female lead in which love is inevitably part of the story. Miss Saigon is the tragic story about a young Vietnamese women, Kim, who falls in love with an…

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The art of being different in Miss Saigon: There is one acceptable way to be a woman of color under colonialism. Except she died.

Miss Saigon was one of the few musicals I got the (dis)pleasure of watching live. I didn’t cry a single tear. I was too busy being furious. Highly acclaimed as it is in West End and Broadway, Miss Saigon reeks of colonialism and white savior complex, a white narrative from and for white colonialism. Kim…

Read more The art of being different in Miss Saigon: There is one acceptable way to be a woman of color under colonialism. Except she died.

The Queen and I

By Margie Johnson Hoop skirts, white gloves, and jeweled necklaces are all  part of Anna Leonowens’ typical attire. Her style of dress has no practical use other than for show, symbolizing the wealth and beauty that is the standard of her position in Western culture. Throughout her journey into Siam, Anna stands tall with her…

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“Western People Funny”: How Anna’s White Influence Led to Tuptim’s Downfall in The King and I

They think they civilize us whenever they advise us / To learn to make the same mistake / That they are making too.  These lines follow the King’s wives singing about how “western people funny” in the song of the same name. This is a theme that occurs several times throughout the musical, and unsurprisingly…

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Funny Girls Break Glass Ceilings

By Elise Darby Smart. Hilarious. Talented. All of these words are not typical characteristics used to describe Jewish women in the early 1900s, but the character of Fanny Brice is uniquely beautiful. In the production of Funny Girl, Sheridan Smith’s Fanny Brice reverses stereotypes held for the gender and race roles during this time period by presenting Jewish woman in a bright light. Fanny Brice breaks the glass ceiling held by…

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The Weapon of Womanhood

In The King and I, Anna, a white woman from England, comes to Siam in order to teach the children of the royal family English. She has a tragic history involving the loss of her husband, as well as a son who is accompanying her. This history, when combined with the differences between her culture…

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Exploring the Varying Levels of Gender and Race Relations Across Musicals

Charlotte Lange Built upon the pillars of oversexualization, extravaganization, and objectification, Broadway performances quite literally demand their place in the spotlight of controversy. From the vapid, sensually dressed Ziegfeld girls without independent ambitions or responsibilities to the dehumanizing depictions of Blackface across minstrel stages, musical theater has a grisly history of failing their spectators by…

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