Bigotry on Broadway

Baraka. Sept. 2021. 220p. ed. by Ishmael Reed & Carla Blank. ISBN 9781771862561. pap. $24.95. THEATER
Insightful essays and interviews examine how white power structures on Broadway have shaped musical theater’s representations of Black, Indigenous, and people of color, or led to their absence; the volume is edited by poet, novelist, and playwright Reed (The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda) and writer, director, and dramaturge Blank. In these texts, writers, filmmakers, poets, and others involved in theatrical production consider what is missing or misrepresented in many of the so-called classic Broadway musicals, such as Indigenous cultures in Oklahoma. Blank points out that Broadway’s hiring practices are inequitable, with most acting, production, and writing jobs going to white men. Contributors address painful instances of brownface and yellowface in works such as West Side Story, South Pacific, and Miss Saigon. Other essayists examine racism in newer Broadway productions, including white savior tropes in the Uganda-set The Book of Mormon, erasure of the genocide of Indigenous people in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and the erroneous depiction of Alexander Hamilton as an abolitionist in Hamilton.
VERDICT Blank and Reed offer an incisive, critical take on Broadway’s past and present; discuss an alternative vision that incorporates the perspectives missing from Broadway; and look toward a more inclusive future. A book for all readers interested in the history of Broadway musicals, theater criticism, and the role of whiteness in Broadway’s misrepresentations.
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