Musical Theater as a Forum for Social Change

Musicals have been around for a long time in American history, and several people are entertained by the stories that are told through these productions; however, most people do not realize that musicals can often have deeper meanings that go beyond the entertainment of an audience and try to change a person’s perspective a certain situation. This happens because people hold onto the idea that musicals were only made to entertain an audience.  According to an article written by Laurence Masion  , the songs that were written around the 1930’s had a main focus on the pitch itself, and it was a main point for those songs to be able to catch an audience’s attention and be entertaining.  Now there is more emphasis placed on the story that is told and now a musical with a good narrative spine has become quite a cultural and artistic force.


One modern musical that is really pushing several boundaries is Hamilton.  This musicals is breaking boundaries in several ways.  According to an article written by Todd Leopold, , with CNN, the show embraces the history and diversity of American culture like no musical before it.  His songs have a blend of rap, hip-hop, R&B, classic Broadway, and even a little operetta to tell the story of Hamilton. The casting for the musical alone is groundbreaking because the entire cast is multiethnic, including African Americans as Aaron Burr and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.  By casting like that, it could be seen as a protest against the tradition way of casting people on Broadway.  One thing that makes this musical popular is that it deals with a lot of themes that are relatable to today.  It deals with the discussion of small government versus large government, and it also deals with the value of immigrants, and isolationism versus internationalism.  These political concepts have been talked about for ages, but seeing it in a musical as entertaining as Hamilton is might actually make some people think more about where they stand on those subjects.  Their point of view on these topics could also be swayed by the action that goes on in the play.  For example, in an article that was written about this play in the New York Times, the author describes the fact that this show is contributing to a national conversation about immigrants, and a line from the show – “Immigrants/ We get the job done”- gets such sustained applause that they had to change the part in order to fit the length of the applause.

As I had mentioned before, the musical uses a lot of rap, Hip Hop, and R&B.  By using this musical style alone, the author of the musical is breaking boundaries because of the fact that Broadway and Hip Hop had never mixed well in the past.  Shows before this one like the Tupac inspired “Holla If Ya Hear Me” had tried to do this exact thing, but was very unsuccessful at executing this style.

Besides the musical Hamilton, there is another musical out there that is confronting tough modern issues.  This musical is called “Dear Evan Hansen,” and it takes on teen behavior tangled in social media.







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