Hamilton, Pence and the Socially Conscious Musical
You would have to be living under a rock if you are not aware that our Vice President Elect, the monstrously bigoted Michael Pence of Indiana, the man who has done everything to mock minorities and spit in the face of gay rights, attended the Broadway musical Hamilton recently. THE Hamilton that tells the story of our forefathers in an artistic stroke of revisionist history that employs diversity in its casting to underline the disparity in crediting everyone who helped to shape America. Kudos to the cast of the production who gently and respectfully schooled His Royal Highness on his hypocrisy by actually welcoming him for coming and suggesting he might learn something. Once again the power of musical theatre had the potential to change minds and open eyes. As Vice President Elect Pence left the theatre, he was booed by people who didn’t like the way he thinks and it had to be a hard pill swallow for this poor, misunderstood wolf in Christian clothing.
After reading this story, it suddenly occurred to me that Mr. Pence could really get an education about diversity, empathy and understanding by popping in to see a few other musicals playing in New York City currently. The emotional power of musical theatre can really change how people look at the world, if they open their hearts up enough to try to understand ALL of humanity. In Mr. Pence’s case, this is unlikely to happen. In fact, one has to wonder whether or not he understood what he had tickets to see when he went to see Hamilton, since he seemed awfully surprised when he didn’t receive the warmest of receptions from the audience. Nevertheless, I do think it is important that he saw the show and maybe its messages and themes will permeate that steel trap brain of his. Until then, here is a list of musicals that he could pop-in and absorb a little more about the wide scope of cultures and people that make up the United States of America.
This Lincoln Center revival of the musical that helped redefine the definition of family and stared in the AIDS crisis squarely in the eyes, would be a terrific lesson about how everyone has had to evolve and deal in reality. Of course, conservative America (particularly the Reagan administration) had little interest in combatting AIDS in the 1980s (where this show is set) and their indifference led to the disease spreading. It’s a musical about compassion, honesty, and finding our humanity.
The Irish Repertory Theatre has produced a revival of the controversial 1947 musical that had the audacity to feature members of the Caucasian race and the African American race cohabitating, not to mention satirizing racist, bigoted politicians and Jim Crow Laws. Sure it is a whimsical comedy, but humor often makes dealing with difficult issues more palatable. In the end, we are a HUMAN race, and the story of Finian’s Rainbow would maybe change Mr. Pence’s inside.
The Color Purple
Everyone…EVERYONE deserves their dignity and their voice and The Color Purple, based on the book of the same name by Alice Walker, is about a downtrodden character who is abused for being a woman, for being gay, and for being black, who eventually finds the confidence to be the person that she is. Perhaps watching her struggle and her transformation would help our Vice President Elect understand that minorities having a voice can be a beautiful thing. After all, America is for everyone, not just Christians…
Fiddler on the Roof
Persecution of people for their religious beliefs sounds a little too much like the conservative agenda that Mr. Pence supports and promotes. Fiddler on the Roof, one of the great classic musicals of Broadway history, reminds us what happens when one, myopic way of thinking governs the people, and the tragedy that ensues when people try to appease their oppressors instead of challenging them.
Oh, here’s a musical that is bound to make Mr. Pence shiver and shake with fury and discomfort. Men dressing as women? A straight man and a gay man forging a friendship? Everyone wearing thigh-high boots in an explosive celebration of acceptance? The love and empathy in Kinky Boots are dangerous things in a world where hate and ethnocentrism are de rigueur. How refreshing it would be to see Pence pull on a pair of red sequined boots to show his support for diversity. Red is, after all, the conservative color.
On Your Feet
This musical would be a hard one for Pence to swallow: the story of a Cuban-born minority who makes an enormous success of herself, who creates a cannon of popular Latino-inspired music, enough so, in fact, to build a Broadway musical around the hits. The idea that minorities are coasting on American tax dollars is a ludicrous one and On Your Feet is an inspiration that anyone…ANYONE…can be a success in America. Mr. Pence, please stop trying to say otherwise.
Finally, a musical that shows us that it is a mistake to judge someone by the color of their skin. Wicked is also a musical about how a powerful, intelligent woman is destroyed through a smear campaign to make her look like a villain instead of an earnest human being who is hoping to give a voice to minorities and make effective, positive change. Sounds awfully familiar. Sounds like something we’ve just lived through recently. Aren’t we being forced to bow down to a charlatan wizard with empty promises. Ah, Mr. Pence…I think we’ve found the show for you.