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BWW Blog: No Musicals for the Moment

There are many great musicals about revolution, but now those very ideas have been appropriated.

Happy new year, everybody. I hope everybody's break has been relatively relaxing, given the circumstances. I'm not going to dance around the news. There was a violent white supremicist coup d'etat last week. It doesn't matter that it 'failed'. It happened, and it was terrifying.

Why am I talking about this on BroadwayWorld? Well, I'm probably not alone in having turned to musical theatre for comfort last week. For as long as I can remember, I've turned to music, and more specifically musical theatre, to help me sort out my feelings. Throughout so many episodes in my life, I've been able to turn to the work of some of my favorite songwriters for understanding and inspiration. I've been able to find solace from both the personal and political through the musical theatre canon. I pride myself on being a bit of a musical theatre historian. However, I couldn't come up with a single song, much less an entire score, that felt relevant.

In the past, I've struggled with anxiety and depression. Thankfully, I've been able to turn to shows like Dear Evan Hansen, and even Into The Woods to some extent, to help me feel like I wasn't alone. In the wake of an onslaught of political atrocities over the past four years, I've used shows like Hamilton and Newsies to dream of a better tomorrow. It's that second category I want to focus on in this blog.

To put it bluntly: I think U.S. politics are a disaster. I'm someone who has become more politically aware during the last four years, and I've realized that there has scarcely been a time when this country was good, let alone great. The shining city on the hill is a myth. However, for those of us that live here, we like to think that we can make things better. I'm all for tearing down the old systems. There's clearly something that isn't working. It's easy to get frustrated with the state of things, so it's cathartic to see calls for revolution and change on a stage. For me, songs like "Make Them Hear You" from Ragtime, "Revolution Song" from Love in Hate Nation, and "Once and for All" from Newsies have acted as battle cries; pleas for a much needed revolution for positive change. There's a reason that these shows, and ones like them, resonate with people of my generation: it's clear something needs to be fundamentally overhauled.

However, on Wednesday, that idea got tarnished. As white supremacists infiltrated the capitol building in the name of "revolution", I found myself turned off from once familiar songs like "Do You Hear The People Sing?". It's odd to feel that way, because the activism I've mentioned thus far could not be further divorced from the neo-facist idea of "revolution" we saw on display on last week. One would be hard pressed to appropriate any of my previous examples as a far-right rallying cry. Despite all that, it feels like the very concept has been tainted, and frankly, I'm quite pissed. Something is broken now, and it's going to take a long time for me to listen to Newsies, or even Hamilton with the same revolutionary optimism. It may seem a bit inconsequential to be upset about this, in light of everything else I could possibly be upset about, but it hurts to have something you believe in warped. And it hurts to no longer have the peacefulness of art that you love. I think musical theatre is one of the most important and effective art forms there is. I take great pleasure in seeing new and exciting ideas represented onstage. I take great pride in having dedicated myself, and whatever career I may have, to this art form. And I feel great joy when I am immersed in the musical theatre landscape.

I don't have a happy note to end on. I'd give anything to have found some obscure gem of a musical that makes it all make sense; a score or a song to help us process what we saw. Something, anything to revitalize us and give us the strength to move forward. If you know of one, by all means, tell me! But with the concept of consequences looking slimmer each day, and the very idea of revolution tarnished, what do we do? Write the songs ourselves? That seems hard, but honestly, it may be the only thing we can do.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Michael Scuotto