Art has been used to communicate ideas to the society for years. One of the most popular forms of art in the world is music/musicals. Concerning analysis of art form performed in a given time period, Broadway rock musicals are of great interest. A rock musical can be described as a theatre performance work with rock music involved.
Broadway rock musicals were performed in the street of Great White Way, commonly known as the Theatre District (Everett and Laird). The first Broadway production Nassau Street Theatre dates back to 1750, while the first Broadway rock musical Bye Bye Birdie was produced in 1960 (Everett and Laird).
The beginning of the 1960s saw the birth of Broadway musicals in the United States (“The Rock Musical and the Rock Opera: Broadway Takeover”). Though some off-Broadway musicals were staged as well (e.g. The Fantasticks), Broadway Rock music opened a new age in the music industry. During this period, the world was being torn by the Vietnam War. The society suffered from racism and gender disparity. The artists worked out different means to express their concerns about the state of the society in songs accompanied by acting. This was the perfect way since one needed sharp words to stress the burning issues of the society (Bush).
The Broadway rock musicals were a representation of the society and the world events at large. The musicians used the mode of art to help the community understand the importance of sticking together and treat each other as fellow people irrespective of their race, skin color, culture, religion or political stands (Everett and Laird). In order to demonstrate the cultural differences and how people should live in harmony, the musical Milk and Honey was developed. It was aimed at expressing the origin of the Israelite nation, their culture and practices. For instance, the musical demonstrated the ideals of Passover feast and its meaning to the Israelites. This helped to strengthen the mutual understanding of Israelites and other nations. In the same vein, Rags also deals Jewish issues and seeks to root out racism. Other Broadway musicals aimed at racism eradication include The King and I and South Pacific (Green and Green).
Another characteristic that describes this period and the emergence of Broadway rock musicals is the political opinion on Vietnam War. In the 1960 Vietnam was in serious crisis because of the intense war that had affected the country. This issue raised a heated political debate, which influenced the political atmosphere in the USA. Therefore some Broadway rock musicals conveyed the controversial opinions concerning this matter. Though not totally Broadway performance, Hair was one of the musicals which eminently exposed the Vietnam War storm.
Such musicals as Show Boat and Porgy& Bess also emerged during this period (Bush). The main ideas that culminated to the birth of these Roadway rock musical reflected the struggle for civil rights of the minorities in the country. These musicals were performed in an aim of passing a message of respecting the minority groups in the state. Many of the minority groups in the USA and world at large were discriminated and overlooked in different aspects. Thus, there were calls from the humanitarians to express tolerance and unity among all people in the nation.
One of the pressing issues of that time was homosexuality. Most of the individuals who were believed to be homosexuals were despised and regarded as outcasts. There was no place for these people in the society where neither religion nor culture accepted the propagation of homosexuality. The religious people voiced the strongest protest against incorporation of these people rights in the community and regarded this as “unbiblical, an insult to Creator and unacceptable practice in the society”. The Broadway rock musicals were composed to reveal the need to respect the rights of gays and lesbians. For instance, Hair was a major icon of homosexuality rights (Bush).
Broadway rock musicals of the 1960s and 1970s gave much attention to religion. The American society at this period experienced religion conflicts, especially those between the Jews and Catholics (Bush). In response to this the musicians composed a series of musicals addressing the feud. West Side Story was one of the Broadway rock musicals that aimed at finding a solution to this problem. In the 1970s, another musical entitled Jesus Christ the Superstar appeared. It displayed the last days and events of Christ’s life. This improved the religious understanding among the Jews and Catholics. Most of the Christians did not agree with the Jews, who are believed to have crucified the Messiah. In addition to solving religious conflict, the musical was also aimed at creating a society that tolerates racial disparities (Green and Green).
The emergence of Broadway rock musicals can be described as a new way of communicating ideas to the society. Therefore, those musical were a mirror of the society. The cultural aspects and values of American people’s life were vividly displayed in the themes of these musicals. The beliefs, norms and practices that were upheld in the American culture formed the foundation for a Broadway musical. This has been explained by many analysts as having been caused by the metropolitan and multiracial characteristics of the American society.
Broadway musicals versus Greek theatre
The Broadway rock musicals are a distinct form of art that differs from most of other entertaining arts. For instance, a comparison with the Greek theatre reveals specific feature that can be highlighted to differentiate the two forms of art. To start with, the Greek theatre performers are known for using masks on stage. The masks are designed to represent emotions that are congruent with the message (Flickinger). This is not characteristic of Broadway rock musicals. Secondly, Greek theatre embraced the dithyramb style, where single narratives are used instead of individual voices found in Broadway musicals. Thirdly, the costumes used in Broadway performances mostly left some parts of the body exposed (Everett and Laird). This is different from Greek theatre where large flowing robes were used.
Moreover, Greek theatre originated from the Dionysia and was founded to honor the god Dionysus. (Flickinger page number). In contrast, Broadway musicals were based on social problems, culture and events. Broadway musical is a younger art as compared to Greek theatre. Despite having emerged later than Greek theatre, Broadway musicals are being forced out by other forms of rock musicals such as Jukebox musicals. However, the two are similar in the sense that they both involve stage performance, are longer than music lyrics and are ascribed to a specific geographical location of origin.