Ep 71: Politics & Musicals: 20 Years of HAIRSPRAY

This week’s episode is a little different because it’s two podcasts in one! It’s a collab between David Armstrong’s Broadway Nation and Dirty Moderate With Adam Epstein

 My podcast is all about the history of the Broadway Musical, and Adam’s is all about current American politics – today we combine forces to discuss the many connections and intersections between the Broadway Musical and American politics.

Twenty years ago Adam and I had the tremendous good fortune to both be involved in the creation of the Tony Award winning “Best Musical” HAIRSPRAY. Adam was part of that show’s original New York producing team, and I was the Producing Artistic Director of Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre where the show received its World Premiere prior to Broadway. We use that joyous, delightful, and very political show to kick off our conversation.

Most people probably don’t think of musicals as being particularly political. But Adam and I both believe that over their 125+ year history, Broadway musicals have more often than not been overwhelmingly political, and have usually – overtly or subliminally – strongly advocated for democratic, humanist values and ideals that many people would label as being “progressive” or “liberal”.

Adam and I have both taught courses on the history of the musical using the “American studies” concept that you can’t separate US politics from its history, culture, and literature. And, we both have used the history of the musical to explore such topics as: what it means to be American, what it means to be othered, and how and why the “American experiment” has included, marginalized or excluded certain people and groups? Interestingly, many of those otherwise marginalized groups were included in the invention of the Broadway musical and contributed to not only moving the form forward, but also to instilling in it these progressive and humanist values.

 During the first half of our conversation we discuss in detail the inspiration, early development, pre-Broadway tryout, and triumphant Broadway opening of Hairspray, as well as it’s political messages and ongoing impact and legacy. After the break we expand our discussion to the inherent pollical messages of other hit shows including Oklahoma, Guys & Dolls, Les Miserable, HAIR, Cabaret and Annie!

If you would prefer not hear discussions or opinions about America’s current political situation – this is not the show for you! 

However, I think most people will be fascinated to discover that many of their favorite musicals contain hidden-in-plain-sight political messages and advocacy that I believe truly has “changed America in the process”.

Adam Epstein BIO:

After receiving 46 Tony nominations and 12 Tony Awards, Adam Epstein took his last bow as a celebrated Broadway producer to focus on Act II; Political provocateur.

 Spending time getting his MA in American Studies at Brown, guest lecturing at Harvard, bringing his sexy, gay Centrist perspective to Trish Regan’s FOX News program as a regular, and writing the hell out of the American political shit show for international outlets, Adam grew his core beliefs from observant, lifelong Democrat to the politically homeless host of Dirty Moderate with Adam Epstein, an extremely not extreme political podcast.

Adam wanted a gaslight-free zone where a vibrant exchange of ideas could flow freely without falsehoods. A haven for rigorous analysis and lively debate, where people could gather and fearlessly agree to disagree. So he created it. 

 

 

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