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How does Showboat raise issues of race in American culture and bring serious issues to musical theatre?

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How does 'Showboat' raise issues of race in American culture and bring serious issues to musical theatre? Showboat racial issues essay Musical theater has been around for many years, with the first musical produced, which is similar to that of modern day musicals was 'The black Crook' in September 12 1866. Before showboat the theatre was reserved for white people, using make up to make black characters noticeable. Showboat revolutionized the face of musicals by being the first racially integrated play, but some argue whether the play should be looked upon like this. As it was not always fully racially integrated in all aspects. Nevertheless, the idea was still very controversial at the time, as I will discuss later. Showboat took a new look upon the way theatre was and for some it was seen as the first as the first American musical play. The musical was based upon Edna Ferber's book; she often dealt with characters that were discriminated against for reasons such as ethnicity. Hammerstein wrote the lyrics for showboat, which were often poignant and controversial. Oscar Hammerstein is highly regarded in the history of American musical theatre with the utmost respect. The lyrics he produced such as that from 'South Pacific' could be looked at to understand the views of Hammerstein. His use of language concerning racism is exceptionally strong, and for the most part very correct. ...read more.


" Y'all know her, and y'all love her" Andy says. It is rather ironic how they love Julie, as they all 'know' her. However, in reality they know very little of her background and real identity which may not be as openly accepted as the character she prefers to be instead. She is what is known as 'passing'. This is when someone passes for something they are not. In Julie's case a white woman, but in reality, she is mixed race with many of her influences coming from the black community such as the songs she sings. Another example of the racism towards characters and use of language, which is said in an everyday manner, is Pete. ' That's a hell of a thing to do - giving my present to a nigger'. It shows no respect towards black people. Julie is idolized, for example Magnolia who looks up to her seeking advice. Julie often refers to her as 'child,...' they have a mother daughter relationship but also like two sisters at the same time. Again little evidence is shown of Magnolia ever being told the truth about Julie's upbringing. Julie is obviously very afraid of being found out for passing, which shows the harsh realities of the racism. She is afraid of the consequences and would loose everything on the showboat, it would not even be allowed for her to act on stage as someone of mixed race. ...read more.


By playing with the emotions of the audience led you to feel great sorrow for Julie's situation. In addition, the fact she is of mixed race seems completely irrelevant, as no one should be treated in such a manner. It made it very clear how so many people in the play (but in reality many people in real life) used racist undertones in everyday conversation without thinking twice about it. Showboat used varying themes to draw us into the whole situation such as belonging; Julie's burning desire to be her real self but knowing she would not belong. And identity as she often felt inclined to cover up her roots so she would not be found it. Also, ignorance is a theme that remains throughout. An example of this is Pete who feels it is the right thing to do to alert the sheriff of the situation having no grasp of the consequences on the relationships. Because of the way society was it seemed something that had to be done, but fortunately, Captain Andy held hope and had a good nature, someone who saw the true He also saw Julie as person not a case or lawbreaker. Showboat revolutionized musical theatre and by taking such a serious theme and implementing, it into a musical environment made it all the more emotional opening the door for black actors. Also changing theatre, resulting with more serious issues being confronted in musical theatre such as Blood Brother and South pacific. Showboat was a milestone in the history of musical theatre. ...read more.

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