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Defying gravity: When Broadway goes provocative

January 8, 2013
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As with any other form of art, Broadway musicals have become avenues by which composers and writers let their imaginations run wild. While most musicals have chosen to conform to the many cultural, ethical, and artistic conventions that continue to influence the industry, some writers have dared to push the limits of the art—ultimately coming up with pieces that have scandalized many a sensibilities. Join me as I try to review some of Broadway’s most controversial acts:


1. Avenue Q (2003). Unless you totally agree with its message, a musical with songs such as “The Internet is for Porn” isn’t really what you’d consider as your run-of-the-mill musical. Considered by many as a mash-up between Sesame Street and Rent, this musical deals with adult themes such as racism, sex, homosexuality, drugs, and pornography by using puppets. You heard it right: adorable, seemingly child-friendly yet profanity-spewing puppets. Don’t be fooled into letting your kids watch this.


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2. Rent (1996). What do you get when you meld Giacomo Puccini’s classic opera “La Boheme” with drug addicts, strippers, homosexuals, poverty, and AIDS? You get this critically acclaimed musical. There’s no use denying that the show has some catchy tunes; and while you can let your kids listen to “Seasons of Love,” maybe it’s best to just leave it at that. You wouldn’t want to expose them to such depravity at such a young age, would you?


3. Spring Awakening (2006). This musical is a coming-of-age tale of a group of 19th century teenagers who were coming to terms with their sexuality amidst an enforced suppression from their parents. More than anything else, Spring Awakening is rife with explicit and intense portrayals of sex, masturbation, rape, abortion, suicide, and even child abuse. Totally not safe for anyone who still believes in Santa, which may include me.

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4. Hair (1967). For a well-deserved special mention, Hair is actually one of the first musicals that attempted to depart from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s formulaic conservative musicals. Leveraging on the growing influence of the hippie counter culture and the sexual revolution, it was a social commentary on the then ongoing Vietnam war. Long before Rent shocked audiences with its rabble-rousing themes, this musical has already dabbled on racial disparity, drug use, homosexuality, and poverty—issues that kids mustn’t even learn about until they’re already legal.

I’m Louis P. Habash, a certified musical geek. Access some interesting information on musicals by visiting my Blogger site.


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