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Cultural Diversity on Broadway by Tanha Azam Chowdhury (Issue #3)

Tell me, what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Broadway? Is it the anticipation you feel right before a show is about to begin? Is it the music from the show that quite literally becomes the soundtrack to your life? Maybe it’s the emotion that you didn't even know you could feel or the beautiful costumes that make the performances all the more enchanting. It is crazy how it truly feels as though the entire world has come to a stop, all for the characters to sing their hearts out on a stage. I think I speak for every patron of the arts when I say that, Broadway itself is nothing short of an outlandishly fantastic universe.

In today’s modern world, we are able to see incredible and compelling performances from the likes of great actors and actresses such as: Denée Benton, Kimiko Glenn, Ben Platt, and famous Broadway playwright and actor, Lin Manuel Miranda of course. I would say one of the things that I personally love about Broadway is how diverse and full of life the characters are. In fact, cultural diversity and ethnic representation on Broadway is becoming more and more prominent and popular by demand. A few of the most famous shows with a diverse cast of characters and attention grabbing storylines are West Side Story, Hamilton, Bring It On: The Musical, The Colour Purple between other various popular musicals. These shows highlight powerful portrayals of characters and showcase the beauty of cultural diversity on Broadway.

That being said, it is rather unfortunate to hear that for the past nine years, nonwhite actors have not represented any more than 26 percent of all Broadway roles. Although the numbers for this season are yet to be published due to the global pandemic, the Detroit News communicated that the percentage for minority roles last year actually dropped from 25 percent all the way down to 22 percent. Nevertheless, cultural diversity has indeed come a long way on Broadway, and this is evident in the sense that there are now a variety of shows that celebrate cultural diversity on stage.

The musical theatre industry often seems to focus many of the classic shows more on white or euro-centric narratives. Sometimes it’s either that or, the casts are just not that diverse when it comes to involving people of colour. That does not mean that these shows are innately distasteful and it most certainly doesn’t mean that the fun and enjoyment people receive from watching them is taken away from it. What I mean is, with modern Broadway productions that now feature diverse casts, it is imperative that the spotlight shines on them too.

One would think it’s normal for people to want to see a reflection of themselves being represented on stage because it makes them believe that they can be anything they want to be. It is important for Broadway to open its arms wide to people of all backgrounds. Do you think race, gender or sexuality should ever really matter when it comes to casting characters? Talent happens to come from places one would least expect.

This post was edited by Federica Pivetti.

Produced by students from GEMS World Academy Singapore. Contact the team: