This month, Keke Palmer will be the first Black actress to take on Cinderella’s glass slippers on Broadway, following in the recent footsteps of the likes of Norm Lewis being the first Black actor to star in Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera. We’ve talked a fair amount about colorblind casting on this blog, and I’d say these are examples of the practice working for its desired benefits: making sure actors of color get a fair chance at playing a variety of roles, including leading roles that have long been considered “whites-only” territory. However, I’m asking the reader to consider: is Broadway seeing its first Black Cinderella, or merely the first Black actress to play Cinderella? What is the distinction and why does it matter? Allow me to elucidate.
Theatre is often seen as a way to escape from the woes and troubles and hard truths of everyday life. However, the most powerful and ultimately uplifting shows I’ve seen are the ones that tackle those issues head on.
It’s a sadly little-known fact of American history that tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese and part-Japanese heritage were interned in camps across the country during WWII. The supposed reasons behind this internment were officially fears that Japanese-Americans would spy for or otherwise betray America to the Japanese, but the real motivation was prejudice and racist hatred.
Inspired by Star Trek actor George Takei’s own experiences in an internment camp, writers Jay Kuo and Lorenzo Thione penned a musical called Allegiance and assembled an all-star cast to perform it (said cast includes Takei himself and Broadway goddess Lea Salonga as well!).
Here is some Lea-heavy music from the show to whet your palate—hopefully a full cast recording will be appearing soon.
This first is “The Mountain’s Heart”, which totally made me tear up; of course, Lea Salonga often has that effect on me.
And “Second Chances”:
Allegiance will be running for the next two months at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. If you are in that area and have a chance to check it out, I urge you to support this important show and its creative team by attending. If you are like me and find yourself locationally challenged, though, never fear: they plan to move to Broadway once the show closes in California, and, “barring unforeseen circumstances”, will be bringing the original cast with them.