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Musical Resurgence in the Modern Era

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Musical Resurgence in the Modern Era

Image from The Odyssey Online

Image from The Odyssey Online

Image from The Odyssey Online

Image from The Odyssey Online

Calysta Goodwin, Managing Editor

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Recently, it has come to the attention of many that our society, as a whole, seems to be taking a greater interest in the arts, particularly theatre. From 1984 to 2015, attendance to Broadway musicals had gone up from 7.2 million to 13.3 million – a drastic incline that is still steadily rising.

Looking at Broadway musical attendance in the past, the audiences were pretty small. In fact, it took twelve years for the famed company to break 10 million people in total attendance once they began recording the numbers. After that, attendance, according to The Broadway League, seemed to stay around 11-12 million until 2013. From 2013-2016, Broadway experienced its biggest jump yet with a spike of 1.8 million more people attending live shows as seasons went on. The reasons for this are seemingly clear.

In Broadway’s 2015-2016 season, it released two musicals very widely known: Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton: An American Musical. The contrasts between these two musicals are very obvious. Dear Evan Hansen is a musical about an outcast teenage boy lying about being the friend of a victim of suicide to gain the approval of those around him. Hamilton, however, is the story of the famed Alexander Hamilton’s life in the times of the American Revolution and his contribution to the revolutionary ideas held by our developing nation. From storylines to soundtracks, the two musicals couldn’t be more different, and yet they are both incredibly adored by all.

It may not seem apparent at first, but Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton do have one thing in common: They are able to relate themselves to the modern world. Hamilton, for instance, discusses freedom, racial relations, and feminism. While these are still incredibly heated topics today, Hamilton shows its pure relation to the modern world through the stylistic choice of rap music for the musical’s soundtrack. Such music brings wider ranges of people into the spectrum of viewers and allows more people, particularly teenagers, to enjoy theatrical productions without lyrical, stereotypical showtunes. In contrast, Dear Evan Hansen takes on a more direct route to connecting with viewers. By focusing on fitting in, being invisible, suicide, mental illness, and the desire to be loved, Dear Evan Hansen hits home with the majority of teenagers due to the addressing of issues they experience on a daily basis. Putting these two musicals together, which would be the combination of desirable music and modern issues, easily account for the greater attraction of people in the 2015-2016 Broadway season.

Furthermore, the combination of Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton also calls for an increase of teenage attendance to Broadway productions due to the relatability each musical advertises. The NY Daily News states that, “the number of theatergoers under 18 years old last season reached 1.65 million. That was the highest since the industry group’s analysis began two decades ago.” (NY Daily News, “New Yorkers’ Broadway attendance at 20-year high”). The League of Broadway even shows that from the 2015-2016 season to the 2017-2018 season, the percentage of people under the age of 18 in audiences rose from 8.6% to 12.4%, most likely a direct result of Broadway reaching out to connect with modern audiences.

Overall, it seems musicals are experiencing a resurgence of interest in today’s population, especially after they’ve adapted themselves to modern interests. This can only mean good things for our society, hopefully allowing us a more artistically viewed future to hope for in these bleak times.

 

Sources:

  1. The Broadway League:
  1. The NY Daily News
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