Broadway is the pinnacle of American art

Alana George, Campus Carrier copy editor

I have loved musical theatre for as long as I can remember. The first full-scale musical that I saw was “Annie” at age six in my hometown of Birmingham, Al. and I remember begging my mom to help me download the original cast album onto my iPod Nano (yes, that’s how old I am). When I got the opportunity to go to New York City for the first time at age 12, my first real Broadway show was “Mary Poppins,” playing at the New Amsterdam Theatre on West 42nd Street. Since then, I have been blessed to see seven more Broadway shows in New York City. The city truly is a concrete jungle where dreams are made of, and the greatest city in the world. 

My incredible Broadway experiences inspired me to hone my own craft as an actress. For the vast majority of my life, the theatre has felt like home. I was a bumblebee in a children’s production of “The Jungle Book” when I was five, and from that day on I fell in love with the stage. The rush of adrenaline right when the curtain rises, the satisfaction from remembering your lines, blocking and choreography perfectly and the exhilaration from the applause are more addictive than any drug. When other kids went to sleepaway camp over the summer, I was cast in junior productions at local theatre companies, where I made wonderful friends and incredible memories, and learned how to be a better actress, singer and dancer. I relished the quiet moments in the theatre, when I could get to rehearsal early and stand at center stage with the spotlight on me. That very spot is where I left a pretty sizeable piece of my heart. 

I have always been more impressed by Broadway actors than Hollywood actors for a variety of reasons. First, in a movie, if you mess up a line, you can redo it, and anything undesirable from the film can be cut in post-production editing. However, on stage, if you mess up, you have to keep going; your mistakes are live and in color for an audience of up to hundreds of people. That kind of vulnerability teaches a grit and a striving for perfection that only Broadway actors can claim. When I fell flat on my face while trying to cross the stage in Heelys during one of my local productions, I had to get right back up, even with the wind knocked out of me. Even though my director was very kind and forgiving, I never wanted to make a mistake again. 

Second, Broadway actors never receive the public recognition that Hollywood actors enjoy. Only a select few Broadway actors reach star status, like Idina Menzel, but she only found that worldwide fame after voicing Elsa in the “Frozen” franchise, not in her role as Elphaba in the original cast of “Wicked.” Of course, an actor who truly loves what they do will not do it solely for the popularity and rewards, but they definitely help, and Hollywood actors get much more than Broadway actors do, even though they share an equal passion for bringing characters and stories to life. If an actor chooses Broadway over Hollywood, it is due to a love for the stage rather than the screen, and a passion for live performance, as it is unlike anything else in the entertainment industry. 

Broadway is a distinctly American creation as we know it today, and even though Hollywood blockbusters are also distinctly American, Broadway’s differences are what make it stand out. Finding your passion in life and following it, no matter what anyone thinks, is an integral part of the American dream, and embracing vulnerability leads Broadway actors to a higher calling than even the American dream could articulate. Theatres have been closed for almost a year now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many actors are struggling to pay their bills, but I will be first in line to buy tickets as soon as they reopen. In the meantime, I will reminisce on my life-changing experiences in the theatre and grow in love of the Great White Way that built me. 

One thought on “Broadway is the pinnacle of American art

  1. I also was 12 when I first went to NYC, but what made that trip special was that it was just my mom and I. My first memory of seeing a Broadway Musical is Wicked- I don’t have vivid memories, but do remember that “Popular” was my favorite song. Despite no vivid memories, the impact clearly shows. Wicked sparked my love for musicals.

    Wicked made me understand emotional connection, the emotional and complex nature. It even made me pick up on love triangle. I was able to understand four emotions- excitement, joy, love, and sad.

    Wicked might have sparked my love, but not my passion. Les Mis did that- challenged a lot about what I thought musicals were.

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