My first experience to theater was through musicals. My mother loves them. I was orphaned like Annie, loving Tony like Maria, hiding in an Abbot with Liesl, and going steady with Hugo like Kim McAfee. I knew all of the words. The dance moves and steps. One thing that these musicals had in common were that the lead was never a black girl. Not a black person in sight actually. Try dealing with identity issues as a kid and watching these stories.
But as I grew order I realized one thing…I hated musicals. I don’t like the singin’ and dancin’ to express emotions. Just breaking out into a song annoyed me. They didn’t have anything that I could relate too. Oh, but we did watch musicals with black people in them; (my mother made vintage cool before it became Urban Outfitters) but they were sorta like this:
I couldn’t identify with those either. There was a cultural difference growing up in the 70s and 80s. Being an 8-year-old in the MTV age trying to sit though this was a recipe for disaster. I think it all steamed from not seeing anyone my age represented in the stories.
As a college student I fell in love with the musical Once on This Island and Sarafina. They are by far my favorites. Check out the uber-talented LaChanze as she sings the coming-of-age song “Waiting for Life.” I think if I would have learned about this musical as a kid I probably wouldn’t be so annoyed with them now. Afterwards, check out my favorite scene from Sarafina.