S2E21: History in Musicals

November 14, 2019
You bought your ticket, you take your seat, the lights go down, the curtain goes up, and your history lesson begins.

Okay, maybe we don’t buy tickets to musicals for a history lesson, but we like to think of it as a pleasant bonus. You might be surprised how much history is contained in the songs and situations of your favorite musical.

Join our hosts as they explore the histories shared in musicals. And we aren’t just talking about Hamilton. From Hairspray to Billy Elliot to Oklahoma, musical narratives offer a glimpse into the past and help us learn about it — if you take the time to notice!

Don’t we wish that all of our school classes were this much fun?


Culwell-Block, Logan and Talaura Harms. June 17, 2016. 9 Historical Facts We Learned Through Musical Theatre. Playbill: http://www.playbill.com/article/9-historical-facts-we-learned-through-musical-theatre

Curry, R.R. 1996. Hairspray: The revolutionary way to restructure and hold your history. Literary Film Quarterly.

Freedman, Donna. January 23, 2019: In ‘Newsies’ musical, story of child workers  who triumphed over industry giants. Anchorage Daily News: https://www.adn.com/arts/2019/01/24/in-newsies-musical-a-true-story-of-child-workers-who-triumphed-over-industry-giants/

Gossard, Julia. January 16, 2013. Les Misérables: A Historian’s Review. Alcalde: https://alcalde.texasexes.org/2013/01/les-miserables-a-historians-review/

Harbert, Elissa. Winter 2018. Hamilton and History Musicals. American Music, Vol 36, No 4, pp 414-428

Schuessler, Jennifer. April 10, 2016. ‘Hamilton’ and History: Are They in Sync? The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/11/theater/hamilton-and-history-are-they-in-sync.html

July 28, 2019. Adventurer and Performer Calamity Jane is Born. History.com: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/calamity-jane-is-born


Hosts: Robin Mullins, Keely McCavitt, and Nick Bridges

Producers: Robin Mullins and Emily Cuggy

Researchers: Alice Glaze, Anna Kuntz, Beth Sollis, Jennifer Bate, Nick Johnston, and Samantha Clark

Audio Editing: Emily Cuggy

Web Content: Casandra Masse

Image Credit:  C.N.E. / Library and Archives Canada / PA-060464