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Integration through the wide open back door: African Americans respond to Flower Drum Song (1958)

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The mainstream press was lukewarm regarding Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song (1958). In contrast to white media responses to Flower Drum Song, black newspapers wholeheartedly embraced it. Although the praise by black newspapers for the musical can be attributed to African-American actress Juanita Hall's prominent role in the production, more than just racial pride is in evidence in these reviews. By examining the ways in which African-American newspapers constructed Flower Drum Song as holding particular significance to the black community when the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum, this article analyses the ways in which musicals can take on new and unexpected meanings for unforeseen audiences.

Keywords: Civil Rights; Flower Drum Song; Juanita Hall; audience; black press; integration

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Regis College.

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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  • Studies in Musical Theatre is a refereed journal which considers areas of live performance that use vocal and instrumental music in conjunction with theatrical performance as a principal part of their expressive language.
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