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date: 22 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Musicals celebrate physical abilities—singing and dancing—that seem to represent aspects of the universally human but are denied in significant measure to many with disabilities. Yet musicals’ insistence on incorporating the marginalized into communities has yielded important instances of disabled individuals figuring in musicals’ plots; moreover, musicals have often enough become part of the lives of disabled populations. This essay first considers a handful of shows that deal directly with disability, including Porgy and Bess, The Music Man, The Who’s Tommy, Wicked, and Next to Normal. It then discusses a number of revelatory instances of musical performance figuring in lives of the deaf and hearing impaired, focusing particularly on the recent Broadway revival of Big River as reconfigured by Deaf West Theatre, with its transformative integration of an expressive choreography based on signing into an existing musical.

Keywords: musical, disability, Porgy and Bess, The Music Man, The Who’s Tommy, Wicked, Next to Normal, Big River, West Side Story, Deaf West Theatre

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