Richard Hanson returns to the Arizona Senior Academy’s Great Room at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday (April 20) with a new program, “Over the Rainbow,” exploring the American musical theatre as a place which honors the outsider, the other.
Hanson is a professor emeritus of the University of Arizona’s School of Theatre, Film and Television. He created the school’s nationally known Musical Theatre Division. Hanson rocked an ASA audience last year with a salute to dance on Broadway.
Theatre has been a venue where generations of primarily Jewish-American writers, composers, and lyricists fashioned their own identities as Americans. The Broadway stage was a space where artists could write themselves into the scenario of mainstream America. Jews, African-Americans, Gays and Lesbians, Latinos, and Women found the theatre to be a welcoming place where who you were was less important than what you did and how well you did it.
American musicals have celebrated every imaginable social issue: interracial marriage in Show Boat, anti-Semitism and the rise of Nazi Germany in Cabaret, racial prejudice in South Pacific and West Side Story, homophobia in La Cage aux Folles, and America’s melting pot in Ragtime. Today musical theatre continues to be the voice of conscience and hope for outsiders who continue to aspire to the American dream.
“Over the Rainbow” celebrates the cockeyed optimism of Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Rogers and Hammerstein, and Jerry Herman. As our nation changes, so does our theatre. The new faces of Broadway continue the tradition of those who came before them, showing audiences who we are and what we look like as Americans.
Written by Sharon Stetz, Academy Village Volunteer