El Broadway in Spain: Musical Theatre, Cultural Transpositions, and Artistic Process
Reales Gregory, Jose David
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The Broadway musical has been shaped by a distinctly American identity, but its rapid international success underscores the need for research which further explores the complexities surrounding its cross-cultural jump into countries with their own histories and identities. In a country where performance research sits largely on flamenco, guitar, and zarzuelas, the 21st-century Spanish stage has been transformed by an unprecedented boom in musicals such as Chicago, West Side Story, Billy Elliott, Phantom of the Opera, and The Lion King. This dissertation follows theatre makers of Spain and dives into their productions of Broadway musicals to uncover the cultural, linguistic, and social negotiations behind their creative experiences. I journey into Spain’s past to decode various constructions of Spanish identity through musical performance, examining how the function of musical performance changes with shifting notions of nationhood. I look at Madrid and its professional companies, tracing urban and economic factors that feed into the replication of Broadway’s symbolic space. Joining the creative process of individual artists, I watch how amateur groups performing Broadway musicals in civic spaces of the provinces unite against a backdrop of local traditions to define their community through distinct linguistic and creative translation processes. Finally, I turn to a national Broadway musical theatre festival to determine how competition, programming, and workshop sessions construct audiences’ ideas of legitimacy for the purposes of strengthening belonging within the community. The transposition of these Broadway-style musicals to Spain are subject to the pressures and cultural politics of their space which creates new intersecting sites for the exploration of belonging between city and world, region and nation, and self and community. Ultimately, the Broadway musical genre is historically embedded with hegemonic power structures that, while consistent with the globalized market and its artistic community in the United States, are tough to negotiate at local and individual levels in other cultures – raising questions about the sustainability of national arts in today’s world.