My kids melted my heart last month when they thanked us for passing our love of theater to them. My husband and I were theater majors. We first met during our college’s product of The Taming of the Shrew.
After college, both of us spent several years working in various professional theaters. We loved it. Life changes as did our jobs, but we made sure to take our children to see shows in the DC area especially performances that are colorblind-casted or about people of color.
My teen and tween’s current faves include Hamilton, Hadestown and The Lightning Thief musicals, which are currently on Broadway. I wish we could take them to more shows, especially in New York City. But that’s not in our family budget.
Thank goodness for BroadwayHD, a streaming service where you can watch live recordings of classic and modern productions. They provided me with a subscription so I could check out their offerings.
They also offer the full works of Shakespeare, awe-inspiring performances from Cirque du Soleil and a selection of the world’s greatest musical including Kinky Boots, 42nd Street, The King and I, Sound of Music, An American in Paris, and Peter Pan. All performances are adapted specifically for streaming audiences to maximize the entertainment experience.
Subscriptions start at $8.99/month or $99.99 if you pre-pay for 1 year. You cans stream via your browser or their apps (iOS and Android).
BroadwayHD also offers a free 7 day trial so you can check out their offerings. BroadwayHD also makes a great gift and subscriptions can be gifted to loved ones here.
Diverse Theater Performances to Stream on BroadwayHD
I went through the many offerings on BroadwayHD to create a playlist focused on diversity. Not all shows on this list are “family friendly” or G-rated. My husband and I adopt a philosophy of discussing race, gender orientation, and sex orientation with our children from a young age. The conversations started off simply but become more complex as they’ve gotten older.
Not only will the following diverse shows keep you entertained, but they are good conversation starters for discussing diversity with your family.
Based off the film by the same name, Kinky Boots is a musical about loving your friends and family for who they truly are. Desperate to keep his family’s shoe factory from closing, Charlie teams up with Lola, a transvestite and performer, to design fabulous stilettos that can support a man’s weight.
You can’t go wrong with music and lyrics written by Cyndi Lauper. The dance numbers will you have cheering for Lola and her Angels!
Last Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
I have adored Audra McDonald ever since I heard the Broadway cast recording for Ragtime. In Last Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, she channels Billie Holiday down to her unique voice. Set in a small Philadelphia club in 1959, the jazz icon performs an intimate cabaret evening while talking about her life and the challenges of being a black female jazz singer.
Memphis is a Tony Award winning musical that is loosely based off Memphis DJ Dewey Philips, one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950. I don’t know much about this story and look forward to watching the show. The clips I’ve seen are filled with toe-tapping dance numbers and plenty of songs you can dance to.
Pipeline is the only straight play on this list. I first caught the ending of this play on PBS and was blown away. The writing is intense and the actors kept me from changing the channel even though I started 2/3rds the way through the play. Now I can see its entirety on BroadwayHD.
Nya, an inner-city public high school teacher, is committed to her students but desperate to give her only son Omari opportunities they’ll never have. When a controversial incident at his upstate private school threatens to get him expelled, Nya must confront his rage and her own choices as a parent. But will she be able to reach him before a world beyond her control pulls him away?
The MeshugaNutcracker! is a full-length musical comedy that features the wonderfully silly sensibilities of the folklore of Chelm (the fictional town of fools) underscored by an invigorating, Klezmer-ized orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite”, now with original lyrics that celebrate Chanukah. Judah Maccabee’s triumphant saga and accounts of perseverance during the Holocaust as well as the celebration of the first Chanukah in the new state of Israel emerge with a genuine sense of wonder as the Chelmniks tell eight stories that pay tribute to the holiday. Add in dancing dreidels, singing sufganiot, and surprise guest stars and you have the perfect recipe for a holiday gathering.
Nominated for five 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, Falsettos is a hilarious and poignant look at a modern family revolving around the life of a gay man Marvin, his wife, his lover, his soon‑to‑be‑bar‑mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist, and the lesbians next door. Originally created under the specter of the AIDS crisis, this timely musical about middle‑class family dynamics manages to remain buoyant and satirically perceptive even as it moves towards its heartbreaking conclusion.
Important note about Miss Saigon & The King and I
Before I jump to the descriptions of the next two shows, there’s something you should now. Miss Saigon and the King and I are very problematic musicals. Both musicals suffer from white savior complex and tell the Asian stories from a very Western-is-good-Eastern-is-bad attitude.
Whenever I watch theater, movies, or tv shows like this, I make sure to address this with my kids. I ask them to look at who is telling the story and why might it not be the truth? How could have the writers made the story more inclusive?
I am glad that these shows are able to give AAPI actors theater jobs. It’s important to note that you should do your own research about Vietnamese and Siam culture and not rely on how they’re represented in the musicals.
I discovered Miss Saigon in college when I complained to my professor about the lack of Asian representation in the plays we studied. Back then there wasn’t very many mainstream musicals or plays about the Asian experiences, much less Asian American. I fell in love with Miss Saigon’s music, written by the same duo as Les Miserables. I’m a sucker for gut wrenching ballads and hearing Lea Salonga sing “Movie in My Mind” gave me chills.
King & I
Ken Wantabe is undoubtedly one of the best Asian American actors there is. He’s very accomplished, and it was fun to see him play the King of Siam. Set in 1860s Bangkok, the King and I musical tells the story of the unconventional and tempestuous relationship that develops between the King of Siam and Anna, a British schoolteacher whom the modernist King, in an imperialistic world, brings to Siam to teach his many wives and children.