One of the many informations screens Dr. Palestrant discussed in his presentation.

Broadway on display. One of the many informations screens Dr. Palestrant discussed in his presentation.

Broadway history came to the Outer Banks on Sunday evening. Sponsored by the Bryan Cultural Series, Dr. Christopher Palestrant, Chair of the Department of Music and Visual Arts at Elizabeth City State University took the audience on a journey through the history of broadway musicals beginning with the works of George M. Cohan.

Using stills and posters from the earliest days of Broadway to plays that are filling theaters today, 50 Years of Broadway: from Hair to Hamilton wove the story of how musical theater and culture work together.

The performance was in front of a sold-out house a the Kill Devil Hills Cinema.

It was a fascinating evening. There were a couple of technical glitches but in the finest tradition of theater, the show must go on.

Although Palestrant began with Cohan, he didn’t spend much time there. He noted we don’t remember his play—Little Johnny Jones is not in anyone’s repertoire—but we do know his songs. Yankee Doodle Dandy, You’re a Grand Old Flag or Give My Regards to Broadway.

He then wen to to talk about how we view the songs in the plays. In early Broadway, the plot would happen, a song would be sung, and then the plot goes on again.

Modern Broadway Takes Shape

That began to evolve and by the time Hair debuted in 1968, the songs were the plot.

That has continued to change, continued to evolve.

Some productions now have little or no dialogue— Les Misérables or Phantom of the Opera. There are also plays borrowing heavily from the music of 30 or 40 years ago—Grease or Kinky Boots.

And then we come to Lin-Manuel Miranda Hamilton. With its vocals, songs and plot structured around rap it is a tour-de-force of modern theatre.

The Bryan Cultural Series has a full slate of programs for this year. Next up with be the Virginia Symphony in Concert on February 29.

There is always something special happening on the Outer Banks. Stay a while with Brindley Beach Vacations and discover what life on a sandbar is really all about.