This month has been one of the hardest in "Hamilton's" history: five of the original cast members said goodbye to the Tony Award winning musical, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created the musical and also portrayed Hamilton up until July 9.
Although "Hamilton" did a lot to diversify Broadway, it is not the first show to portray a diversity of race, gender, ability, etc. Here are five shows that did just that.
1. “In The Heights”
Although Hamilton is arguably Miranda’s most famous show, “In The Heights” won several awards in the 2000's. The show takes place in Washington Heights and focuses on the problems the predominantly Hispanic community that lives there. Throughout the musical, the characters talk about immigration, what it means to be Hispanic and the disadvantages they face as a Hispanic community. With the exception of Benny, all of the characters are Hispanic (however, Benny was portrayed on Broadway by Christopher Jackson, a black man, making everyone in the show a person of color).
Based on Japanese-American actor and activist George Takei’s experiences in internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II, "Allegiance" is a show about the Kimura’s, a Japanese American family, during that time period. The majority of the characters (everyone except Hannah Campbell, a white nurse portrayed by Katie Rose Clarke on Broadway) are Japanese or Japanese American. The musical deals with issues of how Japanese Americans were treated during World War II as well as interracial relationships. This is the first show since 2002 to feature a predominantly Asian cast.
"Rent" is perhaps one of the more famous Broadway musicals on this list. This musical focuses on several young Bohemians in Alphabet City in the 1980s, when the HIV and AIDS scare was at a crisis point. The majority of the main cast are played by people of color in both the Broadway show and in the film version: Joanne, Mimi, Angel, Collins and Benny. Angel, portrayed by Wilson Jermaine Heredia in the original Broadway cast and the film, is fairly gender ambiguous: Angel is referred to with both “he/him” and “she/her” pronouns and wears dresses and skirts.
4. “Kinky Boots”
Inspired by the real-life Steve Pateman’s struggle to save his family’s shoe factory, "Kinky Boots" centers around Charlie Price (Andy Kelso), who is struggling to save his father’s factory, and Lola (Alan Mingo Jr.), a drag queen who inspires Charlie to create a line of heels comfortable for men, called “kinky boots.” Throughout the musical, the characters deal with acceptance (both accepting others, being accepted and accepting themselves). Additionally, Lola has always been played by black men (she was originally portrayed by Billy Porter), creating further intersections to her identity. In real life, the cast has been active in speaking out against HB2, the discriminatory anti-Trans bathroom law in North Carolina.
5. “Next to Normal”
"Next to Normal" is perhaps one of the most genuine reflections of mental illness in Broadway’s history. The show focuses on the Goodman’s: Diana, a manic-depressive mother of two; her husband Dan, reluctantly depressed; and Diana and Gabe, both sixteen and dealing with their mother’s illness. The show covers different types of mental illness, the merits of treatments and drug use. This show was received generally well with people who suffer from bipolar disorder and depression, as there aren’t very many representations of bipolar disorder or depression that do not sensationalize mental illness.