Mixed Race Musical Theatre Casts

Annie Soundtrack Cover

Audra McDonald (bottom left) in ANNIE

One of the hot topics in musical theatre at the moment seems to be the validity of mixed race casting. The trend seems to have been pushed into the spotlight by the television remakes of Cinderella (which featured a completely mixed race company), Annie (in which Audra McDonald was cast in the traditionally “white” role of Grace Farrel, while the orphans and chorus was composed of multiple races) and The Music Man (in which the chorus was multi-racial) and the film adaptation of Chicago (which featured Queen Latifah as as prison warden Mama Morton). Debates rage across the Internet with ardent support from those who support casting decisions like these and others who do not.

My view? I don’t have a problem with mixed race musical theatre casts – with one proviso: it is definitely not a viable choice in shows where racial issues are thematic. Then, to make the point of the show some characters have to be cast according to what race they are meant to represent. Other than that, I think it is just great, particularly in a case such as the casting of McDonald in Annie where the choice made the role far more resonant that it has even been on stage or film and the film is all the better for it.

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