Coded messages

A Lutheran cast of characters
I was an innocent Nebraska teen visiting Milwaukee when I saw my first musical, which I thought was about Oklahoma. But Andrea Most in Making Americans: Jews and the Broadway Musical (Harvard University Press) and David Schiff, who reviewed her book in the Times Literary Supplement (July 2), would say that I got the plot and scene of this Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein musical wrong. I also seem to have missed the point of such other musicals as South Pacific and The King and I. Most argues that these shows were coded contributions aimed at helping urban Jews assimilate. No, says Schiff; assimilation was already a Broadway plot as early as the 1920s, in plays like Abie’s Irish Rose. Hammerstein, son of a Presbyterian mother, had long “fit in.”


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