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Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America$
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Jake Johnson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042515

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042515.001.0001

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Vicarious Voices

(p.9) Introduction
Mormons, Musical Theater, and Belonging in America

Jake Johnson

University of Illinois Press

This chapter suggests that American communities have used the theater to claim a stake in national identity by “sounding” American. The root of this practice is the phenomenon of speaking on behalf of another person, a vocal performance style that, among other things, is the foundation of American democratic principles. This vicarious voice is exemplified in two iconic American institutions born from Jacksonian ideology--musical theater (via blackface minstrelsy) and Mormonism. This chapter argues that examining the two together creates an important case study for how a unified American sound motivates and permeates the practice of belonging in America. Such a provocation also makes the case for the importance of studying musical theater outside of Broadway and offer this as an example of how significant a role musical theater plays in the lives of people all over the world for reasons that have little to do with the economic, entertainment, or consumerist purposes of Times Square.

Keywords:   vicarious voice, Broadway, Mormonism, blackface minstrelsy, Jacksonian ideology, national identity, American institutions

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