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.
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