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Our Favorite Plays And Musicals Based On Historical Events

Boston College will be performing Evita this April as our 2017 Spring musical. Evita is about the intelligent and beautiful Eva Peron, who was loved by the Argentine people as she worked beside her Husband and eventual President of the country, Juan Peron.

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10. Assassins

Performed earlier this season at Boston College (Produced by the BC Contemporary Theatre), Stephen Sondheim has intertwined the lives and murders/ murder attempts of many famous President Assassinators. Starting the musical with John Wilkes Booth and ending with the young Lee Harvey Oswald, this follows the lives of not one but many assassins through American History.

9. The Laramie Project

The savage killing of Shepard, a young gay man, has become a national symbol of the struggle against intolerance. But for the people of Laramie–both the friends of Matthew and those who hated him without knowing him–the tragedy was personal. In a chorus of voices that brings to mind Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, The Laramie Project allows those most deeply affected to speak, and the result is a brilliantly moving theatrical creation.

8. Newsies

Based off of the 1992 film starring Christian Bale as Jack Kelly—which earned him mixed reviews—Newsies is a Disney musical based off of the 1899 Newsboys Strike of New York. The Newsboys’ newspaper stack’s bundle price raised from 50 cents to 60 cents, which was considered extremely expensive at the time, especially for orphaned boys who were forced to live in a lodging home. The boys, led by a thirteen-year-old newsboy named Kid-Blink, refused to sell papers and formed rallies against Joseph Pulitzer and William Hearst’s actions. In result of the two week strike, the newsboys received more money in return. The musical’s ‘Kid Blink’, however, was renamed Jack Kelly, and he didn’t wear an eyepatch. He is just as heroic though.

7. The Crucible

Arthur Miller's play The Crucible is partly based off the historical events of the Salem Witch Trials which occurred in the 1600s. In his play many people of the town are accused by young girls of witchcraft and are consequently executed for their "crimes." Miller comments not only on the awful trials which resulted in twenty executions and 72 accusations, but also on the idea of censorship which was a bit political scandal in the 1950s. Although, historians have pointed out historical inaccuracies with this play.

6. Kinky Boots

Believe it or not, Steve Pateman is the real-life ‘Charlie Price.’ The man managed to make his own ‘Kinky Boots’ business called ‘Divine Footwear’, all to save his father’s failing shoe business. After a 2005 film was made based off of Pateman’s story, Fierstein and Lauper managed to turn this cozy family story into a Broadway hit.

5. Bonnie and Clyde

Who would have ever known that this infamous crime couple’s story would be told through a Broadway musical? For those of you who don’t know, Bonnie and Clyde were a couple who became infamous criminals throughout the 1930s-era Great Depression in America. The musical displays their childhoods, dreams, meeting, crimes, and eventual deaths. Despite the negative reviews on their Broadway opening night—possibly due to fresh memories of director Frank Wildhorn’s previous Broadway ‘flops’—the musical was nominated with two Tony awards and four Drama Desk awards. But hey, they did end up going down in history like they wished, right?

4. Les Miserables

A novel by Victor Hugo tells the story of not only love, sacrifice and bravery, but also the 1832 June Rebellion in France. Hugo was actually surrounded near the barricades by mistake after he followed the sound of gunshots, right in the heat of the rebellion. Although the characters are a work of fiction, it is inevitable that the real-life rebels were just as brave and heroic. The novel was originally published in 1862, but then was turned into a musical by Alain Boubill and Claude-Michel Schonberg in 1980. A novel based on the musical was turned into a film starring Hugh Jackman as Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert, and Anne Hathaway as Fantine. Miss Hathaway earned herself an Oscar as ‘best supporting actress’ for her performance.

3. The Diary of Anne Frank

A young Dutch-Jewish girl, named Anne Frank, kept a diary about the unfolding events around her in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Frank and the others in her family hid behind a bookcase, which led to a spot called the ‘Secret Annex.’ In attempts to prevent being discovered, the Frank family was forced into hiding for two years before they were found and sent to a concentration camp. On Broadway’s 1997 adapted version of the show, Natalie Portman landed herself the role of Anne.

2. Annie Get Your Gun

Annie Oakley was a female American sharpshooter, who at fifteen years old, won a marksman competition. The musical is about the fictionalized life of Miss Oakley, mainly how she fell in love with her husband, Frank Butler. Oakley was one of the most recognized sharpshooters in American history, performing for royalty as well as heads of state, and she quickly became an international hit through the 1880s.

1. Hamilton

Lin Manuel-Miranda didn’t earn a Pulitzer Prize for nothing. This innovative, extremely historically accurate, and revolutionary hip-hop musical with a diverse cast tells the life of Alexander Hamilton. The story unfolds through rap battles for cabinet meetings, dancing and singing through the Battle of Yorktown, controversial affairs through pure heartbreak, and a series of depressing deaths through… well, I don’t really want to dwell on that part. The Broadway hit really manages to pull at your heartstrings, all while making you want to jump out of your seat and dance. Now that is effective storytelling.

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