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re: 'MIss Saigon': 5 important things the New York Times didn't tell you ... over 25 years later
Posted by: JereNYC (JereNYC@aol.com) 11:16 am EDT 03/20/17
In reply to: 'MIss Saigon': 5 important things the New York Times didn't tell you ... over 25 years later - WaymanWong 08:22 pm EDT 03/18/17

Wayman, I'm just curious about your perspective on the casting of Julie in SHOW BOAT. I've always thought that because of the particular circumstance of that character (a mixed race woman passing successfully as white), that it would be acceptable to cast a white actress in the role. If one is looking to specifically cast an African-American actress, you'd have to not only look for an actress who can play and sing the role successfully, but also one who is light-skinned enough to pass for white. That seems...icky...in some ways to me, and I imagine scenes of casting directors passing judgement on the skin tones of actresses auditioning and comparing, not only their singing and acting, but also their skin.

Now, if you're auditioning a Broadway revival, finding such an actress is probably not going to be an issue. You're going to have your pick of the most talented singing actresses in show business. But, if you're casting at a lower level, your talent pool may be more limited.

Since the character is mixed race and one of those races is caucasian, and the character passes successfully as that, why would you not see white actresses for the role in addition to light-skinned African-American actresses?

I've written about this here before, but I remember taking my theatre-neophyte now-husband to a production of SHOW BOAT in which Julie was played by a beautiful Latina actress who was sensational in the part. But my husband, who'd never before seen SHOW BOAT and knew nothing about it, was terribly confused about why everyone in the show was so shocked that Julie was of mixed race. That production also featured a Latino actor as Gaylord Ravenal, which only added to his confusion about what was going on. So I think in the casting, for telling this story, it's much more important to have an actress who either is or can pass for white, rather than casting an actress of any specific race.

Am I off base here?
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