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re: from 1927 to now... a whole bunch of musicals (but surely not all)
Posted by: JereNYC (JereNYC@aol.com) 12:54 pm EST 01/24/23
In reply to: re: from 1927 to now... a whole bunch of musicals (but surely not all) - Chazwaza 12:16 pm EST 01/24/23

The BYE BYE BIRDIE thing is so interesting to me and I'm really pleased that the authors were willing, not only to cast Chita Rivera in her first leading role after making such a splash in WEST SIDE STORY, but to completely reconceive the role as a Latina woman in response to her casting. I'm curious about what the conflict(s) between Rose and Mae would've been, if the Rose character had be cast another way and remained white. I don't remember the film well enough to remember how the relationship was handled there.

And I love how Mae's overt racism toward Rose is both softened and underlined by having her constantly refer to Rose as being "Spanish." Having Mae use an actual racial epithet that might have been directed toward a Latina woman would jar the audience and take them right out of this frothy musical comedy. But Mae is nonetheless made the butt of the joke and the villain of the piece, such as there is one, while Rose is seen throughout as our heroine. Mae does not get a pass on her racism. The ridiculousness of her using the word "Spanish" further points out her ignorance, which then becomes the point of "Spanish Rose." I only wish, that when Albert finally stands up to Mae at the end of the show, that he specifically called out the racism as well as the other things he mentions there. I wonder if there were white people in the audience who took the point and might've rethought their own casual racism toward brown people. I mean, it's not as in your face as something like SOUTH PACIFIC or FINIAN'S RAINBOW, but it's still there.

In the TV movie, when Vanessa Williams played Rose, I wondered if there would be any modificiation to any of this because I could definitely see an approach to the character of Mae where the word "Spanish" is an acceptable word in Mae's mind to avoid acknowledging in any way that her son's girlfriend is black. Being black, to Mae, being the most horrible thing a person could be, so she can't even go there in her mind, hence "Spanish." But that movie didn't choose to go there.
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