During wartime, much art and culture is developed both in response to and as a commentary on events of the day. The American theater, with special emphasis on Broadway, was no exception. Numerous plays centered around World War II or at least referred to the war in some capacity through their characters, settings, and plots.
Following the publication of We’ll Always Have the Movies: American Cinema during World War II, Robert L. McLaughlin and Sally E. Parry bring us Broadway Goes to War: American Theater during World War II, published by the University Press of Kentucky.
As was the case for movies released during World War II, theater also explored topics in relation to the war, not shying away from showcasing strong opinions for or against the war. By featuring plots, characters, and commentaries relating to the war, theatrical productions had the power to challenge opinions, encourage discussion, and pose questions in response to the war, all while impacting popular culture of the day.
McLaughlin and Parry have taken on much impressive research to accomplish this project, revealing a fascinating depiction of connections among theatrical history, culture, and politics. While readers may already be aware of certain Broadway productions that tie in with the response to war, the work of McLaughlin and Parry is sure to educate readers about the context of popular productions. McLaughlin and Parry also inform readers of lesser-known productions which also had an impact upon popular culture and the public’s perception of World War II.
Broadway Goes to War paints an excellent and expectedly complicated example of American society’s response to World War II.