I’m waist deep into research for the fourth novel in this collection, and am spending way too much time thinking about human trafficking and involuntary prostitution. It is a horrible subject to have take residence in your head. Then it occurs to me. Could there possibly be a worse subject for a Broadway musical? Except for the intentionally awful “Spring time for Hitler” of The Producers fame, I think not. And yet, a few years ago I saw such a musical on Broadway.
Let me back up. I was still a child when my sister and I were allowed to see the Julie Andrews movie Thoroughly Modern Millie in which a heartwarming small town girl sets out to marry her rich boss but first must evade an Asian “white slavery ring” and assorted comical mayhem ensues. My mother, to her credit, asked me after the show if I had any questions about the plot and I assured her I did not, even though of course I did. She left it at that. My sister and I loved the flapper dresses and the long cigarette holders and a tipsy Carol Channing gushing “raspberries” and declared it our favorite movie ever.
So when my own children were mostly grown, I found myself in New York with them and my sister and guess what had just opened on Broadway? “We have GOT to see it.” My sister and I jumped up and down. “This is going to be great!” Only it wasn’t. Since the movie came out in 1967, I had acquired two teenage daughters and several Asian friends. Girls marrying for money wasn’t so funny. Caricatures of Asians were less so. Drunk overdressed rich women? No. And kidnapping young girls so they could be forced to have sex? By intermission I was thinking that this had been a very bad idea. My kids were giving me funny looks. The world has changed so very much, I thought that night, and I’m glad that it has.
However, the Broadway musical went on to win six Tony awards, including best musical. It spawned three traveling productions and, in the words of Wikipedia “has since become a popular choice for high school productions.” Yikes. High school productions.
Okay, so maybe the world isn’t quite as different as I sometimes think that it is. Sometimes, it’s me that has changed. And I’m glad that I have.
For more on how things change with time, visit my x0 blog here for thoughts on veggie burgers, humor and empathy. Also visit my y1 blog here for thoughts on gay psychiatrists and my hoarding disorder.