Broadway Babies

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MLA 2014 and MLA Executive Committee on Children's Literature; abstract 3-15-2013
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Call for Papers: MLA 2014 in Chicago

Broadway Babies

Since the premier of Annie in 1977, Broadway musical theater has seen multiple shows featuring children. The child performer has a long history, stretching from the child actor on the Elizabethan stage to the title character of the recent hit Billy Elliott. This panel is intended to bring together scholars working in performance studies, musical theater studies, and children's literature and create a conversation about constructions of childhood and the role of the child performer in the formation, popularization, commercialization, and history of America's most profitable indigenous art form: the Broadway musical.

This special session proposal is supported by the MLA Executive Committee on Children's Literature. A recent special issue of Lion and the Unicorn focused on the child and theater studies, and this panel continues this discussion by focusing on the Broadway musical. Topics might include the following:

The legacy of Annie or of Peter Pan
The Disneyfication of Broadway
Adaptations of children's books into musicals
Childhood and race in musicals such as Caroline, or Change and Sarafina!
The marketing of Broadway to the middle-class family audience.
The conflict between the romanticization of the child and the child as paid performer
The eroticization, exploitation, and commodification of the child
The child as cultural signifier
Rodgers and Hammerstein and the importance of the child ensemble (The King and I, Sound of Music)
The gendering of child performance.

Abstracts (250-300 words) and brief bio statements by 15 March 2013; Donelle Ruwe (