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This article contains spoilers for Hawkeye episode 1.
Have you heard the good news? Broadway is back! This is the case in the real world, where The Great White Way has finally returned to theatrical action following a shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also the case for Marvel.
The viability of Broadway musicals amid the sudden disappearance of 50% of the universe’s population was never addressed in the MCU after Avengers: Infinity War. One would have to assume, however, that a nigh-apocalyptic event was enough to shut down production for a long time. In Marvel’s latest Disney+ series Hawkeye, however, everyone is finally ready to go back to the theater.
Hawkeye episode 1 “Never Meet Your Heroes” features a show-stopping tune from the MCU Broadway’s hottest ticket: Rogers: The Musical. With a poster that features the black silhouette of Steve Rogers on a golden background, Rogers: The Musical is clearly the MCU’s take on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical phenomenon Hamilton: An American Musical. It also has the rapturous reviews to match, with some poster excerpts reading: “An All American Musical for an All American Hero!” “A Timeless Story of a Timeless Hero!” and “A Super-Powered Sensation!”
According to Hawkeye writer Jonathan Igla, the idea for Rogers: The Musical developed from trying to find a reason for a beaten down and aging Clint Barton to return to New York City with his family.
“It was one of the most fun things,” Igla told Variety. “We would drive by a Hamilton billboard every morning on the way to the writers’ room. One morning I just thought ‘Rogers: The Musical’, and we started talking about it and it expanded. One of the great things about working for Marvel is if you have an idea that starts out small…and you pitch it to them and everybody’s sort of tickled by it and everybody’s excited by it, they’re willing to pick it up and run with it and make it even bigger.”
Of course, it’s one thing to think of a Hamilton-style musical parody for the MCU, and it’s another thing entirely to actually execute it. Surprisingly, Hawkeye’s first episode goes beyond the joke posters and actually puts on a decent performance of Rogers: The Musical. It’s not…great. Clint is certainly justified for tuning it out. But it’s also not terrible! It definitely has the appearance of an actual Broadway show and cultural phenomenon.
“I think I tapped into my specialty of making something ‘not too good, not too bad,’” Hawkeye director (and former Documentary Now director) Rhys Thomas told Uproxx.
Even if Rogers: The Musical is corny (and it is), it’s a shockingly rich text for Marvel fans. The song featured in Hawkeye covers The Battle of New York featured in The Avengers and its immediate aftermath. Rogers: The Musical is also a fascinating example of how malleable our collective cultural memory can be.
Yes, Ant-Man Was There
The Battle of New York sequence in the play naturally features all the heroes who were there: Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. But, as Clint grouchily makes note of, there’s a seventh hero in the play who had nothing to do with the Battle of New York: Ant-Man. There’s a couple of possibilities at play here for Ant-Man’s inclusion. The first is that Ant-Man technically was at the Battle of New York, just not noticeable. During Avengers: Endgame’s time heist, Ant-Man was part of the team that tried (and failed) to retrieve the Tesseract. Perhaps some citizen saw Ant-Man pop in and out of time and it became popular knowledge that he was always there.
It’s equally as possible, however, that Ant-Man has been included just because it’s always seemed like he’s part of the original Avengers. Scott Lang played a major role in Avengers: Endgame so perhaps it became cultural canon that Ant-Man has always been there every step of the way. Plus, his powers of growing smaller and bigger have an elemental appeal that just works well in a Broadway production.
Rogers: The Musical Lyrics
Given the Ant-Man situation, Rogers: The Musical is a fascinating look into the cultural reception that this fictional world has to its heroes. Not only that, but a lot of the lyrics in the song (called “Save The City” on Spotify) are unexpectedly revealing. Here is what we were able to glean:
Chorus: Help us win! Save us all from the state we’re in!
Things look dark but I know this can’t be the end.
There’s a future I know that.
With the strength you bring us we’ll rise again.
Avengers unite ‘cause we’ve got to hear you say.
Steve Rogers: I could do this all day!
Chorus: The Hulk is incredible, smashing things up.
While Iron Man takes to the sky.
Captain America’s strong and that Thor is a god.
And lord knows they’re easy on the eyes.
Black Widow’s a knockout who can knock you out. And when Ant-Man flies You won’t hear a sound.
Interestingly, it’s after the line “you won’t hear a sound” that the audience is brought into Clint’s perspective where he literally can’t hear a sound because his hearing aid is turned off. When he turns it back on, we catch a snippet of what the chorus is singing and it sounds like “While Hawkeye seems cool, like a really nice guy, we just wish that New York wasn’t their battleground” Then we get to hear the rest of the song.
Steve Rogers: I’ve got to get the Tesseract. The battle’s just begun.
Black Widow: We’ll conquer the Chitauri
Iron Man: Then get shawarma when we’re done.
Hawkeye: Just how are we to fight them?
Steve Rogers: We’ll do it as a team.
First (unintelligible) then Natasha, that’s your cue.
Then Hawkeye hit the bullseye, there’s not a better shot than you.
Tony, you’ve got nukes to catch, be careful not to crash.
Hulk, you know the magic word is….Smash. Smash. Smash.
Chorus: City’s trashed when you take your bow. We’ll blame you then but you’re good for now. Avengers unite ‘cause we’ve got to hear you say. I could do this all day.
Most of the lyrics in the song are a straight retelling of the events of The Avengers’ climactic battle, right down to Tony Stark maneuvering a nuke through a portal to vaporize the Chitauri. It’s the last line, however, that offers a new bit of information: “We’ll blame you then but you’re good for now.”
Recall that The Battle of New York was pretty much the world’s introduction to The Avengers. Captain America was known from his time punching Nazis in the ‘40s and Tony Stark had already revealed himself to be Iron Man.
But to the average person in Marvel’s universe, the Chitauri invasion changed their perspective on quite literally everything. As Hawkeye episode 1 reveals, Kate Bishop was taken with The Avengers initially and viewed them (particularly Clint) with utter reverence. Not everyone else had the same experience though.
After the Battle of New York, The Avengers features a series of new interviews with frightened citizens. Obviously they’re relieved that all the violence is over and six strong individuals seemed to fight on their behalf, but some are understandably experiencing a level of distrust over The Avengers’ involvement in an event that basically leveled New York City.
“These so-called ‘heroes’ have to be held responsible for the destruction done to the city. This was their fight. Where are they now?” one New York senator says to the press.
That one song in Rogers: The Musical is therefore a kind of time capsule of the MCU. The citizens of this fictional universe have been through so much with these heroes that they are now firmly on their side. That one line in one song reveals that that wasn’t always the case.
It’s also worth mentioning that the chorus of Rogers: The Musical is made up of a diverse cross-section of humanity. Featured as singers are: a businessman, a doctor, a sanitation worker, a doorman, a chef, and a nurse. None of these characters correspond to notable extras in the real Battle of New York. In fact, it’s a little surprising that one of the chorus isn’t a waitress as it’s an unnamed diner waitress who gets the final word on the Avengers in the 2012 film, saying “Captain America saved my life. Wherever he is, and wherever any of them are, I would just want to say thank you.”
Still, getting to be a human being in Rogers: The Musical is probably a big get. Imagine being a working stage actor and having to tell all your friends and family to come to a show where you play a random Chitauri soldier that tries to end humanity. Awkward!