Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Critical discourse regarding musical theatre takes, for the most part, the form of a profound silence, due presumably to a dismissal of the genre as simplistic and insubstantial. Not only have the elements of musical theatre been present in the majority of theatrical history, but many of the greatest theories regarding theatre have included these elements, including Brecht and Wagner. Musicals have also often concerned themselves with the Other, centering and sympathizing him/her in a manner unavailable to non-musical works. The Others that have thus been positioned are often delineated from hegemonic groups which are concretely those in power, but which are difficult to define. While officially, America is a classless society, class distinctions make a difference, and musicals have long championed the underdogs, both financial and social. Many “non-white” ethnic groups have been subordinated in American society but centered within musical theatre. While the musical stage has often established the idea of Jewishness as pertaining to ethnicity, it has also elevated Jews to leading characters, often while simultaneously serving to place audiences in the position of having to confront their own antisemitism. While heteronormativity is certainly the hegemonic stance regarding sexuality in America, the musical has often subverted it, whether through setting up alternative family structures, weakening male primacy within sexual contact, or setting up queer characters as sympathetic and leading characters. This dissertation explores all the above subaltern groups, examining how many creators of musicals have placed characters from these congregations at or near the forefront of sympathy and primacy, with particular attention given to how music aids in this positioning.
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Whittaker III, Donald Elgan, "Subversive aspects of American musical theatre" (2002). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 1125.