Attitudes towards women, and their role in American Musical Theatre.

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Attitudes towards women, and their role in American Musical Theatre.

For my essay, I am going to look at the attitudes towards women, both

from men and other women, and the significant role that that women had

in telling the stories in American musical theatre.

Showboat was the first musical of its kind. Up to this point, musicals

consisted of songs and dances, with often feeble storylines based

around the big stars. Showboat had a real story, adapted from a novel,

and both the singing and dancing told the story.

At the beginning of Showboat, after we have been introduced to the

main characters, we hear the main female characters attitude towards

men and love.

'Fish got to swim, birds got to fly,

I got to love one man till I die.

Can't help lovin' dat man of mine.'

Julie seems like a surrogate mother to Magnolia, giving her advice, as

we see Magnolia's relationship with her own mother is very strained.

Parthy doesn't want her daughter to have anything to do with the stage

or Ravenal, the two things her daughter is most passionate about.

Julie, on the other hand, just offers Magnolia advice and listens to

her. We see Magnolia and Parthy's differences highlighted by the

composer's use of the perfect fourth to show Magnolias closeness with

the river, and the augmented fourth or tritone to show Parthy's

distance from the river and its ideals.

We see a mother-daughter relationship, where the mother wants one

thing for her daughter and her daughter wants the opposite.

The action in the musical then jumps forward and we see a now married

Magnolia, destitute in a boarding house. She has been abandoned by

Ravenal, just as her mother predicted. We then see Julie, now an

alcoholic, who has also been abandoned by her husband. Magnolia comes

to audition for a job where Julie is working. She sings 'can't help

lovin' dat man' and Julie leaves her job so Magnolia can have it.

Magnolia doesn't see Julie, but Julie supports her in this way. The

musical ends happily, with Magnolia, Ravenal and their daughter Kim

being reunited.

Showboat was totally revolutionary, and tackled issues that had never

been looked at through this medium before. It paved the way for all

kinds of other issues to do with women to be looked at.

Porgy and Bess was a totally new concept. Not only did it have a black

cast, but it showed the life t...

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... but out

of place in the liberal seventies.

In conclusion, the attitude towards women has changed and developed

with that in the developed world. Musicals have both reflected this,

whilst at the same time maintaining a continuity of strong female

characters. Musicals, whilst being looked at as 'light entertainment,'

constantly looked at new issues, often to do with women, to challenge

their audiences and society at large. The role women played was

obviously integral to the musical's stories as well as also in raising

these issues. The roles women played varied widely from mother,

daughter, strong, weak, and authoratitive. The issues varied from

domestic violence to single parents, and forced society to pay

attention to the way these were affecting women's lives. This focus

helped play a part in getting equal rights for women and reflects on

the society we have today.


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