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Broadway musicals: The Portrayal of Women through the Decades

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Broadway was one of the first forms of entertainment. Before there were television programs, or movies, there was Broadway. Broadway originated in New York in 1750, when actor-manager Walter Murray built a theatre company at the Theatre on Nassau Street. A musical would show about once every weekend. The shows were very male based, and would commonly show a relationship between young boys and their fathers. Women were slowly integrated into Broadway, and as society changed its point of view on women, so did theatre.

The first strictly female-based shows were released in the 1950’s. These musicals attracted more female-based audience members and ticket sales rose exponentially. Musicals such as The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady showed how women were an important part of life, whereas musicals such as Spring Awakening, Aida, and Wicked showed extreme women empowerment. Gender inflicts and shapes every aspect of the musical. ”Gender is a constitutive element of Broadway musical theatre, fundamental to the musical’s architecture, and as vital a building block as music, lyrics, orchestration, spoken text, choreography, and dance, lights, sets, costumes, and props. It shows from the very beginning the role to be played” (Wolf, p.6)

As soon as an actor steps foot onto the stage, the audience sees the actor’s gender and interprets that character accordingly. The character of Maria Rainer in Rogers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music isn’t just a high on life happy person singing about the Austrian mountains and the joy they bring her; she’s a young postulant nun who is unsure of her future. In Maria’s first encounter with Captain Von Trapp, he is a stern man walking around his living room in frustration. How the character of Maria g...

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"Https://www.academia.edu/748189/_Consuming_Little_Girls_How_Broadway_and_New_York_City_Capitalized_on_Peggy_Sawyer_and_Little_Orphan_Annies_Big_Apple_Dreams_." Journal of American Drama and Theatre 21.2 (2009): 67-87. Print.

"Wicked - Broadway." Broadway.com. N.p., 12 Oct. 2006. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.

Wolf, Stacy Ellen. Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.

Pollard, Laura.

"Https://www.academia.edu/748189/_Consuming_Little_Girls_How_Broadway_and_New_York_City_Capitalized_on_Peggy_Sawyer_and_Little_Orphan_Annies_Big_Apple_Dreams_." Journal of American Drama and Theatre 21.2 (2009): 67-87. Print.

"Wicked - Broadway." Broadway.com. N.p., 12 Oct. 2006. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.

Wolf, Stacy Ellen. Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.
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