Gender and Sexuality

Stacy Wolf

in The Oxford Handbook of The American Musical

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780195385946
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Gender and Sexuality

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The article provides several frameworks for analyzing gender and sexuality in musicals. The characters as gendered fall into types, and often according to vocal range such as for women, these include the ingénue, typically a soprano, such as Christine in The Phantom of the Opera or Marian in The Music Man and the comic sidekick, or bitch, or witch, typically a mezzo, such as Aldonza in Man of La Mancha or Sally in Urinetown. Altos there sometimes are middle-aged principals, such as Rose in Gypsy or Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, or older character roles, such as Mme. Armfeldt in A Little Night Music. Many male romantic leads are tenors, such as Tony in West Side Story and the title character in Pippin but male roles are less typecast by vocal range than women's. When every character is gendered, some musicals actually present the process of becoming gendered as the central narrative such as Gypsy follows Louise from a disregarded tomboy who plays the back end of a cow to a rich and successful stripper. Heterosexual relationships, romance, and marriage provide the narrative foundation of most musicals, typically this comes in the form of the story of a couple's initial antipathy followed by a series of complications that eventually lead to their admission of love. Many musicals also introduce a secondary couple, sometimes comedic, forming a quartet of contrasting representations of masculinity and femininity.

Keywords: vocal range; gender and sexuality in musicals; soprano; male romantic leads; central narrative; representations of masculinity; musical's title

Article.  7796 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Musicology and Music History

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