Gender and Sexuality

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


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.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of The American Musical
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199940714
ISBN (Print)9780195385946
StatePublished - Sep 18 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Central narrative
  • Gender and sexuality in musicals
  • Male romantic leads
  • Musical's title
  • Representations of masculinity
  • Soprano
  • Vocal range


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