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My Dissertation

Here is an extract from my final dissertation, which I produced for my B.A(Hons) Musical Theatre.

Women in Musical Theatre:

An analysis of female empowerment both on and off stage.

I have always held an interest for the role of women in musical theatre and it seemed the obvious choice for my dissertation subject.

My paper examines whether female empowerment, in the musical theatre world, has progressed from the mid-twentieth century to the present day, by considering two musicals and their female protagonists. It also considers two iconic female performers who played their respective roles in the chosen musicals, Julie Andrews and Idina Menzel.

The analysis considers research and opinions from several authors who have studied musical theatre and its effect on the empowerment of women.  Leading authors such as Barnes (2015), Wolf (2011) and Ray, (2014) along with others were examined to enable me to reach my conclusions.

I chose to use the theoretical framework of feminist theory as a background to my project using the definition from the Cambridge dictionary. This theory underpinned my observations when considering how the respective musical addressed the issue of female empowerment. This theory highlighted the differences in the wave of feminism that the two musicals were written in.

The methodology I used consists of predominantly qualitative research and the use of secondary sources. However, I did use some primary sources through an analysis of interviews conducted by authors in their work.

Performers, Andrews and Menzel acknowledged playing their respective roles had a profound effect on them. Menzel revealed that she felt the role helped her become a role model for female empowerment and self-esteem.

The two characters of Eliza and Elsa were written at very different societal times and my research highlights two main differences when considering their effect on the empowerment of women. 

Although she showed glimpses of strength, Eliza finally gave into the stereotype of women of the time by returning to Higgins and reflecting on the idea that a woman needs a man to succeed.

However, Elsa turns this on its head and the clear message from her character is that today a woman does not need a man to be happy and be successful.

My research also highlights the need for more women to be part of the creative team when writing, producing and directing musicals, it appears there is a clear correlation between the development of women in the creative team and the hope for further empowerment of women within the genre of musical theatre. I conclude that society has changed enormously over the last 60 years and women have it within their power to make the change.

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