Changed for Good

A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical

This book demonstrates how the history of the Broadway musical is inseparable from the history of U.S. women, and argues that this mainstream, commercial form has been dominated by women onstage as performers and offstage as spectators and fans. Beginning in the 1950s and organized by decade, the book examines women in musicals and in the context of U.S. culture, considering both the representation of women — that is, images of women — and the labor of the female performer — that is, her centrality to the musical as performance. In addition to surveying key ideas around gender and sexuality in each decade of U.S. history, every chapter focuses on a specific convention: the female duet in the 1950s; the single woman as a moving body in the 1960s; the ensemble number in the 1970s; sceneography in the 1980s; the opening number and 11 o’clock number in the 1990s. The final chapters on the blockbuster Broadway musical Wicked returns to the 1950s model and analyzes how the musical Wicked reinvigorates the Rodgers and Hammerstein formula in a feminist and queer musical. This book argues that gender, as a key element of the musical, played a crucial role in the Broadway musical’s formal and structural changes from the 1950s on.