"You Lived Your Life Inside"/"I'm Gonna Sing Out": Lesbian Representation and Refusal in the Broadway Musical

Golemba, Kyle
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University of Guelph

Though often characterized as a queer art form, musical theatre suffers from an underrepresentation of queer positionalities beyond white, gay men and drag queens. My research explores two lesbian-centred musicals, The Color Purple (2005) and Fun Home (2015), within a survey of musicals featuring queer characters. These shows and their leads, Celie and Alison, eschew the heterosexualizing tendency of "Golden Age" musicals in favour of lesbian awakenings that refuse societal norms. My research applies José Esteban Muñoz's theory of disidentification to demonstrate how both projects rework musical theatre conventions to resist persistent patriarchal heterosexism on Broadway. Furthermore, both musicals represent positionalities historically disempowered by writers of the genre in order to offer new queer ways of living to their spectators. Finally, this thesis highlights the matrix of circumstances contributing to the underrepresentation of lesbian women in musical theatre historiography and discusses possibilities for future change in the industry.

representation, queer theory, musical theatre, lesbian women, disidentification, Broadway, historiography, queer positionalities, The Color Purple, Fun Home, intersectionality, quare theory, womanism, feminism, utopia