Sounding Disability in Musical Theatre: Sonic Markers of Mental Impairment for Female Characters on the Contemporary Broadway Stage
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Contemporary Broadway composers such as Stephen Sondheim, Adam Guettel and Tom Kitt are changing the way we hear disability. Musicals such as Passion (1994), The Light in the Piazza (2004) and Next to Normal (2008), all feature a disabled woman as a central character of the show. I demonstrate that the music, specifically those written for female characters with mental impairments, is vastly different than music sung by other characters. An examination of the narratives of these musicals indicates that disability in musical theatre, in many cases, is first presented as invisible or the nature of the character’s illness is never fully revealed. By combining current scholarship on music and disability research with an in-depth analysis of the text and score in Passion, The Light in the Piazza and Next to Normal, I examine the musical treatment of these disabled characters and demonstrate how representation of disability is shaped sonically.