In this blog I will be mainly talking about three musicals only, Les Miserable, Wicked, and Phantom of the Opera. Musicals can in my opinion have some of the most interesting respected women, while at the same time they tend to also have a lot of ridicule roles for females in the arts.
Phantom of the Opera is about a sad romance of a man who was abused as a kid and scarred emotionally and was hidden in the depths of an opera house to run away from his guardians and the outside world. He then grew up and taught the main heroine how to sing and to become one of the best singers in the opera house he was staying at. During the course of this musical Christine, the main heroine, is depicted as someone who always needs help and only sort of changes throughout the entire musical. She never changes the stereo type of the damsel in distress and only perpetuates the stereo type. It also show cases several other characters who are not that different and all have major flaws in them. The lead soprano for the opera house is hated by everyone and everyone tries to get what she wants but she is still not happy.(being the scary old lady) Also there is a friend of Christine’s who is very girly and usually is not allowed to do anything by her mother that is un lady like. This musical does not really challenge female roles in Musicals and puts them into the area that we are used to seeing them in.
Les Miserables is another musical about the revolution crazed period of France. Its main character Val Jon(male) is sent to jail for 19 years for only stealing bread to feed his dying family and is sentenced to parole for the rest of his life making his life miserable. He then changes identities with the help of the church and tries to become a different man hiding from the law for the rest of his life. Along the way he finds several different female characters and even raises one to be his adopted daughter, but everyone is still the beautiful damsel that is hurt in some way to fulfill the greed of man. You see some breaks in the character with a character named Ebony who tries to fight to get her man, but in the end still loses to the sweetheart who didn’t really do anything but look at him. It shows a controlling image where you don’t have to have a good personality to get a guy as long as you’re a very beautiful he will go to you regardless of how much others try.
Wicked is by far one of the most breakthrough performances for any female in any musical I have ever seen. This is the story of the Wizard of Oz but a different take on it. We never really know too much of the “Wicked” Witch and how she is named that, or how her and Glinda know each other, the movie just tells us so. It tries to get you to understand that a label is something put onto you by someone and it is very one sided. The main character Elphaba who is the mislabeled witch who is actually trying her hardest to do good and to make an impact on the world. She is then treated as an outcast and is exiled by everyone in the musical. She takes on a defeated girl, but stands up for everything that she goes by and breaks a lot of stereo types in the whole musical. Her complete contrast Glinda also shows a dramatic character change from the typical blond to a caring person who will even change if she meets the proper friends.
Overall Wicked is one of the best musicals to watch if you are interested in some very powerful female leads, and all the males are supporting cast to boot! But if you look around at the musical world a lot of musicals still perpetuate these stereo types and very few of them really challenge the bounds of the females.