Gender, Sex and Sexuality in Musical Theatre : He/She/They Could Have Danced All Night


Gender, Sex and Sexuality in Musical Theatre : He/She/They Could Have Danced All Night

Publication Date



Critics and fans alike often mistake theatrical song and dance as evoking a sweeping sense of simplicity, heteronormativity, and traditionalism. Nothing drove home this cultural misunderstanding for Kelly Kessler as when a relative insisted she watch the Clint Eastwood-Lee Marvin cinematic transfer of Paddy Chayefsky’s Paint Your Wagon (1969) with a young niece and nephew because it was a ‘sweet movie.’ In the relative’s memory, good old-fashioned singing and dancing—matched with the power of an assumed hegemonic embrace of social norms—far outweighed the whoremongering, alcoholism, wife-selling, and what appears to be narratively sanctioned polyamory.

This collection seeks to trouble such an over-idealized impression of musical theatre. Tackling Rockettes, divas, and chorus boys; hit shows such as Hamilton and Spring Awakening; and lesser-known but ground-breaking gems like Erin Markey’s A Ride on The Irish Cream and Kirsten Childs’s Bella: An American Tall Tale.

Gender, Sex and Sexuality in Musical Theatre: He/She/They Could Have Danced All Night takes a broad look at musical theatre across a range of intersecting lenses such as race, nation, form, dance, casting, marketing, pedagogy, industry, platform-specificity, stardom, politics, and so on. This collection assembles an amazing group of established and emergent musical theatre scholars to wrestle with the complexities of the gendered and sexualized musical theatre form. Gender and desire have long been at the heart of the musical, whether because ‘birds and bees’ (and educated fleas’) were doing it, a farm girl simply couldn’t ‘say no,’ or one’s ‘tits and ass’ were preventing them from landing the part.

An exciting and vibrant collection of articles from the archives of Studies in Musical Theatre, with contributions from Ryan Donovan, Michele Dvoskin, Sherrill Gow, Jiyoon Jung, David Haldane Lawrence, Stephanie Lim, Dustyn Martinich, Adrienne Gibbons Oehlers, Deborah Paredez, Alejandro Postigo, George Rodosthenous, Janet Werther, Stacy Wolf, Elizabeth L. Wollman, Bryan Vandevender and Kelly Kessler, brought together with a newly commissioned piece by Jordan Ealey. All set against the backdrop of Kelly Kessler’s scene-setting introduction.

Excellent potential for classroom and course use on undergraduate and graduate courses in theatre studies, musical studies, women’s and gender studies. --




Films, Cinema, Gender, Studies, Groups, Musicals, Performance, Theatre, Sex, Sexuality, Broadway


Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Music Performance | Other Theatre and Performance Studies | Theatre and Performance Studies


Intellect, University of Chicago Press


Chicago, IL


Theatre & Dance


Kelly Kressler, editor

A Substitute for Love: The Performance of Sex in Spring Awakening – Bryan M. Vandevender, p. 144-154

Stepping Out of Line: (Re)Claiming the Diva for the Dancers of Broadway – Dustyn Martincich, p. 190-204


Gender, Sex and Sexuality in Musical Theatre : He/She/They Could Have Danced All Night