FROM DREAMIN’ OF HER DEARIE TO DEFYING GRAVITY: THE EVOLUTION OF THE FEMALE VOICE IN MUSICAL THEATRE

Open Access
Author:
O'Malley, Allsun Chabot
Area of Honors:
Musical Theatre
Degree:
Bachelor of Fine Arts
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Raymond Sage, Thesis Supervisor
  • Susan B Russell, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Musical Theatre
  • Voice
  • The Female Belt
Abstract:
For the past 90 years, the female singing voice in musical theatre has developed dramatically due to the changing social climate and desire for change. The effort to maintain gender roles and the resulting backlash triggered the evolution of the female singing voice and the repertoire provided for her throughout the 1900s and 2000s. The women’s movement of the 1960s paved the way for women to raise their voices and ask questions about self-worth and personal identity, prompting composers and female singers to re-examine the female voice in musical theatre repertoire. With new knowledge and an understanding of the female struggle, writers and singers began to accurately represent the wants, needs, and desires of women. As gender roles continued to shift in the 1980s, the female belt and the use of the female chest voice developed and transformed the way we hear women. The female belt became an eerie echo of the American woman’s political emergence. However, although we have made a lot of progress on the quest to accurately represent the female voice in musical theatre, we must ask ourselves these questions, “How can women be truthfully represented on stage when the majority of material comes from men? If men are writing the material for women, is it only an imitation of the true female voice? As twenty-first century women, do we have the responsibility to approach golden age material with a modern sensibility?” There is still much to be discovered about the female voice and its place in musical theatre repertoire, and it is only by asking questions and striving for a deeper understanding that progress can be made.