Musical theater research paper topics

Musical theater plays a big role in our culture as evidenced by the popularity of big budget Broadway musicals.

Explore the many topics to be covered on musical theater. (Credit: Lazarus Group)

Explore the many topics to be covered on musical theater. (Credit: Lazarus Group)

Here are some research paper topics for women in theater, the relationship between Broadway and television, and children’s theater.

Women portrayed in musical theater

A good term paper topic is to write about the role of women as portrayed in Broadway musicals.

In her book, Changed for the Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical, Stacy Wolf examines the portrayal of women and their central role as friends, sisters, girlfriends, but also as journalists, students, maids and singers. Wolf studies divas and ingénues to see how women form relationships, propel the plot and engage the audience.

Wolf goes on to highlight musicals in which Act 1 ends with a triumphant song of female self-assertion and confidence, such as Fanny Brice’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade” in Funny Girl, Effie’s “And I Am Telling You” from Dreamgirls, and Elphaba’s “Defying Gravity” in Wicked. Although a convention appearing in numerous musicals, the Act 1 finale of female empowerment leaves the audience in suspense. Feminist musicologist Susan McClary writes that “a great deal of wisdom resides in conventions: nothing less than the premises of an age, the cultural arrangements that enable communication, coexistence and self-awareness.”

Broadway’s influence on television

Another topic for a research paper is to write about how the popularity of Broadway musicals has migrated to television. With the incredible profitability of musicals like Hamilton, Book of Mormon and Wicked, Broadway seems to be in a second Golden Age. Recently, television has aired big production Broadway musicals live, such as The Wiz, The Sound of Music and Grease on NBC and Fox. Although live broadcasts were aired in the 1950s, such as Mary Martin in Peter Pan, there has been a resurgence in the last few years.

In “Are We Living in a New Golden Age of Musical Theatre?” by Jennifer Ashley Tepper at, NBC producer Neil Meron discusses the changing nature of Broadway: “With the advent of musicals like Phantom, Les Misérables, Rent, Wicked, and others, [that] tour extensively, [the appreciation for musicals] started trickling down [more] into community theatre and school theatre.” He noted that these tours likely cultivated an audience that would support watching musical theater on television, thereby allowing Broadway and television to feed off each other.

Getting children involved in musical theater

You could write your research paper on ways to get children involved in musical theater. Children naturally like to sing and dance but unfortunately grow out of it. A lucky few with real talent become actors, singers and dancers. Participating in children’s theater is beneficial for them in many ways, such as building self-esteem and discipline. Theater also helps kids show empathy to others. Barbara Zinn Krieger, founder of New York City Children’s Theater, said in “How to Get Your Kid Interested in Theater—and Why” by Carey Wallace, posted on June 13, 2016, said that theater draws audiences into the experiences of others. In an entertainment field filled with special effects, theater “stimulates creative imagination,” Krieger said, by relying on the audience to imagine a new world based on simple scenes and props. And theater also breaks through the isolation of the digital age by getting “a group of people in a room together, experiencing real people in real time.”

Adults can nurture an interest and even love of theater in kids in several ways: let kids be natural performers and don’t shush them up, watch the Tony Awards together on television, encourage participation at school plays and attend performances, and enroll children in theater workshops.

For more information, check out Questia’s library on Musical Theater.

What’s your favorite part about musical theater? Share it with us in the comments.

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