While earlier musicals, which developed popular songs, tended to focus on romance, differing backgrounds of the two members of a romantic couple, and their acceptance of each other and into a community, introspective musicals, which Stephen Sondheim pioneered after rock ‘n’ roll began to define popular music, often dramatize psychological layers by exploring the discrepancy between the persona a character constructs and the character’s true inner self. I examine the way introspective musicals construct a paradigm of psychological growth, which usually involves characters’ creating strong masks/personae to hide their authentic selves and then ultimately gaining the courage to remove those masks. By looking at the construction of personae and their eventual attempts to accept emotional vulnerability – in Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, Michael John LaChiusa’s The Wild Party, and Stew’s Passing Strange – I explicate the way smaller, post-Sondheim musicals have shifted toward dramatizing an isolated character’s emotional development.


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pp. 229-251
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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