Library Dissertation Showcase

Do musicals that have been written by mothers portray more authentic representations of motherhood? Cross-referencing ethnographic data against the mother characters in Baby (1983), Mamma Mia! (1999), and Motherhood the Musical (2011).

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2020

This project will begin to investigate whether musicals written by mothers portray authentic characters in their work. To explore this, I will cross-reference the experiences of real-life mothers against the experiences of the mother characters found within three musicals that have been written by mothers. As the literature review chapter will demonstrate, current scholarship based on the representation of motherhood in musical theatre concludes that mother characters in musicals are not written in a way that celebrates the diversity of motherhood, and they conclude that mothers would perhaps be represented in an authentic way in musical theatre if more musicals were written by women.

As a response to the conclusions of current literature, and begin to expand upon existing research, this project will focus on musicals that have been written by mothers. Specifically, there will be a close reading of Baby (1983) by Sybille Pearson, Mamma Mia! (1999) by Catherine Johnson, and Motherhood the Musical (2011) by Sue Fabisch. As the scholarship suggests, these musicals should offer an authentic viewpoint of motherhood, and this research aims to begin to uncover whether this is true in these three examples.

To meet the aims of this project I will conduct a mixed methods approach to the research, which will use ethnographic data to identify how authentic the mother characters in the Baby, Mamma Mia!, and Motherhood the Musical are. The ethnographic portion will consider the experience of motherhood, and the results gathered will be cross-referenced against the experiences of the mother characters from the three musical theatre case studies. This exercise will help to understand how representative of authentic motherhood the characters in these musicals are.

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