College - Author 1

College of Liberal Arts

Department - Author 1

Music Department

Degree Name - Author 1

BA in Music



Primary Advisor

Alyson McLamore, College of Liberal Arts, Music Department


Stephen Sondheim’s musicals are considered difficult to perform due to their music and intense themes. Despite the criticism given to his shows, Sondheim remains one of the most influential composers and lyricists of the musical theatre genre. Many characters in Sondheim’s musicals experience real-life obstacles of pride, loneliness, relationships, love, poverty, trust, infidelity, and more. Specifically, the female characters in Sondheim musicals are shown to face these troubles just as much (or more than) their male counterparts. In musicals, female characters are usually classified by voice type (soprano, mezzo-soprano, and alto). Typically, the soprano is a lead role for a “damsel-in-distress” character. However, in Sondheim musicals, the mezzo-soprano is given more of the spotlight and often is the lead female protagonist. In Sondheim’s hands, mezzo-soprano roles become three-dimensional characters. For example, Mrs. Lovett reveals many aspects of her personality in Sweeney Todd. Stephen Sondheim uses complex music to characterize Mrs. Lovett and her mezzo-soprano peers, showcasing their individuality in his musicals.



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