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Palgrave Macmillan

American Cinderellas on the Broadway Musical Stage

Imagining the Working Girl from Irene to Gypsy

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  • © 2015
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Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in Theatre and Performance History (PSTPH)

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About this book

Drawing upon Broadway musicals ranging from Irene (1919) to Gypsy (1959), Maya Cantu considers how Cinderella Broadway musicals from the 1920s through the 1950s adapted and transformed Perrault's fairy tale icon in order to address changing social and professional roles for American women.


“Drawing from feminist theory and theatre history, Maya Cantu argues that the Cinderella myth, an amalgamation of a rag-to-riches story and a magical marriage plot, offers a compelling matrix to negotiate theatrically the various economic, gendered, and marital expectations for working women. … American Cinderellas is a lush, captivating, and necessary addition to the fields of theatre history, women performers, and feminism in performance.” (Yasmine Marie Jahanmir, Theatre Survey, Vol. 58 (2), May, 2017)

“American Cinderellas provides a compelling and detailed insight into the development of female narratives from the familiar fairy tale into a fundamental component of storytelling in American musical theatre writing. It is bound to inspire further study of the themes it discusses and will hopefully encourage further scholarly interest in the real-life women it also showcases.” (Hannah Robbins, Studies in Musical Theatre, Vol. 10 (1), 2017)

“Since there are no other similar titles that offer a critical analysis of this topic, American Cinderellas on the Broadway Musical Stage is an important resource that fills a gap in the scholarly literature. Cantu’s book would fit nicely in a graduate seminar class about female characters on Broadway … . American Cinderellas on the Broadway Musical Stage examines twentieth-century American culture through the lens of female characters in theatre.” (Alicia M. Goodman, The Journal of American Culture, Vol. 40 (3), 2017)

"What Maya Cantu has achieved is to link mid-twentieth-century Broadway and Hollywood's fascination with Cinderella imagery and plots to modern feminism, and to the shifting conditions of American women. This book opens a rich vein of musical theatre study not unearthed before. She has written a real gem: fresh, comprehensive, engaging - often even revelatory." Stuart Hecht, PhD, Associate Professor, Theatre, Boston College, USA and author of Transposing Broadway: Jews, Assimilation, and the American Musical

"American Cinderellas on the Broadway Musical Stage convincingly argues for the Cinderella motif as crucial to American musical theatre. Instead of pre-modern waifs and princesses, however, Maya Cantu finds her Cinderellas among the working girls, gold diggers, broads, boss ladies, and prostitutes of modern American culture, reminding us of the centrality of spunky girls in the musical. An insightful and illuminating read." - Pamela Robertson Wojcik, Professor, Department of Film, TV, and Theatre, University of Notre Dame, USA

"This book is not only a smart, fascinating, and entertaining celebration of Broadway's love of the working girl's rags-to-riches dream, but also an engaging, thoughtful and perceptive exploration of our cultural values and the theatre artists who shaped them. A joy!" Jack Sharrar, PhD, American Conservatory Theater, author of Avery Hopwood: His Life and Plays

About the author

Maya Cantu is Dramaturgical Advisor at Off-Broadway's Mint Theater Company, USA. Her essays and reviews have been published in Theatre Journal, Studies in Musical Theatre, New England Theatre Journal, and as part of the New York Public Library's Musical of the Month series. She earned her DFA and MFA in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism from Yale School of Drama, USA.

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