Abstract

Many stage and film musicals have a limited ability to develop characters, due in part to the narrative and music genres to which many musicals cleave, which also has the effect of limiting female singers to either “head voice” or “belt.” Writing songs in a particular tessitura—defined by The Handbook of Musical Terms as the register within which most of the tones will be found—is linked then to women’s role in society, as ingénue, wife, mother, diva, and so forth. The tessellated, multi-episode form of TV allows Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to have its characters sing in a range of musical styles and genres and, by extension, its female characters sing in a range of timbres, genres, and tessituras. Through a combination of music video aesthetics, generic musical numbers, and a variety of popular music genres, the show extends character narratives past the conventional romance that ostensibly anchors the show into issues such as mental health, sexism, depression, and sex. Crazy Ex thereby confronts the sexism inherent in the Broadway musicals from which it draws its inspiration, and of which protagonist Rebecca Bunch is an avid fan. This paper analyzes how, through a combination of genre and vocal range, Crazy Ex parodies and interrogates the musical but also expands it.

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