Defining the Soubrette Archetype in Classic and Contemporary Musical Theatre

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Traditionally, the term 'soubrette' referred to secondary light-sounding soprano maidservant roles in opera; however, the term now encompasses a broader spectrum of operatic character types. In this article Valerie Lynn Schrader examines the archetype of the 'soubrette' in classic and contemporary musical theatre. Because the soubrette is not clearly defined in these forms, in doing so she seeks to establish the varying characteristics of the type, and to analyze musical theatre characters who are representative examples. Using a list of the longest-running Broadway shows from the popular Broadway fan website, Valerie Lynn Schrader has conducted a thematic analysis of fifty-eight 'soubrette' characters in thirty musicals. By defining and studying the soubrette, she seeks to provide both theatre scholars and practitioners with a tool for character analysis and performance study. Valerie Lynn Schrader is Assistant Professor of Communications at the Schuylkill campus of Pennsylvania State University. As a rhetorical critic, her research focuses on rhetorical messages in musical theatre texts and how these messages are conveyed to audiences through performance. She is a classically trained soubrette soprano and often performs in local theatre productions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-96
Number of pages19
JournalNew Theatre Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 7 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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