Document Type

Capstone Project (Open Access)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


Music & Performing Arts


Contemporary Music

First Advisor

Lanier Sammons


In this paper, I will be analyzing the role musical theatre productions play in reflecting cultural discourse. I will also discuss the impact musicals have on societal discussions regarding topics like race, capitalism, and social justice. The way I seek to do this is by first explaining the origin of musicals as musical comedies. I will also discuss other musical innovations such as the opera that influenced the shift. I will discuss the rise of musical dramas as musicals started incorporating serious themes. The emotional impact of musicals and their use of pathos will be analyzed. I will research the structure of musicals to understand how they incorporated social commentary since the 17th century. I will analyze 3 musicals: Hamilton, Hairspray, and Rent. These three musicals among others discussed current topics such as race, identity, and social class. They also played a role in influencing cultural discourse. Their impact was caused by their use of pathos and thematic storytelling. Through my research and analysis, I will be able to further discuss the potential of musicals in teaching values and necessary stories. Hamilton displayed the higher potential of musicals to influence discourse and affect a positive change in society. I seek to use these examples to provide perspective on the importance of musicals in the world.

Additional Files

Driving_You_Away.pdf (140 kB)

Driving_You_Away.mp3 (3240 kB)