“Do It Again”: Comic Repetition, Participatory Reception and Gendered Identity on Musical Comedy’s Margins

This dissertation examines the ways that various subcultural audiences define themselves through repeated interaction with musical comedy. By foregrounding the role of the audience in creating meaning and by minimizing the “show” as a coherent work, I reconnect musicals to their roots in comedy by way of Mikhail Bakhtin’s theories of carnival and reduced laughter. The audiences I study are kids, queers, and collectors, an alliterative set of people whose gender identities and expressions all depart from or fall outside of the normative binary. Focusing on these audiences, whose musical comedy fandom is widely acknowledged but little studied, I follow Raymond Knapp and Stacy Wolf to demonstrate that musical comedy provides a forum for identity formation especially for these problematically gendered audiences.