Bradley Rogers focuses on musical theatre, gender and sexuality, and theoretical approaches to performance. His interdisciplinary scholarship is informed by a broad, interdisciplinary training: an undergraduate degree in music, graduate work in rhetoric, comparative literature, and performance studies, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto on spectacle.
His book, The Song Is You: Musical Theatre and the Politics of Bursting into Song and Dance (Finalist, George Freedley Award & Honorable Mention, Barnard Hewitt Award), articulates a new theoretical approach to musical theatre, while his articles address topics including concept musicals, Otto Harbach, and Lawrence Welk. His creative interests include producing workshops of new works, restoring older classic works, and serving as a dramaturg—as in his producing a 2018 workshop of the Weill-Lerner musical Love Life. He also served as the Book Reviews Editor of Theatre Journal.
- Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
- B.A. (Music), University of Virginia
The Song Is You develops a theoretical framework for understanding how musical theatre engages with issues surrounding identity—especially ones of gender, race, and sexuality. I demonstrate that the musical’s formal structure develops from the genres of blackface minstrelsy and burlesque, which involves the erotic display of the female body. Because burlesque and minstrelsy are embedded into the form of musical theatre, its negotiation of gender and race is implicit in every piece of musical theatre, regardless of what it depicts.
The book reexamines the dominant theory of “integration,” which refers to an aesthetic ideal in which all the elements of the form— music, lyrics, dance, dialogue, scenery, and so forth—unite to serve the story. My book interrogates the concept of “integration” itself, arguing that “integration” was an appealing concept precisely because it obscures the legacies of burlesque and minstrelsy—thereby obscuring how the form engages gendered, raced, and sexualized bodies. I articulate a logic of “disintegration,” arguing that the musical’s fractured form produces the genre’s trademark joy precisely by exploiting women and artists of color.
The book’s theoretical framework also addresses the most pressing contemporary question: how do we deal with cultural products from the past that represent women and people in color in ways that we now find unacceptable? The debate generally has two positions: either that we should discard these relics or that we should accept them as “products of their time.” My work offers a third, more productive route, arguing that these now-unsavory depictions are not just “surface content” that can be revised and updated. Instead, this content is a function of the form itself; in this way, these surface representations actually alert us to what the form is doing at a psychic level. Thus, to foster different kinds of content, we have to re-conceive the form.