Broadway Diva

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Category: Music and Cinema

Date Submitted: 05/08/2013 12:07 AM

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As a child, I spent a lot of my free time running around the house naked belting out my own renditions of Disney show tunes. Shortly following my opening verse, I remember constantly being interrupted by my mom or dad yelling, “Sara! You are singing like Ethel Merman again…” from the room next door. Up until about four months ago when I started taking the class Development of American Musical Theatre, Ethel Merman was just a silly name that my parents would call me when I was being loud and obnoxious; however, after much research it has become clear what an influential person Ethel Merman was for women in musical theatre as well as society in general. This begs me to ask the question: In what ways did Broadway divas like Ethel Merman influence musical theatre? Through evaluation of Ethel Merman, as well as Kristin Chenoweth and Liza Minnelli, we are able to see how their trademark moves, long lasting careers, and personal success stories changed and set standards for the world of musical theatre.

Known for her powerful belting abilities, Tony award winning Ethel Merman truly left her mark on audiences throughout her long Broadway career. After starting her career path as a high-school educated secretary, her debut in Girl Crazy, with the famous number “I Got Rhythm,” was an inspirational big break that the world of Broadway never forgot. After that, Ethel continued to influence Broadway through her performance in Anything Goes, which saved producer Vinton Freedly’s fortune during the Great Depression. After this act, Ethel Merman became a marquee name that guaranteed great ticket sales. One of her tricks to success was never looking her fellow actors in the eye, but rather focusing on the audiences. During World War II, Ethel Merman influenced society in general through giving war bond concerts and performing for troops. Ethel Merman’s personal life also displayed her drive to be successful through tough times. Although dealing with negative press and pain from...