Gender on stage: then and now

Geraint Owen considers the role of gender in upcoming ADC musical, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.

ADC Theatre


This show is a wacky ball of fun, and it’s been a joy putting it together with an extremely talented group of people. It’s made up of everything that makes the Broadway musicals so great; a breathtaking score, toe-tapping dance numbers, sidesplitting gags, and heartwarming romance.

But what makes this show different is its treatment of gender, and that it was the first show to put the office on the Broadway stage. The arc of each female character is worryingly distinct from the male characters, if it can even be called an arc. Ten minutes into the show, the female lead is madly in love with the male lead she has just met, and sings that she is “Happy To Keep His Dinner Warm”, happy to be the housewife in the suburbs, while her husband is busy working downtown. Not much later, upon arrival of a new, gorgeous secretary to the office, the full company sing themselves a reminder that “A Secretary Is Not A Toy”. And, would you believe it, all of the female characters wear the same “Paris Original” dress to their office party — although this happened to my mum at prom, and she informs me it is a real issue that needs to be tackled in today’s society.

The writers are fully aware of what they’re doing. While the majority of the 60s audience would enjoy a night out to the theatre, subconsciously they are being made aware of the sheer absurdity of their day-to-day life. In 2017, we’ll be far more conscious of what we’re watching, and it is staggering to consider whether things are all that different today.

The process from putting the page on the stage has been incredibly exciting. I’ve even had to get out my dancing shoes to choreograph one of the numbers, and for this reason alone, I recommend you get your tickets now, before you miss out on the debut of the new Bob Fosse.•

Geraint Owen is a first year English Literature student and is the Assistant Director of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

This article originally appeared on the ADC Theatre Blog