Experiencing Live Musical Theatre Performance: La Cage Aux Folles and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Millie Taylor


This paper explores how empathetic responses and emotional identification can be stimulated and manipulated in live musical theatre performances. An empathetic response occurs through emotional identification with the character and the plot situation that can be activated on an intellectual level through signification. At the same time, the audience is involved in a mimetic response to physical and vocal gesture that ensures a muscular memory of similar movements and the attached emotional states, emotional states that are amplified by music and song. These cognitive and physical responses can stimulate and manipulate emotional memory in individual spectators who exchange mimetic responses with other spectators through emotional contagion which creates an atmosphere or energy that feeds back to the performers, and so the whole group is provoked into greater emotional release. MillieTaylor is Reader in the Performing Arts at the University of Winchester, UK. She has a particular interest in music theatre including the uses of voice. Her latest book is Singing for Musicals (2008).

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Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303