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Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1750-3159
  • E-ISSN: 1750-3167


As performer Capathia Jenkins sings in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, it has become almost de rigueur to have ‘a big black lady stop the show’ on Broadway. This article uses theories of affect and performance studies to examine the theoretical significance and performative effects of this common trope, arguing that these black female performances are both integral to, yet remain separate from, mainstream Broadway musical theatre. These songs are multifariously excessive, and their excessive nature places them at the fringes of the musical proper, thus in some sense reaffirming Broadway’s existence as the ‘Great White Way’. However, the intense popularity of these songs must also be acknowledged; indeed, they play a key role in the production of affect that is an essential part of Broadway musical theatre. And it is the affective power of these vocal performances, along with their ability to actually halt a show’s progress, which points towards their queerly subversive potential.


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