The Beauty and the Beast trope in modern musical theatre | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 9, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1750-3159
  • E-ISSN: 1750-3167



Fairy tales have provided a rich supply of sources for direct adaptation in musical theatre, however they are also the source of many of the tropes that are found more widely in musicals. This article focuses on the tropes that can be identified in the Beauty and the Beast tale and how they can be found in a range of musicals which are not direct adaptations of the tale itself. The particular musicals explored are the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast (1991) from the perspective of direct adaptation, and The Phantom of the Opera (1986), Passion (1994), Wicked (2003) and Shrek the Musical (2008) which are analysed on a tropic level. These four musicals are indeed all adaptations of other source material, and such works might be said to interpret tropes of fairy tale rather than adapt the tale. Frameworks from narratological study are used to explore the topic, particularly Lévi-Strauss’ synchronic – diachronic method of analysis proposed in ‘The structural study of myth’ and Greimas’ semiotic square as a means of considering the meaning behind binary opposite pairs of themes.


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