Date of Award

Fall 2015

Project Type


Program or Major

Justice Studies

Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Katherine R. Abbott

Second Advisor

Ellen S. Cohn

Third Advisor

John R. Berst


Narratives or stories are present in many facets of life. Narratives especially are seen in the media, fiction and nonfiction alike. These stories, seen in media, fiction, and nonfiction alike, have an immense impact on their audience. This influence displays the importance of continued research into media’s narratives, especially legal narratives. Much of past research looked at the social construction of these stories and its framing. Framing refers to how a subject is discussed in the media. While there is much research on media, framing, and legal narratives, very few researchers have examined live entertainment, including musical theater. My study explores the legal narratives within musicals. I completed a qualitative media analysis of seven Broadway shows and six Off-Broadway shows. My research questions include the following: Are there legal narratives in musical theater? What are those narratives? How do they compare on and Off-Broadway? Lastly, how have they changed over time? My analysis led to the emergence of three primary themes: deviancy, inequality, and institutionalized justice. In addition, there were also strong differences between the two venues. Specifically, Broadway shows largely criticize and discuss societal structures as they impact individuals. Conversely, Off-Broadway focuses on individual stories and tends to ignore societal structures. Some themes were also observed as changing over time. These changes either discussed important themes, new emergent themes, or changes in language over the decades. These findings are further complicated by hegemonic and counter hegemonic narratives. I discuss implications, limitations, and future research opportunities.