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Dr Laura MacDonald

Senior Lecturer

Laura MacDonald


With a background in journalism, theatre history, international politics and American studies, I completed my PhD at the University of East Anglia in 2012. My thesis, Selling What People Need: How the Modern Broadway Musical Capitalized on Economic, Social and Political Change, expands musical theatre historiography by documenting the form's nature as an intersection of art and commerce. While completing my PhD, I lectured in American studies at the University of Groningen (the Netherlands), prior to taking up my current post at Portsmouth in 2013. I am the Focus Group Representative for the Music Theatre/Dance Focus Group of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and Treasurer of the Historians of the Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS). My research on the transnational circulation of musical theatre has been recognised with a British Council Researcher Links Fellowship at Ewha Womans University (South Korea) and an AHRC International Placement Scheme Award at the Shanghai Theatre Academy (China). I tweet about my research at

Research Interests

Current Research Projects

Still Here: The Making and Marketing of Long-Running Broadway Musicals (in preparation). Building on my PhD thesis investigating long-running Broadway musicals from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, this monograph projects examines the role of marketing and audiences in sustaining long theatrical runs. Beyond the Golden Age, ticket buyers were hailed by new developments in marketing and publicity, and flocked to consume the potential the Broadway musical promised. As this study demonstrates, with examples from West Side Story to Hamilton, the Broadway musical is still here, and enjoying longer and longer runs, because of creators’ and producers’ cumulative, innovative work in the making and marketing of long-running Broadway musicals.

Transnational Broadway Lullabies: The Growth of Musical Theatre in Postwar Europe and Asia (current research project). In this second monograph I investigate musical theatre in post-war Germany, Austria, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines (the largest non-English speaking musical theatre markets), along with the emerging Chinese market. I theorise the musical as an American institution, which when circulated transnationally, can influence and support the (re)construction of national identity in democratizing nation-states, while further developing their domestic theatre industries. The transfer of German-language musicals to Asia reflects these countries' shared enthusiasm for musical theatre, and the cross-cultural performances and reception across East Asian countries demonstrate the musical theatre industry's potential to facilitate cultural exchange and understanding, far beyond Broadway and the West End.

Musical Fan Communities: Connected Across Borders
With Jonathan Evans (SLAS) I am developing an interdisciplinary network project, Musical Fan Communities: Connected Across Borders We investigate how film and stage musicals are received and remediated by fans in other cultures where other languages are spoken. We focus on how fans translate, literally and metaphorically, foreign musicals for themselves and their peers, recognising theatregoing as the basis for a transnational gift culture.

Other Research Interests

  • Spectacle in 1970s and 1980s dance musicals, early music videos, and megamusicals
  • Motherhood and pregnancy on the 1980s Broadway stage in comparison with film and television representations
  • Audience reception
  • National theatres
  • 18th century French theatre

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