BBody language in a musical drama: the case of “Jesus Christ Superstar”

Svetlana Pereverzeva

Institute of linguistics

RussianStateUniversity for the Humanities

Moscow, Russia


This paper is devoted to different aspects of interaction of the semiotic systems that coexist inside any musical drama, i. e. the music, the libretto and the body language. The rules and mechanisms of such interaction are discovered by means of the comparative analysis of the two screen versions of the rock-opera “Jesus Christ Superstar”.

Keywords: musical drama; body language; gesture; lyrics; music; correlation




Musical drama is a complex semiotic system, which comprises numerous subsystems such as dance, music, color, costume and different body languages including language of gestures, language of proxemics and chronemics, or languages of theatrical space and time, etc. All these semiotic codes possess various repertoires of units and models of functioning. They have autonomous and distinct meanings and are closely connected with one another. This interconnection of different semiotic codes allows me to assert that these codes can be regarded as parts of a whole and make up a fabric of a musical drama as the theatrical genre. The mechanisms and rules of functioning of these codes are extremely difficult to discover and to describe, and it is a challenge for any linguist or semiotic scholar to do this as thoroughly as possible.


Some of the semiotic systems mentioned have been explored by the scholars and critics studying theatre, and musical theatre especially [1-4]. Unfortunately all these systems have been described separately [5]. The only exclusion, perhaps, are the subsystems of body language and natural language; their correlations have often been studied in detail. There were favorite problems such as the agreement and contradiction of word and gesture meanings, the behavior of various verbal and nonverbal units in particular patterns, etc. (see, among others, [6])