Theatre or theater is a form of performing art with actors who present an experience of a real or imagined story in front of a live audience. Musicals are part of the theatre arts and they've been an important part of human culture.
If you want to learn to comprehend and appreciate musicals the first thing you should know is that it has some important components, which are music, lyrics, dance, and a story.
But if you want to dig deep into the theater world, in this article we'll be teaching you about the history of musicals, their main characteristics, how it's put together, and important theatre keywords.
Musical theater has been around for generations, and even though it is no longer our main source of entertainment, it continues to be one of the most beautiful forms of art that dominate industries like Broadway in New York and West End London.
New productions and musicals are always being produced, as well as the remakes of older classics like The Phantom of the Opera or Sound of Music.
Now, if you consider yourself a musical geek, or wish to become one, continue reading and learning about Broadway, musical production, resources, genres like drama, love, comedy, songs, music, and more.
History of musicals
Believe it or not, musical theatre has been around since the time of the ancient Greeks, ancient Romans, and even in ancient India. They had dance and music numbers on their performances, and the theatre was one of the most popular activities. People and kids would attend to listen and watch, as well as entire families with children and grandparents.
During the Renaissance, it became popular for long plays to be broken up with short musical and dance numbers. Theatre made it to the United States by 1752 when an entrepreneur from London sent an acting cast to the US.
It wasn't long before performative arts became a big source of entertainment in the United States, especially in New York. From this, New York and Broadway were born and transformed into a center and hub of musicals we know and love.
Musicals began to hit the Broadway stage with The Elves in 1857 being the first “long-run” musical. But even at this time, London was still leading the way in musical theater. In the 1920 decade musicals started to change due to the development of the movie and video industry.
Students in university or school learning theater usually have a unit on the different arts, the history of theater, language lessons, and more. If you're not receiving a formal education in theatre you can always learn by yourself or hire a private teacher to give you lessons and activities on the topics you're interested in.
Learn more about musicals in our article Musicals at a Glance.
Main characteristics of musicals
Musical theatre has many characteristics that any drama school would be teaching their students and any production would expect their crew to know. Students who study in a drama school would mainly focus on any lesson where they learn acting, singing, and dancing skills. But students who learn and study other skills will do better.
Below we will give you a list of the most important characteristics.
Music and lyrics
As we mentioned, songs and characters breaking into song is the most important characteristic of musical theater. Music and lyrics are used as a prop to tell you what a character is feeling, to foreshadow a near event, to present a moment of reflection, and more. All of it is meant to entertain children or kids and people in the audience.
Another important factor of musical theatre, apart from the use of song, and dialog, is that it uses dance. You can't have a musical production without actors dancing to the best songs! Dancing is an integral part of musical theatre and its main purpose is to entertain people with a fun and rhythmic number.
Plot and dialogue
Compared to plays, the plot and dialogue of a musical are more dynamic and brief. The main point of a musical production is to set focus on the music and the songs. Although musicals can be used to do political commentary or represent historic events, the main show is every song and the music.
Ancient Greeks used to have huge amphitheaters and actors would usually do the play out in the open air. The architecture is made so that the audience can listen to the actors and songs even in the back rows.
Costumes are a huge part of the theatre. Back in the day, the Greeks would use masks to identify each character, but now costumes have evolved so much so that the costumes of Greek dramas and modern movies are as different as night and day. Nonetheless, costumes are always an important part of any production. A famous production that people love and it's known for its extravagant and magical costumes is The Lion King.
Are you planning to study musical theater? Learn Why and where you should study musical theatre.
How are musicals put together?
Another important lesson that any drama school is teaching its students is the process of putting these productions together. The center of this unit and lessons is making students not only understand but successfully execute every step of the process.
Briefly, students need to understand the elements of any musical production. They need a score, which is the music and the song coherence of the show. There's also the book, which is what the script is called in theatre.
Then there are the different teams that a show needs to run smoothly. There's a team of producers and a team of creatives. The producer's team is made up of different managers, directors, representatives, crew, and actors. And the creatives team is made up of choreographers, designers, composers, and the director.
The process of producing a musical has the following steps:
- Getting The Idea
- Raising the Money
- Running On Broadway
Continue reading about Favorite musicals of all time.
We've created a list of important words to know either for drama students as for drama geeks. Theatre education is important and not only for those who are majoring in it in university but for anyone who wishes to learn about these arts. Learning the language can even help you if you get a job to work for a Broadway show.
Here is a list of keywords:
- Producer: this person is responsible for making sure the entire show is running accordingly. They can decide what goes on stage, how to market the show, and much more.
- Director: the director guides the actors and becomes like a teacher for them. Directors are responsible for the drama and the movement on stage.
- Choreographer: A choreographer will develop and teach dancing numbers.
- Jukebox Musical: Productions that are based on the music by an artist or band, like Mamma Mia!
- Book Musical: A show that focuses on a clear plot.
If you're looking to create the best playlist with music from musicals read about it on Popular favorite songs from musicals.