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Written by: Elizabeth

Musical theatre is a form of theatre combining music, songs, spoken dialogue and dance.

Since the early 20th century, musical theatre stage works have generally been called "musicals". Some famous musicals include Oklahoma!, West Side Story, A Chorus Line, Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar.

The three main components of a musical are the music, the lyrics, and the book.
The book of a musical refers to the story of the show, but the book can also refer to the dialogue and lyrics together. The music and lyrics together form the score of the musical.

The creative team includes a director, a musical director and usually a choreographer. The interpretation of the musical by the creative team has a big influence on the way that the musical is presented. A musical's production is also creatively characterised by technical aspects, such as set, costumes, stage properties and lighting.

The length of a musical, can range from a short one-act entertaining piece to several acts. Most musicals range from one and a half hours to three hours. Musicals today are typically presented in two acts, with an intermission of 10 to 20 minutes. The first act is almost always somewhat longer than the second act, and generally introduces most of the music. Spoken dialogue is generally interspersed between musical numbers.

A musical theatre performer is usually an actor first and then a singer and dancer. Musicals generally have a greater focus on spoken dialogue. Musicals often open with a song that sets the tone of the show, introduces some or all of the major characters, and shows the setting of the play.

Musical theatre is closely related to other theatrical performance arts such as opera and operetta. An opera singer is primarily a singer and only secondarily an actor (and rarely needs to dance at all). Composers of music for musicals often consider the vocal demands of roles with musical theatre performers in mind, and theatres staging musicals generally use amplification of the actors' singing voices in a way that would normally be disapproved of in an operatic context. It is often difficult to distinguish among the various kinds of light musical theatre, including operetta, comic / light opera , musical play, musical comedy, extravaganza, burlesque, music hall and revue.

Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work which combines a text and a musical score. Operetta is a genre of light opera - light in terms both of music and subject matter. Comic opera, also referred to as light opera, is a sung dramatic work of a light or comic nature, usually with a happy ending. Extravaganza is characterised by freedom of style and structure. It is an elaborate, spectacular, and expensive theatrical production. Revue is a type of multi-act popular theatrical entertainment that combines music, dance and sketches.

Another recent genre of musicals, called Jukebox Musicals, eg Mamma Mia!, weaves songs written by, or introduced by a popular artist or group into a story. The storyline is sometimes based on the life or career of a person or group.

The material for musicals is often original, but many musicals are adapted from novels eg. Man of La Mancha , plays eg. Hello, Dolly!, classic legends, eg Camelot, historical events eg.Evita or films eg.The Producers. But many familiar musical theatre works have also been the basis for musical films, such as The Sound of Music, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, Beauty and the Beast and Chicago.

India produces numerous musical films, referred to as Bollywood musicals. Japan produces Anime-style musicals.

Trained dancers may quite easily find work in musical theatre as chorus performers, but they also need well developed singing and acting skills. Integrated training in dancing, singing and acting is essential to ensure successful employment in the South African theatre industry.

Use the 'Search our Directory' option on any page of this Dance Directory to find names of studios and institutes where you can be trained as a Musical Theatre performer.


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