Musical Theatre Theory


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The content of this powerpoint is not original in any way. The information and a good deal of the text can be attributed to and the book "How To Audition for the Musical Theatre" by Donald Oliver. Likewise, I do not own any rights to the photography herein. This powerpoint was designed to consolidate info and stimulate interest among high school-level students.

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Musical Theatre Theory

  1. 1. Musical Theatre TheoryWednesday, May 22, 13
  2. 2. The BasicsWednesday, May 22, 13
  3. 3. A musical is a stage, television or film production featuringsongs—and possibly dialogue—to either tell a story orshowcase the talents of the writers and/or performers.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  4. 4. TheCreativeTeam:Composer,Lyricist, andLibrettistWednesday, May 22, 13
  5. 5. TheProductionTeam:TheProducerWednesday, May 22, 13
  6. 6. Diane PaulusJulie TaymorTheProductionTeam:TheDirector+ AssistantDirectorWednesday, May 22, 13
  7. 7. The ProductionTeam:TheChoreographer+the DanceCaptain TwylaTharpBob FosseWednesday, May 22, 13
  8. 8. TheProductionTeam:The MusicDirector+the RehearsalPianist, theConductor, &Pit MusiciansWednesday, May 22, 13
  9. 9. The ProductionTeam:The TechnicalDirector+Lighting Designer,Audio Technician,CostumeDesigner, MakeupArtist, PropsMaster, & SetDesignerWednesday, May 22, 13
  10. 10. TheProductionTeam:ProductionStage Manager+Assistant StageManagers &Run CrewWednesday, May 22, 13
  11. 11. ThePerformers:Actors,Singers, andDancers—butpreferablythose who cando all three—a.k.a.TripleThreats.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  12. 12. Classification ofMusicalsWednesday, May 22, 13
  13. 13. Critics often refer to the original incarnation ofmusical comedies—noted for their linear, climacticplots with happy endings—as classical musicals.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  14. 14. What critics refer to as modern musicals debatablybegan in the 1950’s with more realistic stories and morecomplex endings to match the realities of modern life.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  15. 15. Book Musical is a term used todescribe a musical that combines dialogue,song, and dance to construct a narrative.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  16. 16. A revue is a collection of musical numbers arrangedinto a show. Often the pieces are thematically linkedor constructed of works by a single composer/lyricist.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  17. 17. Sung-through is a term used to describemusicals containing little or no spoken dialogue; inother words, nearly all the elements of thestorytelling are completed through music and song.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  18. 18. A concept musical is a musical wherethe shows metaphor or statement ismore important than the actual narrative.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  19. 19. Rock operas are sung-throughmodern musicals featuring rock music.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  20. 20. A chamber musical is a formcontaining a small cast and set in onelocation with minimal production cost.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  21. 21. Jukebox musicals are a fairly new idea in whicha book is written to encompass a series of existingsongs either from one genre or one composer.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  22. 22. Movicals is the term used todescribe the recent trend of themusicalization of popular movies.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  23. 23. Song IncorporationWednesday, May 22, 13
  24. 24. It is called mimesis when a musical’scharacters are not "aware" that they aresinging. Some musicals are completely mimetic.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  25. 25. It is called diegesis when songs arepresented as a musical occurrencewithin the plot. Some musicals arecomplete diegetic.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  26. 26. Some musicals combinemimetic and diegetic songs.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  27. 27. Types of MusicalTheatre SongsWednesday, May 22, 13
  28. 28. If you areinterested inbeing a musicaltheatreperformer, youshould preparethe following 7types of songs foryour auditionrepertoire:Wednesday, May 22, 13
  29. 29. A ballad shows youremotional range andthe way you phrase alyric—your sensitivityto the words andthoughts. “Suddenly Seymour”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  30. 30. An up-tune shows your sense of rhythm andhow exciting and fun you are as a performer. Theup-tune and the ballad should work together incontrast to show a vast range.“Cockeyed Optimist”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  31. 31. A comedy song is important in order to showaudition staff that you can handle comedy. The bestcomedy songs are ones in which the character has a hugeproblem and is trying to explain it. For the character, thesituation is serious. For the listener, it’s hilarious.“I Cain’t Say No”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  32. 32. It wise to prepare a contemporaryBroadway song from a rock or pop opera.“The Bitch of Living”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  33. 33. A patter songis one that has acomplicated,wordy lyric, with asimple, repetitivemelody.This piecewill show off theperformer’sdiction.“Everybody Says Don’t”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  34. 34. Femaleperformers shouldprepare a torchsong These arestandards, whichare essentiallyfocused on theromantic longingsof women invarious states ofecstasy and/oragony.“The Man I Love”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  35. 35. And lastly, prepare a rock song. Inchoosing a piece for yourself, consider howit will work with piano accompaniment atan audition. Think melody.“Paradise”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  36. 36. Song FunctionsWednesday, May 22, 13
  37. 37. The most memorable show songstend to gel around three kinds ofcharacter experiences:Wednesday, May 22, 13
  38. 38. Transition: the character has amoment of change or conversion.“Epiphany”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  39. 39. Realization:the characterreaches aninsight or newlevel ofunderstanding.“Rose’s Turn”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  40. 40. Decision:after longwrangling, acharacter finallymakes up his orher mind.“Soliloquy”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  41. 41. Traditional musicals carefully varied theplacement of song types, while musicals of thelate 20th Century showed an increasing relianceon placing ballad after ballad after ballad.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  42. 42. If you are writing a musical, give youraudiences a variety of song types.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  43. 43. The types of songs commonlyrequired in modern musicals can beillustrated with these examples fromLerner and Loewes My Fair Lady:Wednesday, May 22, 13
  44. 44. Charm Songs - let acharacter beguile an audience.“Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  45. 45. Comedy Numbers -aim for laughs.“A Little Bit of Luck”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  46. 46. Ballads - usually love songs, but they canalso philosophize about any strong emotion.“On The StreetWhereYou Live”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  47. 47. Musical Scenes - seamlessly blenddialogue and song, usually with two ormore characters.“You Did It”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  48. 48. Bob Fosse said that from a directors point of viewthere were only three types of show songs:Wednesday, May 22, 13
  49. 49. To illustrate,lets takeexamples fromBernstein andSondheimsWest SideStory:Wednesday, May 22, 13
  50. 50. I Am songs—Any song that explains acharacter, a group of characters, or a situation.“The Jet Song”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  51. 51. I Want songs—These tell us whatcharacters desire, what motivates them.“Something’s Coming”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  52. 52. New songs—This includes any number thatdoes not fit the other two categories, usuallybecause they serve special dramatic needs.“Gee, Officer Krupke”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  53. 53. From the 1800s on, traditionalmusicals tried to include at least oneor two songs that might find popularsuccess outside the show.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  54. 54. Many a musical did better business when one of itssongs became a hit, but the rise of rock pushedshowtunes out of pop contention by the mid-1960s.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  55. 55. While thismadeshowtunesless profitable,it also took aburden offcomposersand lyricists.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  56. 56. Now they can concentrate on the dramaticneeds of their shows, rather than trying toartificially squeeze hits into a score.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  57. 57. LyricsWednesday, May 22, 13
  58. 58. The hallmark of good lyric writingis fresh use of language andsurprising, careful word choice,and careful word arrangements.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  59. 59. Word choices are oftenmade based on the soundsthat make up the word.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  60. 60. Lyricists think about what theyneed to say and find the mostamusing or graceful way to say it.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  61. 61. Rhyme is one of a lyricists mostpotent tools, giving a song muchof its comic or dramatic impact.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  62. 62. It is easy enough to find wordsthat rhyme—the trick is in howa lyricist gets from one of thesewords to another.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  63. 63. Internal rhymes—rhymes within thelyrical line—can have a powerful impact.“Her hair is blonde and curly.Her curls are hurly-burly.Her lips are pips.I call her hips whirly and twirly.”— “Honey Bun”, South PacificWednesday, May 22, 13
  64. 64. Obvious, tired rhymes, clichéd phrases,or forced non-rhymes are distractionsthat can ruin the effect of a show song."Yeah, just one shell and governments fall like flies, kapow, dieThey stumble and fall, bye byeBacks to the wall, aim highWere having a ballThe tank and bullet rule as democracy dies"Wednesday, May 22, 13
  65. 65. Every lyric mustcontribute to tellingthe story.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  66. 66. Parts of a SongWednesday, May 22, 13
  67. 67. • Intros: The beginnings of songs.• Verses: A repeating section of a songthat usually tells the story.• Pre-Chorus:A lead up to the chorus• Chorus:The focal point of the song—usually expresses the thematic oremotional core of the song. Dependingon the type of song, this section isoften the most hooky.• Bridge: The musical/lyrical break in asong. Lyrically, it usually gives a newperspective. Often referred to as the“Middle Eight” if it is 8 bars long.• Extros: Lead outs or endings of songsWednesday, May 22, 13
  68. 68. Showtune StructureWednesday, May 22, 13
  69. 69. Typically showtunesfollow this structure:A-A-B-AA is the main melody,and B is the bridge.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  70. 70. AABAWednesday, May 22, 13
  71. 71. Other variations:A-B-A-B,A-B-A-B-C,A-A-A-A,andA-A-B-A-B-C-BWednesday, May 22, 13
  72. 72. Song PlacementWednesday, May 22, 13
  73. 73. The opening number mustestablish the tone for the musical. Itoften introduces the setting, some ofthe characters, and the basic situationprior to the inciting incident.West Side Story’s “Prologue”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  74. 74. Usually occurring fairly early on in the firstact, the main character clarifies his/heroverarching internal dramatic need for theplay in the main “I Want” song.“Maybe”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  75. 75. Reprise:All or part of a song isrepeated to make a dramaticpoint, tie things together, orenergize the end of a scene.“Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee (Reprise)”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  76. 76. Dream Ballet:A fantasysequence wherein theprotagonists dream ornightmare is acted outthrough dance—no lyrics.Oklahoma’s Dream BalletWednesday, May 22, 13
  77. 77. Eleven O’Clock Number:This is usually anup-tune, charm or comedy piece mid-way throughAct Two to invigorate the audience, leading up tothe climax and resolution of the conflict.“Hakuna Matata”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  78. 78. Finale: The last song of the play. Itmust deliver an emotional wallopand leave the audience with a clearand powerful last impression.Pippin’s “Finale”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  79. 79. The BookWednesday, May 22, 13
  80. 80. The book—alsocalled thelibretto—is themanuscript of thecompletemusical,containing stagedirections, lyricsand spokendialogue (if thereis any).Wednesday, May 22, 13
  81. 81. It is the least appreciated yet mostdramatically important element of a musical.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  82. 82. It is the narrative structure that keeps thescore from being nothing more than adisjointed medley of songs—which had oftenbeen the case until the 1940s.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  83. 83. The first job of every musicalis to tell a good story.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  84. 84. Musicals with great scores and weakbooks tend to fail, while those withmediocre scores and solid books havea better chance of succeeding.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  85. 85. Key Book ElementsWednesday, May 22, 13
  86. 86. Keep the story lineclear and easy to follow.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  87. 87. Create characters that areeasy to relate to, withoutresorting to stereotypes.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  88. 88. Create situations that callcharacters into song.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  89. 89. Move in and out of songs assmoothly as possible.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  90. 90. Hand over much (and sometimes all)of the plot and character developmentto the songs and choreography.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  91. 91. Make the audiencecare at all times.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  92. 92. Scene StructureWednesday, May 22, 13
  93. 93. The ending of each scene in a bookmusical must project the actionforward, pointing the audiencesinterest into the scenes to come.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  94. 94. Librettists must work closely with composersand lyricists to determine where songs fit andhow to get into song as seamlessly as possible.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  95. 95. Audiences cringe atobvious song cues.“Tell me about it, stud.”Wednesday, May 22, 13
  96. 96. Ending Act OneWednesday, May 22, 13
  97. 97. The modern musical libretto isalmost always written in a two-act format with an intermission.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  98. 98. The first act does not have to endwith a cliff-hanger, but we should becurious to see what happens next...Wednesday, May 22, 13
  99. 99. If you have not hooked an audiencebefore intermission time, odds are youhave a flop on your hands.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  100. 100. Ending Act TwoWednesday, May 22, 13
  101. 101. The end of Act Two is evenmore important. It is whataudiences walk out with.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  102. 102. Having a great “finale” song helps—manyshows reprise their strongest ballad—butthe book writer must structure the play sothat the last scene is dramatically satisfying.Wednesday, May 22, 13
  103. 103. FINWednesday, May 22, 13