MUSICAL THEATRE

Musical theatre is a form of theatre that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The story and emotional content of the piece – humor, pathos, love, anger – are communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole.

Although musical theatre overlaps with other theatrical forms like opera and dance, it may be distinguished by the equal importance given to the music as compared with the dialogue, movement and other elements of the works. Since the early 20th century, musical theatre stage works have generally been called, simply, musicals.

There is no fixed length for a musical. While it can range from a short one-act entertainment to several acts and several hours in length (or even a multi-evening presentation), most musicals range from one and a half to three hours.

Musicals are usually presented in two acts, with one short intermission and the first act frequently longer than the second. The first act generally introduces nearly all of the characters and most of the music, and often ends with the introduction of a dramatic conflict or plot complication while the second act may introduce a few new songs but usually contains reprises of important musical themes and resolves the conflict or complication.

A book musical is usually built around four to six main theme tunes that are reprised later in the show, although it sometimes consists of a series of songs not directly musically related. Spoken dialogue is generally interspersed between musical numbers, although “sung dialogue” or recitative may be used, especially in so-called “sung-through” musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables, and Evita. Several shorter musicals on Broadway and in the West End have been presented in one act in recent decades.