A short history of musical theatre

A short history of musical theatre

musical-theatre-history-1-728Musical theatre is the medium which is most closely associated with performing arts. This is because, in general, it is the medium that requires the more diversity of skills from a performer. Rather than only being an actor, they also have to sing and dance. Musical theatre has a long and varied history. Though music and songs have been used in performance for a long time, the book musical, where the songs and the script work together rather than being random, is actually a fairly new invention. The book musical was popularised in the early 20th century with musicals like Oklahoma, South Pacific and The Sound of Music.

Between 1940 and 1970 is generally considered to be the golden age of musical theatre. At this time, musicals were prolific and popular and stars such as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern became theatre juggernauts. This was also the period that musicals made the jump from the stage to the screen. The birth of the classic MGM musical made stars such as Judy Garland and Debbie Reynolds household names. There has recently been a new surge of movie-musicals with the likes of Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera and Rent all been made into films.

In recent years, due to the large expense of staging a musical, many new shows have been based on existing material such as a book or film. From a producer’s perspective shows like this, such as Billy Elliot, Legally Blonde or Aladdin, have a guaranteed audience base and therefore more likely to be a financial hit. Another popular form of musical is the jukebox musical. This is where the songs of a popular and established person or band are taken and made into a stage production. Mamma Mia is arguably the most famous example, which uses the music of Abba to tell a story.

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