Musical Theater: An Introduction

Blog Post One


Gordon McKerracher

King’s Theater, Glasgow

By Zoe Rodriguez


Everyone knows them, and thanks to Hamilton, everyone knows how expensive the tickets can be. But as with most things, musical theater is more complicated than it seems.

In this blog, I hope to shed a little light and maybe pull back the curtain a bit on what’s becoming the most popular aspect of the theatre scene: musical theatre.

So what’s up with musical theatre? Why does it resonate with so many people? Is it the cheesy songs? Is it the random dance breaks? Is it that some people are just suckers for where all the dialogue is sung–cuz that’s natural. Or is it that musicals are accessible operas that don’t generally end in misery and death?

I’ve decided to deconstruct the mystery around musical theatre and help ordinary folks find their inner theatre nerd. Because I promise it’s not just Gershwin—although I love Gershwin too. I mean who doesn’t love Porgy and Bess?

First, there’s the anticipation. Either it can start in NYC on Broadway and then tour, or they begin in Los Angeles or Hartford and move to Broadway. With a play, there’s that pent-up excitement, and that once in a lifetime performance that will never be repeated. With a movie, you pop in the DVD and it never changes.

And that anticipation can turn to worry. While waiting for the tour to come to us, sometimes it doesn’t! Or it closes on Broadway before it can tour. And then you’ll be looking for 10-20 years for a revival.

And the stories are familiar. “West Side Story” is just Romeo and Juliet set in the 50s to song and dance. “Wicked” was originally a book—and that book was a twisted prequel of “Wizard of Oz.” And of course, “Les Miserables” started out as a 1,000 page Victor Hugo novel in the 1800s and became one of the most famous musicals to date.

And not to be left out, Disney is now turning our cartoon favorites into major theatrical productions. Even VNHS did “Beauty and the Beast” two years ago, and Frozen opened on Broadway this year. And “Spongebob” was nominated for multiple awards—and the actor is not even playing a human being.

With a musical, you choose your narrative. In a movie, you get the director’s vision and with a musical, you can choose your own. A director can zoom in to show only what they want you to see, and on stage, you can choose to see Villager #3 talking to their onstage husband while the main character whines about their problems.

And of course, there are the soundtracks. Which are an experience unto themselves. Say with “Waitress.” You can make a loop of just Dawn’s songs, and basically get a half-hour condensed story of her side plot.

I love the names, whether it’s got a short and to the point name like “Rent” or “Wicked” or the adorable shortened names like “Les Mis” for Les Miserables, then you have the super long names “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” which everyone just calls “Great Comet.”

And then there are the inside jokes. You can tell a lot about a person based on what their favorite musical is, and more specifically, whether they can tolerate “Cats.”

So let me know your favorites, the ones you really despise, and what you’d like to see me discuss in future posts.

Curtain close.