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What is Musical Theatre? A Guide

At Jumpstart we love to inform you about different styles of dance – it’s amazing that there are so many genres out there!

Last year, we featured our guide to Hip Hop and Morris Dance; this week we’re chatting about Musical Theatre.

Musical Theatre is a form of theatrical performance that combines songs, spoken word, acting and dance. Musical Theatre is usually performed in professional venues: the home of British Musical Theatre is in London’s West End and here in Leicester we have Curve.

There are foundations of Musical Theatre in ancient Greek performance, which incorporated songs into their plays, and Roman comedies that included song and dance routines.  Theatre forms such as Opera, Commedia dell’arte and Musical Hall all influenced the development of what we would now recognise as ‘musicals’ even though they were not then known by that term.

One of the biggest Musical Theatre blockbusters was written by Rogers and Hammerstein (in the golden age of the genre) and was called Oklahoma.  The production used every song and dance in it to develop the characters or the plot and was a such a success that it received a Pulitzer Prize.

You can take a little look at a musical number from Oklahoma in the video below.

The art form has continued to grow and develop and now we have a huge range of musicals to enjoy, ranging from Andrew Lloyd Webber spectacles (such as Cats) through to political commentaries (like Les Miserables) and Disney adaptations (such as Beauty and the Beast).

Musicals entertain and educate through a combination of factors including;

  • Catchy music
  • Solo songs, duets, choruses and ensembles
  • Orchestra or band accompaniment to bring the musical to life
  • Spoken dialogue. The actors also use facial expression and body language to express each different emotion throughout the story
  • Dance sequences, stage spectacles and magnificent costumes

This form of theatre really brings together a variety of different dance styles, including;

  • Jazz (Bob Fosse is very well known for his distinctive Jazz dance choreography)
  • Ballet
  • Tap (it’s great to see more tap featuring in musicals now, such as Billy Elliot)
  • Ballroom
  • Street Dance (in shows such as Hamilton)
  • Folk Dance

Some recent Musicals we know you’d definitely enjoy are Aladdin, Matilda and The Lion King. We’ve left you snippets from the Musicals below to enjoy with your class.  (As with all YouTube clips, please check them thoroughly first before showing them to children as we can’t be held responsible for any inappropriate content or comments in these links).

In some of our after school dance clubs this term we are working on routines from musical numbers, such as the ‘One’ choreography from A Chorus Line.

Are you interested in putting on a Musical Theatre event at your primary school? Get in touch with us now on 07738042089 or email [email protected]!

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