Musical theatre has been popular in the UK for decades. You only need to look at how classics such as Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera have endured for years to see that it’s a genre that captures the hearts of both young and old. Newer productions such as TINA and Close Up: the Twiggy Musical have also found success recently, enabling audiences to relive the music and eras in which the shows are set. But what are the elements that make the magic happen?
It goes without saying that a huge part of musical theatre is the songs. These can make or break a production. In musical theatre, the songs tell the story as much as the spoken dialogue and provide a highly emotive way of drawing the audience in. They’re often repetitive, and sometimes the same themes within the music itself are repeated, often with different lyrics. This creates familiarity and helps later parts of the narrative relate back to earlier scenes. Of course, in shows like Twiggy the musical, they also add an element of nostalgia, taking audiences on a trip down memory lane.
Dialogue is often thought of as a secondary element in musicals. After all, it’s the songs that we remember. But the part it plays is just as important. Dialogue enables the audience to understand the relationship between characters while also moving the plot along more quickly than the songs can. Without it, musical theatre can seem flat or leave the audience confused about what is happening.
Musical theatre actors must be multi-talented. Not only do they need to be able to sing their parts and remember their lines accurately, they need to do so with emotion. Acting is what makes us believe in the characters we’re watching; it’s what makes us root for them - or in the case of the villains, anticipate their come-uppance. In musical theatre, the acting is often more exaggerated than in films or on television. That’s because those sitting at the back of the auditorium need to be able to see and understand the gestures and interactions between the characters.
The dance elements of musical theatre go hand in hand with the songs. Whether it’s the whole company performing an acrobatic routine to a rousing tune or an understated scene in which only the main characters are together, dance brings the music to life. It also accentuates the emotions of the narrative, drawing the audience into the challenges and triumphs of the characters. It’s arguably this element that makes a show so visually memorable.
Blending these four essential elements of musical theatre is key to a successful production. If you’re looking for the perfect upbeat show this session, don’t miss Close Up: the Twiggy Musical at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Following Twiggy’s fabulous rise to superstardom, it’s packed with humour, nostalgia and a swinging 60s soundtrack.