26 June 2024

What Makes a Musical, Musical?

There have been some truly magical musicals to date. From Andrw Lloyd Webber’s smash hit, Starlight Express, with its sensational soundtrack and roller skating cast to Shrek The Musical which is based on the DreamWorks movie of the same name, there’s plenty to enjoy - and finding something to entertain the whole family can be as simple as searching for family days out near meand looking at the listings for West End shows.

If you’ve ever wondered what exactly makes a musical, musical, here’s what the key characteristics of musical productions are.

An Astonishing Soundtrack

As the name suggests, music is at the very heart of a musical production. Each and every composition must be memorable, complete with a catchy tune and emotive lyrics which work to tell the story and move the plot along. The songs in a musical play a crucial role, emphasising important parts of the plot, introducing key characters and giving us useful insights into the production. Often, certain melodies will be repeated throughout the production, which helps to tie parts of the action together or emphasise a particular theme or emotion.

Live Band

All big musicals are made possible thanks to a talented cast and a live band or carefully selected group of musicians. While a ‘pit band’ will typically play from the pit underneath the stage and remain somewhat concealed, more and more bands are appearing on the stage itself, perhaps at the very back slightly shielded by a screen or curtain. At the end of the show, the band is celebrated, as without such incredible live music and talented musicians, musicals would not be as powerful or emotive.


Intricate choreography helps the actors to dance through a particular song and bring it to life even more. It’s really important for those on stage to communicate the lyrics clearly when singing but to also act out the meaning of the songs so the audience can follow the plot. Solo and couple dances are common but the entire ensemble also performs several numbers together at the most impactful moments of the narrative.


Musicals revolve around all different kinds of songs. From up-tempo and happy songs performed by the chorus to solos in a minor key, there are plenty of ups and downs to follow. But there’s also spoken dialogue. This provides a break from the intensity of singing, enables the cast to rest between songs, and helps to further the plot.

Classic musicals to see

Some of the most celebrated musicals of our time have been composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. In collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice, he’s created works such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, as well as working with others on productions like Cats, The Phantom of the Opera and Starlight Express. Indeed, if you’re looking for ‘days out near me’ and enjoy the theatre, Starlight Express is currently showing at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre. Family days out don’t get much better and you’ll be able to hear music by Lloyd Webber himself.