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Musicals are a theatrical production that uses music to tell a story or showcase the arts. Although many musicals have dialogue, not all musicals do. This is what sets musicals apart from other types of theater: songs take centerstage. Songs are the primary vehicle of emotion, storytelling, and entertainment. Musicals have gone by many names since the concept of song-sustained theater emerged. Burlesques, vaudevilles, musical comedies, comic operas, operettas, and minstrel shows all fall under the larger umbrella of musicals. Whatever you call them, musicals are just as popular as ever.
Today, musicals are one of the most approachable and lively subgenres in theater. In fact, musicals can expand audience’s ideas of what theater is and how it can be done. Take, for instance, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, which came out in 2015. This musical explores the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, using singing and rapping. Its soaring popularity goes to show how universal and likable musicals are today. In its first three years, it sold out nearly every show. Although only time will tell if it has the staying power of other famous musicals, its success goes to show that audiences are responding positively to musicals, especially when they are re-energized and reinvented with modern song forms, such as rap. Other popular musicals of this century include Dear Evan Hansen, The Book of Mormon, and Wicked.
One of the best things about musicals is that there is a type of musical for everyone. For people who like traditional narrative-driven musicals, Book Musicals are an obvious choice. Expect to connect with characters and see where plot arcs take them. Popular choices include RENT, CATS, and Annie. For people who like thematic collections, with no dialogue of plot, Revues—also known as Compilations—are a good choice. Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Closer Than Ever are just two examples. For people who like big-picture shows where overarching metaphors are as essential as the music and stories, Concept Musicals are must-sees. Ideas about social justice, social change, and worldviews are common in this niche. Examples include Avenue Q, Allegro, and Follies. For people who like something feel good and familiar, Jukebox Musicals are the best choice. Each Jukebox Musical explores a particular artist or genre in a recreated compilation of songs. Imagine Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash), Rock of Ages (80s Glam Rock), and Come Fly Away (Frank Sinatra). For people who like the familiarity of popular genres with small bits of dialogue, there are Rock/Pop Musicals. Grease, Phantom of the Opera, and The Little Shop of Horrors are some of the subgenres most notable works.
Whether you are into The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Les Miserables, or My Fair Lady, there is a musical for you. Each type of musical has their own vibe, style, and structure. Although many musicals are available on recording, that does not hold a candle to seeing the live. Treat yourself today with tickets to your favorite musical.