Musical theatre represents a diverse collection of different genres and styles. That is why they have remained popular and still attract large audiences to this day.
Let’s dive into some of the main types of musicals that you may or may not have heard of!
1. Book Musicals
Book musicals are usually based on novels, plays, or short stories. Along with having specific elements for the performance, they also have a literary feel to them.
This form of musicals has certain specifications, such as how many tracks are incorporated into the plot; what time the music is added, and so on.
The emphasis of this style of musical is on the plot and music, therefore effortlessly combining songs, dance, and dialogue to tell a story.
Les Miserables is an example of a Book Musical. It is a classic masterpiece based on the novel by Victor Hugo and first premiered in 1985, making it one of the longest-running musicals.
With an unforgettable score and numerous awards, the play is still considered revolutionary today.
2. Revue Musicals
Revue musicals are a light genre of musical theatre composed of acts that often satirize current personalities and situations.
It is considered a challenging kind of musical, as although it may appear to involve simply combining songs and getting the crowd to indulge in nostalgia, the writers have to avoid the audience zoning out after a couple of acts by creating some form of structure or idea to keep the audience’s interest.
Hellzapoppin is an example of a Revue Musical, it was written by Olsen and Johnson, and was one of the longest-running plays during the 1930s.
The shows did not focus on storylines, instead of relying on gags, props, and slapstick humor. It was constantly rewritten to represent current affairs.
3. Jukebox Musical
This form of musical is based on a selection of songs, typically by a single artist or group. These tracks are usually part of a well-known artist or band’s greatest hits. The plot is also built around the narrative of the songs selected.
Jukebox musicals today come in a few forms. There are ones that are a tribute to the artist or band, without much plot. And ones that are biographical musicals. Others involve a plot that has added music from various artists to advance the story.
An example of a Jukebox Musical is Boogie Nights, originally written by Jon Conway.
It tells a story of the lives of Roddy and Debs, and most of the plot revolves around the 1970s’ Boogie and Disco’ scene.
4. Concept Musical
This type of musical highlights the message, style, and theme of a story over the plot. Instead of relying on the plot, the show is often closely bound together by a single topic or idea.
It is more about the symbols and perspectives of such shows where the plot can be secondary or practically non-existent than it is about storytelling, which implies that much of this work appears to come from an experimental context.
The key characteristics of the play are distinctly structured and used so that the main aspects that distinguish this form of musical are the story, themes, characters, and songs.
Cabaret is a Concept Musical that is based on The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood.
The musical, set in the 1920s, portrayed the intriguing tale of a cabaret singer, an American writer, and the people of Berlin, all wrapped up in the chaos of a transforming society.
5. Rock/Pop Musical
During the 1960s, the pop and rock genre crashed into the theatre, introducing a new and progressive approach to musicals.
The narration in these types of musicals varies, but most of the plot is told by music. That is what distinguishes it as a rock/pop musical.
This type of musical has remained popular since its inception, and its appeal is evident in the amount of rock/pop musicals released in recent years.
Grease is an example of a Rock/Pop Musical. Written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, this American high school musical features songs from the 1950s rock and roll era.
6. Autobiographical Musical
Autobiographical Musicals are based on, influenced by, or derived from stories, events, or a biography of a person.
The life and career of a particular individual will be explored by this style of musical, combining songs into a specially constructed storyline for the musical. While the discography of an artist can be used to produce a story, the themes and storyline are not linked to the original intent of the music.
These musicals use the details of a personal narrative to help the audience rethink their lives and their impact on others. Additionally, these plays are profoundly engaging; they entertain, amuse, and can at times be harrowing.
An example of an Autobiographical Musical is Chaplin. The musical by Thomas Meehan and Christopher Curtis follows the life and changing fortunes of Charlie Chaplin, the iconic silent movie star, beginning in 1913 when he arrived in Hollywood.
7. Non-Autobiographical Musical
Often, the discography of an artist meets the vision of a writer and inspires something creative. Thus, the music of an artist or band is matched to a story other than the one they had initially told, and it takes on a new meaning.
Non-autobiographical musicals are plays that use an artist or band’s music to lay the foundation for a project.
The musicals are often performed with popular songs of an artist, but they do not have to be related to the narrative or storyline.
Mamma Mia is a good example of a Non-Autobiographical Musical that features songs of the 1970s from the wildly successful Swedish pop/dance group ABBA. The plot is not linked to the Swedish band.
8. Film Musical
This type of musical is one of the most popular art forms. Film musicals are well-known worldwide, featuring music, song, and dance in different variations, sometimes combined with a happy ending storyline.
Instead of making songs a counterpoint to the plot, film musicals incorporate songs into the narrative. Often these musicals tend to be translated from the screen to the stage.
The songs generally progress the story or build the characters of the story, but in some instances, they function only as breaks in the narrative, often as extensive “production numbers.”
The Lion King is a great example of a Film Musical. It has been the most popular musical in history since it premiered in 1997 on Broadway.
The incredible story told with amazing visuals makes the performance one that continues to move audiences to this day.
Musicals produce immersive live shows unlike movies or books, and they bring to life plots and stories. They can create the environment and atmosphere to tell a story so that the viewer does not have to imagine it themselves.
Due to the stage presence, many people enjoy musicals as opposed to watching movies or reading books.
We hope that this insight into the many different types of musicals has been useful.
It is always an exciting feeling to be able to discover and identify new forms of musicals that you may enjoy. Modern musicals have evolved and emerged into so many different types that there is a type that everyone can relate to.