Readers have searched recently for questions I’d like to address. So this is a “catch up” post.
In what ways do musicals speak to an audience?
My first reaction is that you might want to get some first-hand experience with this. You could attend some shows and speak to audience members at intermission or afterwards. Or you could park yourself outside a theater entrance and interview people as they leave.
In thinking about this question further, many of my thoughts focused on differences between musical theater and opera. This is not intended as a criticism of opera ~ however, I do think the two genres are distinct from one another in many ways.
Some characteristics of musicals
Musicals are accessible.
Musicals have tunes people can sing.
Musicals have catchy, fun, jazzy, foot-tapping rhythm.
Musicals have lots of dancing.
Theater actors are accustomed to choreographed shows, oftentimes more than opera singers. *
Musicals appeal to people’s emotions directly. (Audiences don’t need formal training to understand them. To delve below the surface of an opera, though, musical training is very helpful.)
Musicals are in English. No subtitles, written translation or foreign language skills needed.
Musicals have a straightforward story line, without the complicated twists found in opera plots.
People can often purchase souvenirs at musical performances, such as t-shirts and posters. I’d guess that people would take their kids to a musical more readily than to an opera.
Musicals were written, and are often set, closer to our time. Ancient Egypt (think “Aida”) doesn’t factor in.
Actors in musicals may seem more accessible than opera singers, since their on-stage communication is more directly to the audience. (No language barrier, no operatic flourishes such as long cadenzas.)
Audience members are more likely to have been in/attended a musical in school than an opera. From elementary through high school level, instrumental and vocal groups perform highlights from shows. (My high school never programmed opera when I was a student.)
Musicals are fun! They are typically not tragic drama.
Audience members can park their troubles outside the door & not encounter new ones for a few hours. Musicals are typically upbeat.
* One voice teacher whose studio I played for in New York was an actor first, with excellent vocal skills and training. All of her students were confident, working actors. They were studying voice to acquire an added skill, to see whether they could add more versatility and audition for musical theater.
Choreography is part of an actor’s basic skill set. Opera singers, on the other hand, tend to concentrate on the voice, seeing it as the most important consideration.
Hope this helps! If you have other questions, please leave a comment or send me an email. Thanks for stopping by!
Check back soon ~ another “Q and A” post is on the way!