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But does it Sing?: Making a 21st century musical

By • West End
There is an old adage which says that when emotion rises too high on stage to speak, then the characters deserve to sing, and when that is not enough then they deserve to dance.

As you explore musicals playing around the West End, on the Fringe, or across the UK landscape, just have a look to see whether the writers of the show have given the characters enough reason to sing.

When exploring the writing of musical theatre with the next generation of lyricists and composers there are two other things worth considering: whether the character is able to sing, and whether the story needs to be told as musical theatre.

Many musicals are adaptations of existing works - a book, a film, a backcatalogue. I was watching a hit British movie yesterday and immediately thought it would make the most fantastic musical - all the characters had inner monologues going on through the power of the filmic closeup, and each could make a wonderful aria.

(Excuse me for not naming the film, I want to explore the idea further first). And then I watched a major new play and thought "there is nothing more to say that isn't already argued on stage, no space for music, no need to translate it to another medium."

One of the classic examples given by teachers is Sherlock Holmes - he is a character who just doesn't sing. Dr Watson sings, but Mr Holmes is silent, a poetic monologue maybe, but not a full belted aria.

Yes, there is a musical version of Sherlock Holmes, and there will probably be more, but I don't think anyone has found a way to make him sing yet.

If musical theatre interests you, then there is a wealth of new material being developed - keep an eye out for the work of Perfect Pitch Musicals, the newly named Musical Theatre Network, and Mercury Musical Development; plus the shows underway at many of our national and regional drama producing houses.

As the Edinburgh Festival kicks off you can feast yourself on the entries for the MTM:UK Awards, led by one of Edinburgh's musical theatre champions, Fiona Orr. Don't miss the online reports and shortlisting of what she and her team of assessors spot. Let's hope they find a real cracker this year.

It's an exciting times for musical theatre to be seen as a truly dramatic artform - witness London Road at the National Theatre to know that the artform is flexing and finding its contemporary dramatic form.

And here's a question - does Rocky sing? The amazing character created by Silvester Stallone? I hope so, and I really look forward to seeing what happens when Stage Entertainment open a newly commissioned work in Germany this autumn.


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