Musical theater is a genre of theatrical production that uses music and dance to communicate a story. It has a long history, originating in the eighteenth century. This genre is now popular worldwide, with shows varying in style and size. Music is often a primary focus, but drama and comedy are also common. A musical may be performed onstage, in a church, on tour, or in an amateur group.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Britain and Europe produced several forms of light musical entertainment. These included opera comique and opera buffa, which combined music and spoken dialogue to tell a story. Some operas had original scores, while others borrowed songs from popular music.
During the twentieth century, a new type of musical theatre emerged. Known as modern Western musical theatre, it incorporated structural elements from works by Gilbert and Sullivan, Edward Harrigan, and Thomas Hart. The most prominent sources of book musicals in the twentieth century were Britain and the U.S. However, other countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Canada, and Australia have a significant musical theater tradition.
In addition to musicals, there are three other forms of musical theatre: revue, operetta, and comic opera. Revues and operetta are multi-act shows that feature an ensemble of actors. Each act is usually accompanied by a short concert of music.
Comic opera, also known as melodrama, is a type of musical theatre that generally features a plotline revolving around a romantic relationship. These musicals often feature good and evil characters, with the villain eventually defeated. Melodramas are often considered to be more dramatic, with an action-filled plot and clear good or evil characters.
Opera buffa was a form of comic opera that originated in Naples in the mid-eighteenth century. Popular songs from opera were often used as lyrics, and ballad operas were spoofs of the classical opera. Several shorter musicals have been presented in one act.
Other forms of musical theatre have appeared in recent years. For example, in Japan, 2.5D musicals have been developed based on manga comics. They are typically a combination of song, spoken dialog, and dance. Similarly, in India, the traditional form of musical theatre is called Yakshagana, which incorporates a combination of dance and music.
Although the origins of the musical theater genre are often traced to the early nineteenth century, it has been adapted to many different types of performance. Many of the classic musicals have been adapted into movies and have been rediscovered by new audiences. One of the most recent examples of this trend is the revival of Moulin Rouge! by Baz Luhrmann.
Traditionally, musicals are a two-act show. Typically, the first act will feature the main theme tunes, followed by the second act, which will feature a prologue and an afterpiece. Though some musicals are presented in single acts, most are a one-and-a-half-to-three-hour long affair.
As with any theatrical production, a musical is produced by a creative team, including a director, a choreographer, an orchestrator, a composer, and an actor. The creative team will often change for subsequent productions.