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Musical Theatre Speech Drama

Musical theatre speech drama is a form of theatrical performance that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting and dance. The story and emotional content of a musical – humor, pathos, love, anger – are communicated through words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole.

Musical theatre speech drama is a genre which means that it’s one set type or category of the many different types of theatre in existence. It’s often quite stylistic and can use a variety of theatrical techniques such as elements of physical theatre, still image and ensembleacting.

Opera and Musical theatre

Opera and Musical theatre speech drama ‘cross over’ so they might be very alike. The famous musical, Miss Saigon, for example is based on Giacomo Puccini’s opera, Madame Butterfly. But in the musical, Madame Butterfly’s story of a doomed marriage between an American lieutenant and Japanese girl is replaced by a romance between an American GI and a Vietnamese bar girl during the Vietnam War in the 1970s.

Opera usually differs to Musical theatre in that opera has a story that is nearly all sung. This sung dialogue is called a libretto. In Musical theatre the story itself is not always delivered in song; often the songs are comments upon what is happening, providing additional insight into how a character is feeling or exploring a theme of the piece. Spoken dialogue is used alongside song and dance. Occasionally the songs themselves can be ‘spoken’. A famous example of this would be the character of Henry Higgins who ‘speaks’ his songs in the musical, My Fair Lady, which is based on George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion. Although this was mainly due to the fact that Rex Harrison, the actor who portrayed Higgins on stage and in the 1964 film wasn’t a singer!

The well-known musical, Phantom of the Opera, is also based on another older work. The story was inspired by the French novel, Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux.

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