Synonymous terms for the spoken dialogue and general plot of musical theatre (McLamore);
Kislan elaborates on the definition, noting that the book is “…character, form, placement of song and dance, tone, and theatrical values put at the service of story or concept.”
A show with a coherent storyline (as opposed to Vaudeville or a revue), featuring spoken dialogue interspersed with songs (McLamore)
A book show with motivated songs and dances, dominated by comedy (Kislan);
A genre of staged musical entertainment presented in modern costume with believable dialogue (in the common vernacular) and popular tunes;
a uniquely American art
form, as opposed to comic opera or operetta. (McLamore)
Kislan defines this as book show in which the comedy of character in situation functions as a relief to the drama. Many scholars group musical comedy and musical play under the same heading of musical comedy.
Play with Music
A musical show in which the play stands alone without the addition of the musical elements.
Everything is set to music; the book is music oriented. Operatic style may vary greatly, from Gershwin’s jazz and ragtime influenced Porgy and Bess to Weber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.
It is the librettist’s job to introduce immediately simple, recognizable characters to the audience, for whom conflicts will develop, and who make the audience care about what happens to them (Kislan). In order to earn the sympathy/empathy of the audience, the actor also carries a major responsibility in this task. Below
is an example of a character biography that I require students to complete before performing a role, which demonstrates some of the detail required to
make a character fully three dimensional.
It bears repeating that all dialogue in a musical builds up to a song; characters sing in a musical because what they are saying is so important mere words won’t
suffice – they must sing to communicate the full emotional, intellectual, and dramatic message of the moment.
sense of the suitability of individual dramatic material for musical treatment (Kislan).
Ideas to remember: it grows organically from the elements of the book, particularly character and situation; it serves as a relief/contrast from the serious
moments on the play; it serves to remind the audience that everything will turn out all right in the end (a common conceit of the modern musical).
Structure – Exposition-Conflict-Resolution, or in my expanded definition: opening stasis---intrusion--rising action---climax---falling action/denouement---new stasis
*Important structural moments in a book:
Opening song, Act I finale, Show finale. These are the moments and the songs that will stay with the audience, so they must be musically, thematically, and dramatically memorable.