Category: Studying Musicals

Studying Broadway Musicals


The musical OKLAHOMA! turned out to be a revolutionary piece of American theatre, instantly changing a genre into something different, something better.


Cabaret is a seductive musical with attractive songs. But we’re well aware of the tragic implications: 1930 Berlin is a bad time and place to be Jewish.

Sweeney Todd

Stephen Sondheim, writing at the height of his powers, makes audiences anticipate almost every second of the show that something scary is about to happen.

Funny Girl

The most famous songs from Funny Girl, “People” and “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” are unusual in that they’re stunningly successful, and yet they contain elements that are “wrong” in a strict definition of the term.

Little Shop of Horrors

It would be a mistake to dismiss Little Shop of Horrors as camp, because it is written with more attention to the intricacies of construction than most serious musicals. In a sense, it’s the last purely funny musical comedy to have stood the test of time; its endurance due, in part, to its solid architecture.

My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady is a paradigm of many elements that make musicals work. But one unique aspect is how its leads never express romantic feelings to each other.

Into the Woods

Here’s a show that’s so lean – that rushes, without pausing, to do so many things “that it’s actually tiring to watch. There’s much to be admired in Into the Woods, and cutting out fat is usually a good idea, but there’s very little to be emulated.

Studying Musicals: Jersey Boys

Using the Four Seasons catalogue, Jersey Boys tells a good, solid story with style, drama, and emotion. It uses the music as it should be used – as diegetic songs being performed by The Four Seasons. For those who fondly remember those songs, the musical probably is a nostalgic reminder of days gone by; but, even if you’re not a Four Seasons fan, Jersey Boys still is a genuine crowd pleaser and an enormously entertaining evening of well done musical theater.

Studying Musicals: West Side Story

One of the undisputed masterpieces of musical theatre, West Side Story began as an idea called East Side Story. Director/choreographer Jerome Robbins and composer Leonard Bernstein wanted to set Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in modern dress, dealing with contemporary prejudices.

The Music Man

Meredith Willson’s The Music Man is all about transformation. Most often, the traveling huckster Harold Hill is an instrument of change.

Fiddler on the Roof

If you can only pick one model to study, just one lesson in traditional musical theatre writing,...

A Little Night Music

The first sequence in A Little Night Music is unusual in that we don’t meet any...

A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line follows many protagonists and so must quickly introduce them in ways that delineate them and make us root for them individually.


In some ways, 1776 feels very much like a straight play. Pages and pages go by in between songs, and we’re often listening to well-articulated political arguments. But 1776 is very much a musical. If at times it sounds like light opera, it’s because the composer is trying to convey, musically, a sense of the period in which it’s set.