Choreography in Musical Theatre

Musical theatre is a very broad genre that offers a variety of styles, sub-genres, and purposes. One could be a musical fairytale, perhaps a typical rom-com or jazz-oriented entertainment, maybe something that widens the social awareness of its viewers, or even something beyond the mentioned. Musicals today are composed of modernized dance styles and music. Some hold on to their origin, either influenced by jazz or popular opera genres.

While most people remember the musicals for their catchy songs, interesting plot, or popular cast, the choreography is often only a second mention or later, be it on a stage or even in a movie adaptation where cinematography allows you to focus on the small details.

To better understand the importance of choreography in theatre, let’s have a quick recap on three performing arts showcased in musicals:

ACTING – Acting is the most common feature in musicals, as it is in any typical play. The creator of the original story, or the book writer, crafts a narrative that can be read on paper in the same way that any other written work would. This is then transformed by a director and a stage manager to be presented on a theatre stage, complete with dialogue for the characters.

SINGING – All musicals are plays, but not all plays are musicals. Singing is often presented as more vital than acting in some musicals. Singing gives actors a unique way to convey their emotions as the character they’re portraying. It also makes it more expressive and iconic.

DANCING – Truth be told, a musical can exist with not a single person having to dance. But isn’t that just so plain? While dancing doesn’t usually affect the story, what is music if it isn’t danced to? Where acting is just the lines that make out the drawing, dancing shines colors on the monotone canvas. Good musicals feature great choreography that not only synchronizes with the tune of the song but also serves as the actions that also tell the happenings in the plot. Rather than simply supplementing the singing as it does in musicals, the choreography sings its own lyrics through motion and integrates itself into the performance, and creates an experience that cannot be achieved through any other medium. For Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk, a musical spotlighting the history of Black people and slavery, choreography served a different purpose. The dance in the production featured quick but strong footwork—tap dancing—to create a part of the musical’s music. Dancing truly can convey emotions that can not be fully expressed through words or facial muscle movement.

Regardless of what part it plays in musical theatre, choreography is an essential factor in any successful production.

A musical could be compared to loam soil. Composed of sand, silt, and clay, the three provide a healthy environment for a plant to grow; the same thing goes for musicals. Each element is necessary, and all three elements combine to shape the overall story and how it’s told.

The choreographer for each production has to make sure that they have carefully crafted each moment so it doesn’t feel awkward or empty when performed in front of an audience. Whether it’s included in large productions with elaborate sets and costumes, or small shows with minimal props, choreography will always be an important aspect of musical theatre that impacts and enhances the overall performance. While singing is often what people remember the most, it’s the dance that brings it all together. It brings more tension to the acting and makes you appreciate the effort of the lead actors still being able to sing magnificently despite dancing.

And let’s not forget the background actors that keep the soul of the show alive, and help establish the setting. A good example of this is in Hamilton’s ‘Hurricane’ performance, where they didn’t necessarily dance, but instead provided an extraordinary visual by exploiting the stage where it happened. Background actors aren’t also called ‘the atmosphere’ for no reason!

To top it all off, here are three Broadway musicals that we recommend you at least watch a clip of:

Hamilton

Are you a fan of hip-hop? Of musicals? Do you enjoy non-traditional storytelling in your theater experiences? If so, then the thought of an American Musical called Hamilton may not seem strange or unfamiliar to you. Choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler and Lin Manuel Miranda, this piece tells the story of Alexander Hamilton using rap music and hip-hop dance routines that are sure to be more interesting than your average history class. In fact, the show earned 11 Tony Awards on Broadway in 2016, including Best Musical and Choreography!

If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, then perhaps some added history will do it. While most people know that he was an important figure in America’s early days as a nation, few have heard the details of his life. A brief synopsis of this musical is that it tells Hamilton’s story from the time he arrives in New York to his untimely death at a young age. Part of what makes this musical so interesting is that there is no clear cut between who plays the good guys and the bad guys but rather introduces several flawed individuals trying their best to be heroes. Unlike the two other musicals in this list, Hamilton is non stop. These issues come to light through clever dialogue and overlapping songs, adding an extra level of entertainment not seen in most shows today.

With a filmed version available to watch on Disney+, it has become easier and less costly for you to enjoy the meaningful and stunning dance moves that it has to offer! Seriously, the whole musical is a work of genius.

Annie

Few musicals have achieved the level of critical acclaim and audience love as Annie. The titular character, played originally by Aileen Quinn, became a household name in her own right for her charm and wit.

The musical tells the story of a young, overly optimistic, orphan girl named Annie, who is always fully dressed with a smile. Escaping the orphanage in hopes of finding her parents, and by a miraculous turn of events, is adopted by the billionaire Oliver Warbucks.

Having played 2,377 times in its original run, it has become a classic that is known to appeal to people of all ages. It’s not as dance intensive as the other musicals on the list, but the child actors deliver a cute performance while not trying too hard to be, and that’s more than enough! Seeing the cast clean and dance to the beat in “It’s the Hard-Knock Life” is not only comedic but also sends off classic musical vibes. The other songs will remind you of how in old cartoons, everyone does their everyday tasks while singing and dancing, from people in the slums unified as if in a club, to maids and butlers welcoming the young Annie.

The Lion King

Roughly 3 years after the release of the animated musical film by Walt Disney Animation Studios, a Broadway musical based on the movie debuted in 1997 in Minneapolis. The piece presents a unique and creative approach in terms of visual props, costumes, and more importantly, how the actions in the original film were adapted to actions and dances that imitate the behavior of the original animal cast.

See, if people were just put make-up on and wore the set’s costumes, it would be weird. In this adaptation, the cast was able to bring the fictional characters to life in their own, witty and vibrant way. The choreographer, Garth Fagan, made sure to go wild with the variety of dances, ranging from jazz, hip-hop, ballet, and African. With a matching tribal theme and setting imitating the African Savanna, the actors were able to express their “animal instincts” through their performance. The fan-favorites, Timon and Pumba, including Zazu, were adapted to perform as puppets manipulated similar to bunraku, a form of traditional Japanese theatre.

If you’re looking for tap, jazz, or ballet, you’ve come to the right website! We’re offering ballet lessons for kids, namely Kinderballet™. The program is a good way to bond with and familiarize your kids with ballet, and can serve as their first step to becoming future actors! On the other hand, we also offer TAPfit classes, transforming your boring, usual workout routine into something as new and exciting as tap dancing. No, you don’t need the shoes or the preliminary skills to join!

Interested? Call us now at 0422 939 749 or submit a message here! Better hurry up while limited spaces last, because tomorrow isn’t as far away as Annie portrays it to be!