Is There A Singapore Musical Theatre?
by Kenneth Lyen
Are Singapore musicals a 'copy' of Broadway/West End musicals?
Yes, there is a very strong Broadway/West End influence in Singapore musicals in English. Most of our musicals are fashioned after the Western model. Is this desirable? No, not in the long run. We need to find our own voice, our unique identity.
Do you see any distinct difference in local and foreign musical productions?
Yes, it is still fairly easy to differentiate a foreign from a local. Foreign musicals are usually slicker, more self-assertive, better marketed, and tend to have higher ticket prices. Singaporeans, in general, hold a higher opinion of overseas productions compared to local ones.
With a few exceptions, most locally produced musicals are not as polished or as lavish as foreign productions. The more conspicuous foreign productions that have come to Singapore, like Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Cats, etc., cost millions of US dollars. In contrast, most local productions are way under one million Sing dollars. With a budget of millions, one can attract world class singers, directors, designers, beautiful costumes, stunning sets, etc.
Of course a high budget does not guarantee quality. But a high budget usually results in better production values, and more effective marketing. Unfortunately it is a vicious cycle. Local shows are strapped for finances. As a result corners are cut, compromises made, resulting in most performances lacking the pizzazz and the wow factor. Audiences come home disappointed, and their opinion of local shows being of inferior quality becomes increasingly ingrained in their psyche.
Singapore musicals are still in their infancy. Do you agree?
Musicals in the West have been evolving over the course of 100 years, whereas Singapore's first musicals were staged in 1988, only 21 years ago. We have on average had about 2 to 4 original musicals publicly performed annually in these 21 years. This is in contrast to the 40 or more musicals produced annually in Broadway and West End, of which in good years, some 10-20 are newly written musicals.
What is lacking and what are the strengths of Singapore musicals?
Because of the relative poverty of musicals staged by local theatre companies, it has been a struggle to sustain a thriving musical theatre industry. There are too few opportunities for writers and composers to have their works staged. This results in directors not getting the opportunity to direct, performers getting the opportunity to perform, and technical crew getting the opportunity to develop their expertise. Furthermore, this affects the quality of musicals because we do not have a strong base of outstanding directors and performers. When the public watches a Singapore musical, they are often disappointed, and they may not return to watch another made-in-Singapore musical. Hence the audience base for local musicals is very small.
On the other hand, we do have our own Singapore stories to tell. We are situated in Southeast Asia and we are influenced by many Asian musical and theatre styles. Our ability to fuse eastern and western styles may prove advantageous. Hence our potential for creating a genuine Singapore musical fashion is not only possible, but given time, is very likely.
Has the local arts scene developed in any way as compared to previous years?
The arts scene has improved dramatically (sorry for the lame choice of word) over the past few decades. Before 1988 there were no locally written musicals. Nowadays we can look forward to a few new made-in-Singapore musicals each year. Overall, production values have improved, with better singers, actors, dancers, sets, sound, and lighting. Audience size has expanded, and there is a larger core group of supporters. There are more venues for staging shows, but the price of rental has remained high.
Why aren't we developing our own brand of musicals?
We are strongly influenced by Western musicals, and the big mega musicals like Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables and Cats, have made their mark in Singapore. Audiences like to watch these large scale spectacular musicals, and they in turn influence the style of musicals written.
Furthermore, producing musicals is relatively expensive compared to straight plays and concerts. We do not have sufficient financial support from either government or private companies. Few production companies are prepared to take the risk of staging new local musicals.
Writers and composers therefore have scarce opportunities to see their works staged, and many are discouraged from writing. Without a flurry of new works, our prospects of evolving our own brand of musicals is dimmed.
What is the solution? The answer is if you want to create a brand of musical unique to Singapore, there must be more concerted and pro-active support by the National Arts Council together with the private sector.
What does it take to make our own world-class musicals?
We need to tell our own special Singapore stories in a way that engages our audience. To be world-class the quality of the musicals must be of the highest level, with world-class performers and staging. This requires a leap of faith and courage to write ground-breaking original musicals coupled with the best production values. It is only through writing and staging many more musicals that will enable us to push our standards up to an international level.
What elements would go into it?
We should be more willing to explore Asian music and theatre. On the one hand we can explore the fusion of Western and Eastern styles, and on the other, we should write about ourselves, and let our imagination soar. We need to explore developing our musicals with film, television, puppetry, multimedia, animation, and computer games. There is considerable creative synergism when different media meet.
In general, we need to continue writing and to stage more original musicals, at ticket prices that people can afford, so we can develop a new audience base.
What about turning local stories into huge stage musicals?
Indeed, we have a wealth of local stories, myths, and folk tales. This is a huge reservoir of untapped stories, to be told in our own incomparable way. Huge stage musicals are expensive and the risk of failure is high.
Therefore, to start off, we should do small-to-medium-scale musicals, until we are confident in producing quality musicals.
Do you think we can export our musicals around the world?
Yes, I believe there is a hunger for new musicals worldwide. A local Singapore story with universal themes can be exported internationally. We need to concentrate on creating a large number of original works because it is unpredictable which ones can be exported.
What stories or material are worth turning into stage musicals?
Personal stories, historical stories, myths, and folk tales are eminently suitable for turning into stage musicals. But in essence, we are only limited by our own imagination. It used to be said that horror, action, and extremely sad stories are not suitable for musical theatre. However, this is being disproven, as musicals in these genres are being produced and gaining popularity. In short, the sky's the limit!
Singapore has seen a rise in the staging of local musical like Beauty World, Forbidden City, Man of Letters, Sleepless Town, etc. In your opinion, what could have contributed to this? (i.e. larger audience? Esplanade’s drawing power?)
Local musicals can tell stories and touch Singaporeans in ways that imported foreign shows may fail to do. The audience is there. But there are not enough local musicals being written and staged.
Every production of a new musical is important. It sparks the creative process, it helps discover new talent, and it widens the audience base. Furthermore, for the creators of new musicals, each time one is staged, something will be learnt, new experiences gained. This is absolutely essential for the evolution of musical theater, and in time, we will find our own unique Singapore artistic voice.
The Esplanade has been actively encouraging the incubation of new works, and they should be applauded for this. Our audience size is expanding, but it is still relatively small. Local shows can barely last more than a couple of months at best. We could market our shows better both locally and to the region. Perhaps the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board could be more active in tapping on the tourist market.
What are your views on the local market for musicals: Is Singapore ready? Do we have to stick to certain formulas e.g. commercial mass appeal? Or should we merely import Broadway scripts to succeed?
The best time to develop and market our musicals is now. We need a multi-pronged approach. There is value in producing well-known musicals, like Cabaret and Little Shop of Horrors. We get to see what the international standard is, and this allows us to benchmark ourselves.
However, we must develop our own Singapore musical. While considerable latitude should be given to the writing-composing teams, this does not mean there is a free-for-all. Sadly, some artists tend to forget there is an audience, and become a little too self-indulgent. The result is that their works may either be incomprehensible or somewhat boring. Hence the need for intelligent reviews, especially by the critics writing for the mass media.
The problem of nurturing our own creative works is made more difficult by the relative lack of support by our institutions. For example, there have been no Singapore musicals in the main program of the Singapore Festival of Arts for the past 10 years.
With large productions being staged here, can Singapore be the 'Broadway of the East'? Hollywood for musical performance? Or do we have a long way to go?
Yes, Singapore can indeed be the Broadway of the East. We have several unique attributes. Firstly, there is a wealth of stories waiting to be told in the genre of musical theater. We also have a fascinating variety of Asian music, with different rhythms and different instruments. Our talent pool is immense, and largely untapped. We have not reached the stage where musical theater prohibitively expensive to stage.
We have a long way to go. Funding Singapore shows is immensely difficult, and attracting large audiences to watch our local shows is an uphill struggle. Our talent is still not quite world-class in ability, but we are reaching international standards very rapidly. We are at a critical level of development, for we have the creative talents, but limited opportunities to stage the musicals that have been written. If we are truly to become a major tourist attraction, integrated resorts notwithstanding, we need to have a more vibrant arts scene, and our institutions should take a more proactive role.
What do you think is the formula for success for theater productions in Singapore? i.e. adopt Broadway productions, scripts, engage world class directors, train local talents, etc.
Musical theater is a collaborative art form. Every element must work for a show to be successful. The corollary is that failure in any one of its components can result in failure of the entire show. Thus, the main elements of success are:
a) Teamwork: collaborative creativity is one of the most difficult and yet the most vital skill that we must learn in Singapore. Choosing the right team is critical for success.
b) Attention to detail: it is said that a musical is not written, but rewritten. One needs to adopt a perfectionist attitude. The book, the lyrics, the music, the choreography, arrangement, performance, etc., needs to be close to perfect. This can only be achieved by paying attention to detail, and polishing until the performance sparkles.
c) Training: we should learn from the best, and therefore going overseas for training in musical theater is important. Inviting foreign directors, choreographers, are part of the learning process, but it is important that there is transfer of technology. It is sometimes far too easy to invite a famous overseas person for the sake of selling a show, but if there is no attempt to have the person give workshops, tutorials, master classes, it is an effort that goes to waste.
d) Flexible mind set: we should not have any rigid mind set about musical theater. Often I encounter people who tell me that they do not support musicals because it is too expensive, too old-fashioned, too plebeian, too superficial, and too western. Of course, musical theater can be all of the above, and also, none of the above. It is up to us to create our own unique and distinct art form. Thus, we should all keep our minds open and flexible.
Having said all this, I don't anybody really knows what the formula for success is!
Why do kids seem to love musicals, and how can we foster and turn them into a loyal audience base?
Musical theatre is telling a story through a combination of acting, singing, and dancing. It is a very entertaining art form, and with the aid of music, can be very powerful emotionally. Provided we produce quality musicals that can speak and touch our audiences, we will find a very large and loyal audience. Families love musicals, and children are often enthralled by the experience. It is good to start young, and introduce musicals into schools.
Where will Singapore go in the next ten years?
Development in the arts needs to expand in all directions. At the high end, we need to create high quality shows that can travel internationally. This can only be done if attention is given to the developmental process. Incubation of new works is a high priority in this regard, and funding should be given for this. Training singers, actors, dancers, directors, choreographers, and technical staff, etc., need to be enhanced. More courses should be made available, and subsidies given to allow more people to attend these classes.
Production costs for world-class musicals is high, and therefore a system of selecting the best for financial support should be set up. At the community, schools and tertiary educational institution level, encouragement should be given, not only for the writing of new works, but also in having more opportunities to showcase the works and talents. This is where young and promising talent can be spotted and nurtured. Also, those who have been involved in musical theater productions, then to be the most ardent supporters. Therefore, schools, tertiary institutions, and community centers need to have an active program that is focused on the promotion of musical theater.
You have been known to advocate musical theater in Singapore, being the brain child of Five Foot Broadway, a program that staged 5 locally produced musicals. Why the initiative and how has it helped?
Actually we have already staged over 30 new Singapore musicals under this initiative, and we are continuing our successful incubation program. Content is king, and we are focusing our efforts in creating new Singapore musicals. We have discovered that Singapore has a large pool of tremendously talented individuals in the creative as well as in the performance side. All these people need are encouragement and opportunities to showcase their works.
The spinoffs are important and wide-ranging. These include the creation of a wide range of new musicals. Collaboration with filmmakers, animation and games creators, television, puppetry, and the music industry, is already under way, and it underscores the centrality of musical theater in media and entertainment. Musical theater is an important art form in its own right, and there is cross-fertilization with other creative industries.
In these difficult economic times we believe that more support is critical in ensuring that this art form continues to grow and evolve. Our National Arts Council needs to play a more pro-active role in this regard.
Prescription for the Development of Musical Theatre in Singapore
by Kenneth Lyen
“What drives the economy today is human creativity.”
- Richard Florida author of The Rise of the Creative Class
Musical theatre in Singapore is still relatively undeveloped compared to Broadway or the West End. Since the staging of the first Singapore musicals in 1988, there has been some progress over the past 21 years. However, development has been uneven, and the better “Singapore” shows are actually written at least in part by non-Singaporeans e.g. the book and lyrics for Forbidden City is written by Stephen Clark, and for A Twist of Fate, the lyrics are written by Anthony Drewe, and the book by Stephen Dexter and Tony Petito.
While it is expedient to get higher quality bookwriters and lyricists from abroad, this is definitely not the way to go in the long run. Indeed it has often been commented that Forbidden City and A Twist of Fate do not feel like musicals with a Singapore sentiment. Indeed they are really quite un-Singaporean, and they do not represent Singapore artistically or spiritually.
To put us back on the right track in creating Singapore musicals, I believe the Government should play a key role. It needs to focus specifically on musical theatre, and to draw up a coherent long-term strategy.
Why musical theatre? Because this is the centrepiece of the performing arts, embracing all its major elements, including acting, music, dance, and multimedia. Musical theatre can complement the related entertainment industry, including television, film, animation, advertising, and design. As an added bonus, musical theatre has the potential to a revenue generator in its own right, supporting the tourist industry, and becoming a major player when the integrated resorts become established. Finally, musical theatre plays an important role in encouraging social cohesion, and through its stories, music and dance, it will help us find our own unique creative and artistic heart.
What is the current state of musical theatre in Singapore? Let us look at the development of Singapore’s musical theatre from different perspectives. One can examine the state of musical theatre from a developmental standpoint, seeing where we have been in the past, and where we are going in the future. Are we going to follow the West, or are we going to develop our own unique voice? One can look at musicals from a bird’s eye view, seeing where it stands in relation to the overall state of Singapore entertainment, and how it will fit in with the integrated resorts and tourist industry. One can also examine musical theatre from an economic perspective, how it will enhance Singapore as a creative city, and how it can help attract and keep creative people in Singapore.
This last point is worth emphasizing. The increasing importance of the creative industries in our economy, the need to attract and retain creative people, and the necessity of anchoring people to its social fabric and cultural roots, make musical theatre an ideal vehicle for enhancing creativity and social cohesion.
Why? The reason is that a musical is a collaborative art form par excellence. The members of musical theatre’s creative team are of equal or near-equal importance, and this makes it one of the best training grounds for developing group creativity.
Musical theatre is at the crossroads of several art forms. It combines bookwriting, lyric writing, music composition, and choreography. It requires the performers to act, sing, and dance. Set designers, sound designers, and lighting designers, work together to create the appropriate atmosphere essential for theatre. All this is done in real-time, and therefore allows for immediate review, and changes can be made on the spot.
Musical theatre is also at the junction between live theatre, and the film industry. Royston Tan’s film, “881" and “Lotus 12” are two good examples where musical theatre (getai) can touch the nerve of the nation, generate some revenue at the same time. This film musical is also exportable, and by being shown overseas, it will enhance Singapore’s reputation.
Unfortunately, Singapore’s musical theatre industry is lagging behind, despite being around for 21 years. This is attributable, to a significant extent, to its neglect by the Singapore Government. There are grants given to playwriting and screenwriting, but none for the writing of, music composition and choreography of new musicals. The performance and technical complexities of staging a musical compared to a straight play means that more time is needed for mounting a production. However, no help is given to cover the increased staging costs.
The National Arts Council has advised musical theatre creators to write small-scale “chamber” musicals, and to volunteer for the neighborhood arts festivals. This has led to the writing of small-scale and cheap-to-stage musicals. While this is good for the short-term, I have some reservations about the implications of this advice. Currently, Singaporeans are directing their energies into writing and performing low-cost small musicals. These are unlikely to generate much revenue, are less likely to be exportable, and tend to be mired in the realm of amateur or community theatre. To date the National Arts Council has given relatively little financial support to content development for musical theatre.
I believe there should be no restrictions on creativity. Some musicals are small-scale, and others are large-scale. We should not exclude the development of mega-musicals.
To redress the problems faced by the entertainment industry in general, and musical theatre in particular, there needs to be greater Government and corporate involvement. I would like to make the following practical recommendations. I am aware that there are some grants already available (eg scholarships for individuals in the performing arts). As for grants for creative writing, the eligibility criteria are sometimes a but too stringent so, that organizations that need this support are not receiving it.
A. CREATIVE WRITERS, COMPOSERS, CHOREOGRAPHERS
1. Annual grants for writing new musicals.
2. Annual scholarships or bursaries for talented writers, composers and choreographers to go overseas to study the writing/ composing/ choreographing for musical theatre.
B. DEVELOPMENTAL WORKSHOPS AND STAGING
1. Annual grants for development and workshopping new musicals.
2. Grants to invite prominent overseas writers/composers/choreographers to come to Singapore to conduct workshops and give keynote addresses.
3. Annual grants for Singapore artists in residence (creative) to write and teach.
4. Annual grants for workshop no-frills staging of the newly developed musicals.
C. STAGING AND FILMING
1. Annual grants to stage the best musical at the Singapore Festival of the Arts or an equivalent festival.
2. Annual grant to bring a Singapore musical overseas.
3. Travel bursaries for directors, performers, technical personnel, and the creative team, to accompany and perform in the Singapore musical overseas.
4. Assistance in advertising and marketing Singapore musicals both in Singapore and overseas.
5. Grants for filming musicals for television and for feature films.
D. AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT
1. Encourage schools to perform musicals, especially musicals written by Singaporeans for Singapore schools.
2. Allow the use of Edusave or other similar funds to encourage school children to attend musicals.
3. Encourage corporations, community groups, retirees, disabled people, to have musicals specially written for them, and wherever possible, to have community groups retirees, and disabled people perform these musicals.
E. FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS
1. To research and develop new forms of musicals, and to help bridge musicals with other media, e.g. internet, multimedia, animation, film, puppetry, “Cirque du Soleil” style of performance, etc.
2. To foster links of musical theatre with all the other art groups in Singapore.
3. To consider the development of an annual Asian Festival of Musicals, similar to the annual New York Musical Theatre Festival http://www.nymf.org/ . Already Korea, Japan and Malaysia are writing and staging new musicals, and shortly China will follow suit. We need to take the initiative and prepare for such an Asian festival of musicals.
The role of musical theatre and its role in the shaping of Singapore’s future will depend on the steps taken today. We are at a critical junction. Judicious and wise policies established now will have a profound impact for the future.
It is the creative individual that the future of Singapore will depend.
Content Development for Musical Theatre
by Kenneth Lyen
The Singapore Renaissance City Plan III report published in 2008 concluded: "Content is at the core of arts, culture and the creative industries. While technology has advanced rapidly, creating new platforms for creative content, at the heart of every work is a story to tell. Writer, composers, choreographers, artists and curators are story-tellers that draw on their past and their imagination to create artistic works that delight and educate. Some of these works will go on to drive the digital media, television and design sectors as intellectual capital."
What are the problems associated with developing new musicals, and why is it so critical to assist writers and composers in this process?
Musical theatre is a highly complex collaborative art form requiring the combination of skills from different talents, including storytelling, music and movement. Getting a musical right is much more formidable than with a straight play. Writing a musical can be likened to assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece must be placed exactly. If you remove one song, you might land up with two ballads in a row, which could affect the scene’s momentum. Or if you add an extra song to a minor character, you might undermine a main character’s developmental arc.
Mastering the craft of writing a musical is a long journey that requires guidance. All roads lead to Rome, and this is equally true of musical theatre writing. You can start with a synopsis or plot outline, or you can start with fashioning the main characters. You can start with the book or the songs. No matter which route you take, it is usually difficult for rookie writers and composers to come up with a masterpiece on their first attempt.
Each participant is assigned a mentor. A series of readings in front of experienced writers, directors, and performers, who are primed to give diplomatic critiques, is invaluable in the developmental process. A set of assessment rubrics has been developed to allow for more accurate and detailed evaluation of the musical.
1. The first reading focuses on the book and story.
2. The second reading adds singing of the songs.
3. The third is a concert-like performance of the entire musical with no sets, no costumes, and scripts held in the hand.
4. The fourth and final step is a no-frills performance in a small stage.
It is through such a process that we can develop thrilling, vibrant and ground-breaking musical theatre.
Major cities with a thriving musical theatre scene have organizations dedicated to the creation of new works. These include:
a) New York BMI Musical Theatre Workshop http://www.bmi.com/genres/C2687
b) Chicago Theatre Building http://www.theatrebuildingchicago.org/
c) Mercury Musical Developments http://www.mercurymusicals.com/
These companies have played important roles in developing new musicals in New York, Chicago, and London respectively. The developed musicals are then showcased to production houses, who, if they like the musical, take the show to the commercial stage.
We have studied the above models when in 2004 we set up Musical Theatre Society (later called Musical Theatre Limited) to develop original Singapore musicals.
The founding members have already had 10 years’ experience in writing and staging Singapore musicals before setting up Musical Theatre Limited. In a few short years, we have already established an outstanding track record in identifying and nurturing writers, musicians, choreographers, directors, and performers. Since our formation, we have successfully staged over 30 new Singapore musicals. Among our alumni are Iskandar Ismail, Bang Wenfu, Kenny Ngo, Clement Yang, Jack Ho, who are now very successful professional musicians. Our writers include Stella Kon, Robert Yeo, Ng Yi-Sheng, who are also successful professionals. In addition, we have discovered and mentored more than a dozen younger writers and composers.
One of the songs written by Sean Wong for the musical “Heartstrings” was picked up by Universal Music for one of their Hong Kong pop singers. The musical "Georgette", featuring the life of pioneer Singapore artist Georgette Chen, has received critical acclaim, and we brought it overseas for a performance in Manila in 2008. Our puppet musical "The Legend of Red Hill" has won second prize in an international puppet festival in 2008. We were invited to write the television musical "School House Rockz" received the highest AC Nielsen rating of 11% by a local show, and was nominated for an Asian Television Award 2008.
Musical Theatre Limited has developed musical content not only for live stage, but also for television, movies, puppetry, and for the pop music industry. In future, we will be exploring the writing of musicals for animation and new media.
Musical Theatre Limited is ideally placed to help Singapore develop quality content for musical theatre and its allied industries, and to propel Singapore into the international arena.
THE FUTURE OF MUSICAL THEATRE
Where Is Musical Theatre Heading?
Showboat in 1927 ushered the American book musical, where story became unified with the songs. Over the next few decades, musical theatre has changed.
The 30s and 40s were dominated by the jazz influences of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Rodgers & Hart, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, and Sigmund Romberg.
The 50s and 60s were led by the melodic strains of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, Frank Loesser.
The 70s and 80s were eclipsed by the European mega-musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Schönberg and Boublil. Some American shows had a renaissance with Marvin Hamlisch and Ed Kleban’s A Chorus Line, and the musicals of Stephen Sondheim.
The 90s and 2000s were characterized by the music of Stephen Schwartz, Frank Wildhorn, Jonathan Larsson, and the Disney musicals.
The musical styles of each decade lag behind but eventually reflect the contemporary styles of that era.
Is Musical Theatre Dead?
It is true that the cost of mounting musicals has escalated, and the mean age of the audience has been rising. Most new musicals never survive. At several points in time, journalists and soothsayers have predicted the end of musical theatre. They have been consistently wrong. Musical theatre seemed to lie at death’s door, but at the last minute, always managed to be resuscitated.
In evolutionary biology, an organism adapts to different environments by changing its characteristics. In an analogous way, that’s what’s happening to musical theatre. It constantly adapts in order to survive.
How Has Musical Theatre Adapted?
Here are a few ways that musical theatre has adapted to the ever-changing environment:
These are musicals using the songs written by one songwriting team or band as the framework to construct a story linking these songs. In the classical jukebox musical, the lyrics of the original songs cannot be changed. Examples of jukebox musicals are Mamma Mia!, Across the Universe, and All Shook Up. A subset of the jukebox musical is the "bio musical", which also uses the songs of a songwriter or band to retell the life story of that composer or band. An example of this is The Buddy Holly Story.
This is in contrast to the "hotchpotch musical" (my terminology), where the story has already been written, and songs from a variety of composers and genres are selected to fit into that story. An example of this is Moulin Rouge, which uses non-original songs to fit into it. These are songs from The Sound of Music, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Elton John’s Your Song, and many others. A subset of the hotchpotch musical I will refer to as the "hotchpotch musical revue". An example of this is Menopause, which has no story line, but uses well-known songs but tweaks the lyrics to fit the scenes. Other examples are the Forbidden Broadway series satirizing musical theatre.
The "musical revue" is not new, but like insects, it has considerable survival instincts. It is a show based on a theme, where original songs are written to a unifying subject, usually devoid of story, or if present, the plot is usually very weak. An example of this is I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Other examples are Side by Side by Sondheim, Closer Than Ever, etc. Some people have argued that Andrew Lloyd Webber-TS Eliot’s Cats fits more comfortably as a musical revue.
A "dance musical" is one where the dance component predominates, and there are examples where the musical may not even contain any songs. An example of this is "Movin’ Out", and Contact. The latter drew considerable controversy when it won the 2000 Tony Award for Best Musical, as it was mainly dance, used only prerecorded music, and there was no singing. A "dance musical revue" is a theme-based dance show, without a story line. An example of this is Fosse. A variation of the "dance musical" is the "kung fu musical" where pugilistic fighting sequences are choreographed to music. An example of this is Soul of Shaolin.
The borrowing of ideas from films is neither new nor original. But it does draw on the popularity and heavy marketing already done for the films. The resulting stage musical succeeds commercially and artistically more often than we might care to admit.
All these forms, and many others (e.g. TV or film musicals, animation musicals, puppet musicals, plays with music, computer games with interactive musical theatre songs, etc.) are, in my opinion, good for musical theatre as a whole, because they widen the audience base, and bring in a new generation of musical theatre aficionados..
Purists and traditionalists will always decry these new variations. However, musical theatre is an evolving art form, and will continue to change. It needs to, in order to survive into the distant future.
Finding the New Audience
Critical to the future success of musical theatre is finding a new and younger audience. There are several places to look for them.
The first is to see what attracts present day teenagers. What you hear on MTV and top of the charts may be the place. There is a slew of hip-hop television and film musicals, which are very popular. So updating the musical style is one important way to attract a new audience.
The second area to explore is that of the live performance band. Perhaps musicals might need to adopt some of the techniques used by successful rock bands. Is it the star power, or is it the loud sounds, or is it herd behavior that makes them so wildly successful?
The third is to find the medium that best massages the audience. The current success of interactive online games and touch-screen devices may give a clue as to where musical theatre might need to venture forth. Who knows, maybe Ninetendo Wii has already invented something akin to their Guitar Hero for musical theatre?
It is conceivable that perhaps cross-cultural studies might give some clues as to how musical theatre can survive. For example, Bollywood films are predominantly musicals. How did they endure so many decades?
Finally, maybe we should cater to the short attention span of the MTV or post-Y-generation (the grandchildren of the Baby Boomers). Short musicals, lasting 10-15 minutes, seem to be garnering an increasing audience.
I am therefore always optimistic about its future. It may change radically. It may be swallowed up by new technology, like the internet or interactive touch screen technology, or three-dimension cinema. It might well change its spots and become quite unrecognizable. But that is the potential power of musical theatre. If it were to go under, then, like the legendary phoenix, it will always arise again from the ashes.
Sleepless Town the musical is about Nora, a troubled girl who is brought to an eerie fantasy place called Sleepless Town. It is a world of lawlessness and darkness, ruled by a Queen of all Evil, Black Azira. She wants to immortalize herself by depriving inhabitants of their dreams which in effect will kill them. To thwart Azira, Nora tries to enlist the help of the superheroes Flying Fox, the Batman lookalike, Sparrowman, the Robin lookalike, and The Incredible Bulk (whose hulky frame bulges to excess). But these superheroes are quite pathetic and totally useless. Eventually Nora has to battle Black Azira on her own.
We now live in an era where superheroes tend to be depicted as flawed people. The authors could have tackled the material as a satire, like Hancock or The Incredibles. Alternatively it could have taken the over-the-top politically incorrect route like The Rocky Horror Show or Spamalot. A musical set in a gothic fantasy world, with weird, menacing characters, could have adopted the style of a horror genre. As an aside, the experience of horror musicals is that they have almost always failed. Only comedies masquerading as horror musicals, like The Evil Dead, have succeeded.
The path chosen by Sleepless Town turns out to be the worst. Yes, there are moments of outrageous behavior reminiscent of The Rocky Horror Show and Spamalot. This would have worked if the musical was a comedy and did not take itself too seriously. Sleepless Town started comically, but soon became very ponderous.
If this is a show about a child’s dream and how she combats her own personal demons, then the emphasis on sex, especially in the dance numbers, is excessive.
The unexpected raping of Nora by her stepfather, her mother’s attempt to murder him, acts of uncalled-for cruelty, coupled with Nora’s encounter with the father who had died some time ago, turns the musical into a tragic melodrama. This is out of keeping with the rest of the show and inconsistent with its cast of wacky characters. It catches the audience off balance because up to that point, it still perceives the musical as a comedy. This failure to choose an appropriate general tenor consistent with the storyline and characters ultimately proves fatal.
The opening and closing has Aristotle, played by Mark Richmond, narrating the story in poetic meter. The spoken dialogue, however, does not continue this poetic form, and therefore becomes quite jarring. The plot is badly developed, and is generally quite confusing. The needs of each of the characters are also not well expressed. There is no dramatic tension and in the first half, we do not root for any of the characters.
Jason Tan’s music is quite good, but the songs tend to be a bit flat and could do with more build up into a climax. The lyrics are uninspiring.
Many of the songs do not have a developmental arc. For example, Nora’s song “I’ll Find My Way” has a nice melody line and lyrics...
One day I’ll fly far away
When there is nothing here for me to stay
I know there ‘s somewhere I have to be
Every night I’ll pray
That I’ll find my way
To find me
... but I wish it went further to explore how she might find herself.
A couple of the songs could have been taken out or shortened without significant loss. The song featuring historical villains, like Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, has great promise, but the comic potential is not brought out by the lyrics. There are jokes scattered throughout, but they are too few and far between.
The musical picks up in the second half. The two duets between Nora and her father, and between Nora and her mother, are very touching, and they are the highlights of this musical.
Overall the cast is very strong. Special mention must be made of Julia Abueva who plays Nora, and Karen Tan, playing her mother. Elena Wang, as Black Azira, has a very fine voice, and is convincingly wicked. Andrew Lua makes a rather comic Incredible Bulk, and Chua En-Lai fits his role as an oddball.
The sets are remarkably effective and one must congratulate Eucien Chia. The choreography by Zaini Mohd Tahir is imaginative and the dancing well-synchronized.
Sleepless Town starts off with great promise, but fails to deliver. It is marred by a poor script and lackluster lyrics. The good music, the excellent singing, are not able to lift the musical out of its messy plot. However, this musical is salvageable with a more critical rewrite.
Director: Beatrice Chia-Richmond
Writer: Mark Richmond
Composers: Don Richmond and Jason Tan
Music Director: Elaine Chan
Choreographer: Zaini Mohd Tahir
Set Designer: Eucien Chia
Lighting Designer: Dorothy Png
Sound Designer: Shah Tahir
Costume Designer: Frederick Lee
Vocal Coach: Amanda Colliver
Cast: Julia Abueva, Karen Tan, Elena Wang, Mark Richmond, Andrew Lua, Bobby Tonelli, Chua Enlai, Daniel Boey, Edwin Sumun, Farhan Hassan, Gordon Choy, Josephine Tan, Matt Jasper, Theodor Paulsen, Zachary Goh
It's My Life: the musical
Book: Chong Tze Chien
Lyrics and Direction: Lim Yu-Beng
Music and Music Direction: Bang Wenfu
Choreography: Ricky Sim
Additional Music: David Tan, Corinne May
Performances 27 Nov - 5 Dec 2008 at the University Cultural Centre, Singapore
It's My Life is about ten teenage auditioneers, who are informed right at the start of the musical, that they have been chosen. The show that they are to perform in, it is explained, will be based on their own personal life stories. They have to talk about their families, their school, their friends, their dreams, and that forms the premise of the musical.
Comparison with A Chorus Line is inevitable. To try to obviate, at least in part, any potential bias, I therefore asked some of the younger audience members who had not seen A Chorus Line to comment about the show. The consensus is that they are rather underwhelmed by It’s My Life, and they said that the show did not work for them. Despite the individual elements of performance, music, direction, choreography, sets and lighting being excellent, the pieces do not seem to fit together, and the show is indeed flawed. I will try to dissect the cause of this.
It's My Life is an unconventional musical, and like A Chorus Line, it departs from the classical Aristotelian dramatic structure. Therefore, it depends on other factors to propel it forwards and to maintain audience attention. A Chorus Line is about the callous elimination process of an audition, and considerable tension is generated as you are left on tenterhooks wondering whether a candidate will succeed or fail. This apprehension is conspicuously absent in It's My Life, because the results are announced at the outset. The ensuing loss of tension robs the show of interest, and it is not adequately replaced by anything compelling.
A Chorus Line establishes very clearly each main character's motivations and reasons why they want so desperately to succeed. The teenagers in It's My Life talk in vague terms about their dreams ("I want to study the arts"), and to make matters worse, some of them are easily thwarted by external pressures, and discard their dreams. They do not appear to have the inner strength or drive to want to pursue their passions. They have abandoned their dreams without much of a fight, which weakens their internal conflict, and audiences' emotional involvement gradually wanes.
In A Chorus Line, each individual lead performer sings about his or her life story. In It's My Life, the teenagers act out their lives, largely devoid of song. The result is that the harsher elements of their lives are not cushioned by music, and they become overwrought actors appearing in a kitchen soap drama, and this further reduces our sympathies for them. This applies to Farouk and Sharon’s stories. Song could have amplified the humor in Arif, Xie Ting, and Awang’s stories, and the pathos in Corey’s life. But sadly a great opportunity was wasted.
In A Chorus Line, there is quite a wide range of musical styles and there are some memorable tunes. The music in It's My Life is a bit like Sondheim at his unmelodic worst, backed by a rock band. This is not to say that the music is bad. Far from it. The music is actually very good, but it is in the wrong show. For a musical about present-day teenagers, there is no hip hop, no alternative indie rock. As one critic said, the music sounds rather dated.
The abrupt introduction of a religious (?Christian) scene toward the end of the second half sticks out like a sore thumb. Divine intervention, apparently converting sinners into goodie twoshoes, acts as a deus ex machina that resolves some of the conflicts, and this makes one cringe.
Character development is, to me, an important part of any successful musical. Unfortunately, because there are ten leads, all competing for equal attention, each with ten different stories to tell, many of the characters do not have enough time to be developed adequately. Perhaps reducing some of the leads into supporting roles might enlarge the time given to selected leads, and allow them to become more rounded personalities. As it is, they are all rather cardboard.
Several scenes are unique and initially quite interesting. For example the scene with the characters listening to their MP3 players, each with their own brand of music, is quite refreshing. The same goes for the internet scene, when they try to describe themselves online. The stomp-like scene where they slap themselves rhythmically and play with a water container is also quite interesting. Unfortunately all these scenes are repetitive and a little bit too long. Without fresh ideas thrown in every couple of minutes, the novelty soon wears off, and the scene rapidly becomes tedious.
The life stories are revealed too quickly and without much prompting. This is a little unbelievable in the Asian context, where innermost thoughts and family secrets are usually held in abeyance. There is one romantic story, but other than that, there is relatively little substantial meaningful interaction between the characters.
Ultimately the unconventional structure lacking a cohesive story line militates against the musical. As mentioned above, A Chorus Line overcomes this by constructing a story where the characters fervently want to succeed, and the audience becomes intensely apprehensive of the audition results and the fate of the cast members. Without such a compelling backdrop, It's My Life is bereft of purpose. A Chorus Line constantly reminds you that the performers are auditioning for a forthcoming stage show. This aspect is almost entirely forgotten in It's My Life, and the director completely disappears in the second half.
What are the redeeming features? There are several. Firstly the performers are young, enthusiastic, and very talented. Their passionate performances and their obvious enjoyment rescue the show. Special mention should be made of Tok Xue Yi, Nabil Aliffi, and Movin Nyanasengaran’s polished performances. The accompanying band is outstanding, and the music itself, despite being in the wrong show and perhaps more suited for a movie, is actually quite stirring. The many innovative scenes, albeit a bit too drawn out, are refreshing to watch, at least initially. The set design by Tan Ju Meng is simple, clever, and effective.
In the final analysis, It's My Life succeeds despite its many shortcomings. It is worth watching.
4 Dec 2008
How Does One Create Highly Talented Individuals?
The 2008 Beijing Olympics has been awe-inspiring. Incredible world records have been broken. Brilliant sportsmen like Michael Phelps from the USA, and Usain Bolt from Jamaica have held us spellbound.
Even Singapore grabbed a little bit of the limelight when it won a silver medal in table tennis. Never mind many of our table tennis players were born and bred in China.
I have been listening to a considerable amount of discussion asking why Singapore isn't doing so well not only in sports, but in other fields such as the arts, film, and science.
One of the excuses given as to why Singapore has not produced its own international talent is that Singapore has too small a population. The theory is that geniuses are produced in a sort of mathematical ratio of one per x million population.
This cannot be true. Take Jamaica, for example. It only has a population of 2.8 million, and yet it has recently won 11 Olympic medals, compared to Singapore’s one medal. Even Ireland, New Zealand, and Croatia, with a population slightly smaller than Singapore have won more medals.
And it is not confined to just Olympic medals, but right across the board, including Nobel prizes and outstanding artists and filmmakers, and scientists. Singapore lags behind in all these fields.
GDP per capita
Olympic Medals (2008)
11 (6 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze)
9 (3 gold, 1 silver, 5 bronze)
5 (2 silver, 3 bronze)
1 (Derek Walcott educated in Jamaica)
Internationally Famous Musicians
Sean Paul, Bob Marley
Sinead O’Connor, James Galway
Natasha Bedingfield, Kiri Te Kanawa
Riva, Stephen Kovacevich, Ivo Pogorelic
Lord Kelvin, Frederick Donnan
Ernest Rutherford, Maurice Wilkins
Vladimir Prelog, Lavoslav Ruzicka
I think the problem lies in Singapore’s educational system. But first, allow me to say what I think is good about our educational system. It is universal, affordable, and the standard of mathematics and science teaching is of the highest quality.
Where it falls short is in the area of sports, arts, and creative thinking. My friend (CKJ) has a son who was very creative, making toys, modifying instruments and coming up with new and improved versions. However, when he entered primary school at the age of 6 years, suddenly his creativity vanished. His father said: “it was simply a question of ‘this is the answer, this is what it is, just memorize it.’”
Indeed school children are crammed with an inordinate amount of facts resulting in information overload. So much time is devoted to memorizing that there is scarcely enough time left for anything else. One example of this is that children are made to remember every single part of a microscope including the names of the little screws and other minor components. They are tested on these relatively unimportant facts, instead of being allowed to explore the microscope, the microscopic universe, and then be guided to think through and work out the principles of optics.
If a science experiment goes askew, the typical Singapore student would just copy the “correct” results obtained by a neighbour. Unfortunately this means that the student would miss out on an important learning opportunity, namely to work out what went wrong, and how the error could have been rectified. The solution to what goes wrong in an experiment is obviously not found in a textbook, and requires hard thinking.
Encouraging students to think for themselves, to devise their own experiments, to work out solutions to problems, and to troubleshoot faults, is distinctly lacking in most Singapore schools.
There are other areas of parochial thinking. For example, it is often assumed that creative thinking takes place almost exclusively in the humanities and not in the sciences. Thus science teachers do not place much emphasis on practical observations, do not challenge current theories, and do not prod students to produce original ideas and works.
Another example of blinkered vision is the overemphasis on the commercial value of everything. For example, scientific research in Singapore is only undertaken if it has to potential to make money. Pure research is frowned upon, because it is perceived that it takes too long to achieve commercial success. This restriction of research trickles down to all thought processes, and everyone edits out any ideas that do not obviously lead to profits.
A third problem is that every project must be measured by key performance indicators (KPI). This includes the performance of teachers, which is measured by how well their students do in exams. Research projects are also subjected to such evaluation. This means that certain results are anticipated, and it distorts the focus and direction of research, which, if it is meant to make profoundly original discoveries, will be thwarted.
Turning to sports, there are several reasons why Singapore has not produced its own indigenous sportsmen. Most of our international-standard representatives are born outside Singapore, and are granted citizenship in the hope that they will represent Singapore. A lack of facilities is not one of the reasons. Indeed Singapore is ranked seventh highest in the world with respect to GDP per capita. We have excellent sports facilities that my Jamaican sports friends would envy. So what is the problem?
I believe it is in the mindset. Sports is not valued as a profession worth pursuing. Most parents would discourage their children from devoting too much time to sports, as they fear this would erode into time for academic studies. Only recently has a sports school been started, but it is too early to evaluate how successful this will become.
Sports teachers are sometimes over-restrictive in their selection of students. If a child wants to participate in a particular sport, he would only be allowed to take part if he were already highly proficient in that sport. Beginners are rejected.
By and large, the same comments also apply to the arts. Parents tend to discourage their children from becoming too involved in the arts, and many teachers prefer to accept only those students who are already proven to be adept in that art. The emphasis is almost entirely on performance, and little value is placed on the creation of original art.
So where do we go from here? Singapore needs to re-evaluate its educational system, to place more importance on independent and original thinking. In this, it needs to sharpen the use of the tools of thought, which includes a higher level of language abilities, artistic, music and bodily-kinaesthetic expression.
An individual should receive a well-rounded, balanced education. Creativity can be cultivated, but it requires a fertile environment that is friendly, encouraging, and allows freedom of thought.
Like the gymnast leaping and somersaulting on a narrow wooden beam, an educational system needs to achieve a similar delicate balance. It is a balance between freedom and discipline, between active self-exploration and passive rote learning, between creative thinking and repetitive drills (divergent versus convergent thinking), between the learner chosing what to learn versus the educator dictating what needs to be learnt.
To achieve this balance is difficult. Any changes in the educational system or method of teaching, will only bear fruits decades later. Therefore, one should not base long-term educational decisions on short-term exam results. It is well recognized that many of our best inventors, entrepreneurs, businessmen, scientists, artists did poorly in exams.
To plan for the future, one encounters a further complication. The fulcrum of what constitutes a balanced education shifts from time to time, making it difficult for educators and administrators to know where precisely to position it in anticipation of future developments. A good example of this is the rise of information technology and computer education in the past few decades.
There is one more factor to consider. To rise to the absolute top of the heap, one needs to be highly motivated and persistent. Listen to the swimmers, athletes, pianists, who all say that they have to train for hours everyday, often giving up other activities and a social life. You might ask: “How can this be regarded as a balanced life?” You would be absolutely right. You cannot have your cake and eat it. At least not initially.
Before I return to the question of balance, there is yet another element to consider. I have been fortunate to have been taught by top scientists, including Nobel prizewinners, and have met a few highly successful entrepreneurs. Almost without exception, they are outstanding original thinkers. They have a keen sense of humor, and they have an unconventional way of thinking. They dare to think differently.
My friend (CKJ) tells me the story of a team of Formula 1 racing car engineers. When designing increasingly powerful engines that make their cars go faster no longer helps one win a race, because all the other cars are equally powerful, this team of F1 engineers met and brainstormed. Instead of concentrating on acceleration, the team’s designers realized that if they turned their attention to deceleration, they could increase the overall speed especially when turning corners. They therefore focused on brake development. If their car could brake just that little bit later at every corner of the track, it would be able to spend that fraction of a second longer at top speed than the other cars. If they added all the corners of a race track on each lap, they could go around it maybe 2 or 3 tenths of a second faster than the other cars of equal engine power, straight-line speed and cornering speed. In F1 terms, where there are over 70 laps, this is a lot.The point here is that it was a bit of really creative thinking by engineers, and indeed their car went on to win.
Talent alone is not sufficient. From the above, it is patently obvious that while innate talent is important, it is not a sufficient condition for winning the Olympics or a Nobel Prize. You need training to develop that talent, you need persistence, and you need to think creatively. Some people add luck to the equation.
Some people add luck to the equation.
Where can education help? I believe that the key to success in education is to remain flexible, to embrace new developments, not to lose sight of balancing the mind and body, and never abandoning the fundamental precepts of cultivating independent thinking, encouraging hard work and persistence, fostering a spirit of creative thinking, a lively sense of curiosity, and a mind that is continuously questioning.
That is the challenge!
25 August 2008
Did Confucius think about multiple intelligences over 2 thousand years before Howard Gardner?
Confucius (551-479 BC) taught that the perfect gentleman had to excel in the following “arts”: mathematics, poetry, music, calligraphy, archery, charioteering, and rituals.
Howard Gardner (1943- present) suggested that each individual had multiple intelligences, and that these included mathematics, verbal-linguistic, music, visual-spatial, bodily kinesthetics, intrapersonal and interpersonal.
Is it possible that Confucius’ notion of a well-rounded person possessing many talents, might be the precursor of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences? If so, his ideas were conceived over 2 thousand years ago. Think about it.
Howard Gardner (1943- )
Confucius (551-479 BC)
Why do we buy tickets to watch a musical? What do we want, what do we look for?
Personally I want to be entertained, to watch a musical with a good story well acted, a variety of stimulating songs beautifully sung, and exciting movement and dance.
Shanghai Blues fails on all counts.
Adapted from a 1984 Hong Kong movie written by Raymond To and directed by Tsui Hark, Shanghai Blues is a Mandarin-language musical set during the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, and the years shortly after the war. Wen Chong, a young patriot and a violinist, meets a young woman, Tu Yun, under a bridge. Both are trying to hide from the invading Japanese. In the dark, and unable to see one another clearly, they fall in love. They promise to meet again under the same bridge after the end of the war, but they are separated before they can discover each other’s name. In due course, Wen Chong returns to Shanghai, unaware that the woman he loves is the nightclub singer living in an apartment just below his. In the meantime, another young lady, Dan Lei, has come to Shanghai looking for her fortune, and Tu Yun is persuaded to share lodgings with her. Dan Lei meets Wen Chong and they fall in love.
The start of the musical is quite well done, and the plot setup is not bad. However, the musical goes downhill from then on. The problem is for how long can you suspend disbelief that Wen Chong and Tu Yun fail to recognize one another? They live literally on top of each other, and they work at the same nightclub, Wen Chong as a waiter, and Tu Yun as a singer. But nothing happens between them for nearly the entire show. When you add in Dan Lei as a potential love triangle, that simply does not work because Wen Chong and Tu Yun remain as uninvolved colleagues.
For a musical that comprises a string of bland songs sometimes sung out of tune, punctuated by a few Maoist-style patriotic songs sans the political passion, and you are heading for two hours of boredom. The lyrics are simply appalling, because they do not rhyme, are far too general, do not advance the plot, and do not even sit comfortably with the melody. The distribution of songs is unbalanced: too many in the first half, and insufficient in the second half. It must be noted that neither the composer nor the lyricist are credited in the program notes or the official website.
The main characters are poorly drawn. We do not know what motivates them. We do not know why Wen Chong is still unattached and looking for Tu Yun after eight years of the Japanese war. Nor do we know why he is willing, at the drop of a hat, to jettison Dan Lei, when he has seemingly fallen in love with her. This poor characterization extends to all the other characters. It is not salvaged by dialogue that is trivial and uninteresting. Although there are a few humorous moments, they are few and far between.
The war is curiously out of the picture throughout the musical. Then, after the war, when the communists rise to prominence, this too is glossed over and given facile treatment. The white industrialist is the scapegoat for all the capitalist ills, and on the day he is to take Tu Yun to London with him, he disappears completely. Some of the main actors overact like a Chinese soap opera. The dancing style is distracting, and often the wrong dance style for the given music.
It must be said that William So, Emma Yong, and Celine Rosa Tan sing and act reasonably well. The supporting cast and ensemble are accomplished. The orchestra sits right in the middle of the stage, which is all right, but sometimes I wish it were out of sight because the musicians’ lighting diverts one’s attention away from the actors.
The major reasons why this musical fails, is the lack of conflict between the characters, the poor use of the drama of war and the communist ideology, and a plot that is much too simplistic and utterly predictable. It is burdened by bland music, poor pitching in some of the singers, suboptimal direction, inappropriate choreography, and a set design that is interesting but too distracting.
In short, this musical is a disaster. It needs a radical revision to make it work.
Playwright: Raymond To Kwok-Wai
Director: Goh Boon Teck
Music Director: Philip Tan
Choreographer: Jeffrey Tan
Cast: William So, Mindee Ong, Emma Yong, Celine Rosa Tan, Oliver Pang, Daniel Jenkins, Darius Tan, Judy Tan, Chua Choon Hui, Gordon Choy
10 January 2008
Five Foot Broadway Mini Musicals 2008
You are invited to submit short musicals for FIVE FOOT BROADWAY MINI MUSICALS. The deadline for submission is 17 March 2008. Registration fee for the first 3 musicals submitted by Singaporeans waived.
This is a new initiative inviting composers and writers to submit scripts for original musicals, lasting from 10 to 15 minutes. The invitation is for the general public, secondary schools and tertiary institutions. Says Stella Kon, Chairperson of Musical Theatre Limited, "This will create a setting where new writers for the musical theatre can come together. Moreover, writing mini musicals is a great way to get beginners started in this craft. The Mini Musicals provide a testing ground to try out the collaboration of the creative team, in the complex task of bringing together the elements of story, music and lyrics."
All submitted entries will be reviewed by a Selection Panel, and up to 6 of them will be presented in June 2008 at the Esplanade, in conjunction with the Singapore Festival of Arts 2008. (Please see http://musicaltheatrelimited.org for more details on the submission process).
School House Rockz
Singapore Kids Central's first made-for-TV musical to be televised 17 Feb 2008. Music and lyrics by Kenneth Lyen, Desmond Moey and Jack Ho. Book by Lynette Chiu, Alina Heng, and Raihan Halim. Directed by Yeo Lay Har and Sharon Tan. Music director Iris Koh, choreographed by Trevelyan Neo. Starring Inka Mader, Shawn Tok, Foo Fang Rong, Shraddha Ramsundar, Amni Mumpuni, and Rosalind d'Almeida.
The title song of School House Rockz written by Jack Ho:
Filming School House Rockz
Rehearsing School House Rockz
Shooting School House Rockz
Foo Fang Rong
Chesty Nutty Bang Bang
Comments by Kenneth Lyen
Singaporeans, as all of us know, have a deficient sense of humor. Especially our civil servants. They spend their lives sitting through one meeting after another, keeping as quiet as a switched off handphone, careful not to voice any personal opinions, and not to take any initiatives. Creativity is absent from their vocabulary, and unpublished studies have shown that this is probably due to a gene deletion.
The Media Development Authority (MDA) is a special subset of the civil service, and is responsible for nurturing the creative industries in Singapore. In other words they are trying to convert Singapore from a left brain to a right brain nation. Unfortunately, the term "creative civil servant" is regarded as an oxymoron. Thus, the senior civil servants in the MDA have decided to dispel their public image as unimaginative dullards, by performing a rap. A rap? You’re joking? No, they wrote an original rap song, danced to it, and filmed it. Serious. And some kind soul posted it on YouTube:
They did not realize that they had exposed themselves to Jonathan Lim. Poor devils. Jonathan used back their own weapon, a rap, and unleashed a torrent of word bullets, scoring hit upon hit on these sitting ducks. Bang! Bang! Quack! Quack!
Flush with victory, Jonathan, an experienced serial killer, brandishes his satirical guns (real guns are banned in Singapore), and goes on his annual rampage, shooting the pompous and the arrogant with verbal chestnuts.
Indeed Jonathan is so successful, that some people liken him to a literary terrorist. It is rumored that Michael Moore may be preparing a documentary called "Dicko", named after Jonathan’s favorite target. No relation to the other Lee family, which he also takes pot shots at.
He takes potter shots at JK Rowling. And he confuses poor Sir Ian who drifts from Gandalf, to Magneto, Dumbledore, King Lear, and to Sarin.
Jonathan is at his best when he tackles Beauty World. At a fraction of the cost, he is able to densely populate the stage with six performers, and keep you in stitches throughout. So much so that you cannot even enjoy a nice nap.
I especially like his skits on the Pirates of the Caribbean, Greased Lightner, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, If There’re Reasons, and 881251. I like the comment on the President’s Star Charity, which precipitated a bout of raucous laughter.
It is a madcap evening. Jokes arrive wave after wave, like a perpetual tsunami. You barely survive one wave, when another one comes and knocks you down. You are sinking into this torrent of intelligent subversion, and your mind drowns in a sea of parody.
But... we have a problem, Houston.
The first problem is that in order to best appreciate the jokes, you need to have seen all the films, plays and musicals referred to. In other words, to derive full value for money when watching Chestnuts, you need to do your homework. I have a suggestion for Jonathan. Please give us advance notice as to which movies, plays and musicals to watch. Or perhaps you can run a pre-show educational course, plus a post-show course, where you can slowly explain all the jokes to dimwitted people like myself. Better still, please provide us with lecture notes followed by a test, so we can see if our score improves from year to year. A Diploma awarded by the Academy of Chestnuts would be a bonus.
The second problem is that the projected English translation of skits in Chinese, is almost unreadable. Hence most of the jokes are lost. I was sandwiched on all sides by non-Singaporeans, and they did not laugh at the Chinese-language skits. Jonathan, you may have to think of some way to translate the jokes into English auditorily, and not rely on the projections.
Chestnuts has grown from a 2-man show to a 6-person show. Jonathan shares the stage with Judy Ngo, Rodney Oliveiro, Celine Rosa Tan, Yeo Yann Yann, and Joakim Gomez. All are brilliant and have perfect comic timing. The music arrangement by Bang Wenfu is just out of this world. Production values are getting better and better. Thanks to Adrian Tan.
Chestnuts is an institution. I think that all Singaporeans should go and watch this year’s Chesty Nutty Bang Bang. Have a really good laugh. Laugh at authority. Laugh at others. Laugh at yourself.
"We are not amused." - Queen Victoria.
Georgette: the Musical
"There is always time for art"
Reviewed by 1. Sarah Ismail 2. Roderick Chia
Production Company: Musical Theatre Limited
Date: 10 June 2007
Place: Esplanade Recital Studio
Book and lyrics: Ng Yi-Sheng
Composer: Clement Yang
Music Arranger/Music Director: Chris Nolan
Director: Lee Yew Moon
Vocal Arranger/Vocal Director: Nicole Stinton
Cast: Seong Hui Xuan, Eu Jin Hwang, CC Leong, Joyce Liang, Lena Lim, Claire Matthews, Marvelina Pratiwi Setiawan, Windson Liong, Les Merquita, Leonard Augustine Choo, Zarelda Marie Goh
1. Reviewed by Sarah Ismail
This review first appeared in Citizen Historian, and reproduced with permission
Just who is that woman on the wall?
The play Georgette begins with this question – appropriate enough for a woman whose early life is relatively unknown. Georgette Chen is mainly known as a pioneering Singaporean artist and one of the few women of that time. As a result, it is Georgette Chen’s arrival at Singapore customs that has captured the attention of heritage boards and historians, examining her impact on the Singapore art scene and her role in Singapore history. If there is a mention of her pre-Singapore activities, it is contained in the following words – born, married, studied, left.
Part of these lacunae is due to resources, rather than the understandable desire to cast a nationalistic cloak on Georgette. Georgette’s Singapore life is well-documented – simply because she was here. By contrast, records of her earlier life lie scattered across three continents, and in all likelihood, gone.
All is left is the question that the play tries to answer - who is Georgette Chen? Throughout the play, her portrait hangs, enigmatic as the Mona Lisa herself.
A narrator begins the musical, introducing us to the mystery of Georgette Chen. From there, the story proper begins at a customs checkpoint in Paris. Georgette Chen is still the bright eyed Chang Liying, and as the customs officer asks for the purpose of her visit, she declares confidently, “To be an artist!”
That customs checkpoint is a leitmotiv of sorts, in Georgette’s life. For the rest of the musical, Georgette bounces from continent to continent, crossing customs and cultures, with a family reunion in China, an art exhibition in New York, a stopover in Malaya. Georgette was a cosmopolitan woman, an enthusiastic traveller, and always in movement.
The sheer energy of the musical brings across this multiplicity of experiences that infused Georgette’s early life. A Moulin Rouge-sque hokey number introduces as to the La Bohemia that is Toulouse-Latrec’s Paris. An awkward family dinner, where modernity clashes with traditional customs, emphasises Georgette’s status of standing between worlds. A completely unnecessary Caribbean-influenced jingle jarrs, but otherwise the music is perfectly serviceable, tapping into common musical genres.
In certain ways this is not so much a musical about Georgette, but about Georgette’s world. By examining the world she lives in, the playwright Ng Yi-Sheng deliberately, or otherwise, compels us to understand the forces that were potentially shaping her worldview. Georgette herself as portrayed in this musical is oddly uncomplicated - she is a fairly standard literary character, that of a rebellious young artist, with a great love that forms her anchor. By focusing on her world, Ng escapes certain problems of having to recreate Georgette with the little textual evidence available, but instead draws on what is commonly known about the greater world to let the audience fill in the blanks themselves.
This has the potential to turn into a messy pastiche, if not for Eugene, Georgette Chen’s first husband and the great love of her life. The strength of their marriage and their mutual affection has been documented in the form of Georgette’s numerous sketches of her diplomat husband. The essence of their relationship plays out across several continents and in a particularly charming song by the narrator. The strength of their marriage sings out bright and clear, despite career paths that sent them in different directions – Georgette in New York for an exhibition, Eugene in Australia for peace talks, and a hopeful rendezvous in Malaya. Here, too, the most unusual aspect of Georgette Chen is illustrated; a powerfully independent career woman, confident of her love and lover.
The story of their love forms the overarching narrative for the early portion of Georgette’s life, framing and punctuating the story being told. A chapter of Georgette’s story ends with Eugene’s death, and she arrives on at a Singapore customs point, much as she began, waiting to paint a new life.
That being said, something more complex than a usual “rich girl bucking against society” would have been interesting. Georgette was unconventional for her time, but unconventionality is getting, well, rather conventional when it comes to historical figures. If only the historical sources had allowed a deeper look into her thoughts on art and representation, which might have given a sense of Georgette’s importance in Singapore art history, other than being unconventional. As it is, the uninformed viewer is left slightly puzzled as to what all the fuss is about this “woman on the wall”.
But for all this faults, Georgette wins on sheer charm, thanks to Ng Yi-Sheng’s deft handling of multiple genres and the English language.
So who is the woman on the wall? The question is repeated at the end, with the chorus in front of easels, Georgette’s portrait watching overhead. Judging by the musical, Georgette could be anything you wanted her to be – devoted lover, independent traveller, patient daughter, and of course, an artist. Now, if only there was a sequel.
Ng Yi-Sheng is a playwright, performance artist, and free-lance writer. Other works include 251 (the Annabel Chong story) and the book SQ21, profiling Singaporean homosexuals. He also has a completed play called The Last Temptation of Raffles, which has been read, but not performed. The reviewer strongly approved of the play, and hints broadly that it’s looking for a sponsor.
2. Reviewed by Roderick Chia
Georgette is a musical based on the life of Georgette Chen, a pioneer Singapore artist. It opens with a young Georgette, fresh-faced with the eagerness of all her 20 years, arriving in Paris in 1927 where her extraordinary story begins.
We are shown her interactions: with a Chinese waiter who accuses her of not being Chinese after she speaks French to help settle an argument between a Parisian couple in a café; with her parents who think that painting is a dalliance and she would eventually channel her energies towards maintaining the aristocratic status of her family; and between herself and Eugene Chen, who was then the Chinese foreign minister and her future husband.
This is Musical Theatre Limited’s Georgette: the musical, featuring the life of unconventional - for her time - artist Georgette Chen, who eventually moved to Singapore and made her mark as a painter and art teacher here. This reviewer was expecting more about Georgette’s life in Singapore where she arrived at the age of 46 in 1953, but the story focuses on her life during her younger, formative years instead.
The first half sets the tone, by centring on the relationship between Georgette and Eugene. Like the protagonist and her life, it is an unconventional pairing. Eugene is an ethnic Chinese who comes from Trinidad in the Caribbean, now in political office in one of the world’s largest and tumultuous countries. He is twice Georgette’s age, and is reserved in his behavior. In contrast, Georgette comes from an affluent background but is a fiercely independent woman. Their love would prove crucial in the second half, where they draw greater strength from one another, especially when they are captured by the Japanese in Shanghai during the second world war.
Georgette is staged within the growing milieu of no-frills, relatively short (one and a half hours with a 15-minute interval) musicals in a venue that does not give many options in terms of special lighting or visual effects.
There is, however, a charming simplicity in the lyrics and acting, props and backdrop. The props are mostly boxes and a number of artists’ pallets. There is also a projector screen featuring Georgette’s paintings and other images in key scenes essential to her story, and helps flesh out the story without the need large-scale sets. An on-stage wardrobe of costume suitcases and a clothes rack further characterises this.
One suspects that anything else would detract from the writer Ng Yi Sheng’s script. His presentation of Georgette mirrors the inspiration he finds in her work, which he describes as "paintings in delicate, tender pastels done with love". The paintings she created is a blend of east and west, a style wholly her own. This is reflected in her own life, which is periodically emphasised throughout the show.
The use of a narrator (Lena Lim) from the beginning helps anchor the story, but it is Georgette (Seong Hui Xuan) herself who provides the true moorings with energy and pathos. Seong, incidentally, bears an intriguing resemblance to the one whose life she portrays. The audience sees this for themselves beginning from scene one, via a self-portrait projected onto the screen on the stage wall.
The dialogue is sharp enough to avoid the pitfalls of bombastic wordplay or convoluted structures and sentences; they serve to bring out the characters and the acting, not the other way around. Like Seong, Eu Jin Hwang uses this to good effect and played Eugene Chen with much gravitas.
Paradoxically the lyrics are largely playful and humorous but this belies the serious undertones. Notable is the family dinner scene where our protagonist, petulant, blurts out her intention to marry Eugene. Western European and Chinese customs also blend and clash, as the characters remind us when they chant-sing "don’t cross your chopsticks" in between a conversation where an unhappy Mr Zhang’s questions the non-traditional way in which his daughter and Eugene are engaged to marry.
Still, kudos should go to composer Clement Yang, music director Chris Nolan and vocal director Nicole Stinton for their superb collaboration in turning this into a gem of a musical.
Eugene dies in captivity, and after Georgette buries him, she recalls his last, unfulfilled wish for her self-portrait. When her father tells her that this isn’t the time to be thinking about art, she replies, "There is always time for art." Georgette Chen stays true to her life of art. And her art, very much like her life, is always her own.
Georgette is an intelligently written musical that succeeds in capturing the life and times of Georgette Chen. Highly recommended.
Roderick dabbled in theatre and acting in his early youth, but always wanted to be a journalist. After getting his degree in journalism, he dabbled in writing web articles and movie reviews and worked as an editor and researcher at a couple of non-profit, non-governmental organisations for a few years. Now in his (much) later youth, he has decided to wise up and go back to school and from there, dabble in other forms of writing and hopefully make more money from it later on. For now, he is content being a freelance writer and an all-round people person, in lieu of something else better to do.
Kopi Shop Rock
reviewed by Kenneth Lyen
Words: Leon Foo
Music: Melissa Liew and Jordan Tan
Directors: Megan Chia, Leon Foo
Producers: Ong Boon Lerk, Emmanuel Duncan Chua
Music Director: Melissa Liew
Cast: Eunice Ng, Francis Cheah, Teo Jin Kuang, Qin Zhiqian, Julia Kan, Susie Ann Smith, Shawn Chan, Evelyn Ong, Kelvin Kek, Chan Kin Yew.
There is a certain element of risk when watching a student production. In most instances one needs to be mentally prepared to try to overlook potential shortcomings. Fortunately, in the case of Kopi Shop Rock, one's trepidations were rapidly dissipated with the very first scene which established the furtive love between the protagonists.
Set in the 1970s, the musical revolves around two rival kopi shops, and three love triangles. Initially it seems that it is going to be a Romeo and Juliet story with the children of the opposing kopi shops falling in love. But the introduction of an external hostile force, namely the Jade Dragon Clan, immediately dismantles the Shakespearean structure.
Joshua (Francis Cheah), the son of kopi shop owner, Mr. Kwan (Qin Zhiqian), is in love with Eliza, (Eunice Ng), the daughter of opposing kopi shop owner, Rose Chan (Julia Kan). However, Eliza’s sister, Melody (Susie Ann Smith), is jealous of their relationship, and she tries to lure Joshua away.
Then there are Mr. Kwan and Rose Chan, owners of these antagonistic kopi shops, who compete with each other for customers. They have known each other several years earlier, and might have married, were it not for Rose's decision to pursue her dream of becoming a cabaret singer. They betray a residual attraction to one another, but to complicate matters, one of Rose's admirers, Towkay Teo (Chan Kin Yew) continues to woo her, and she seems to reciprocate.
The third love triangle is between Rose's niece, Sally (Evelyn Ong), and two young workers for Mr. Kwan, Seng (Shawn Chan), and Allen (Kelvin Kek).
Teo Jin Huang plays Ah Long, the leader the Jade Dragon Clan, and he goes round extorting "protection" money from the two kopi shops. He steals the show with his energetic performance. Melody, Rose Chan's daughter, seduces him, and buys time for the kopi shops to raise money to pay him. After performing a strident rap, he declares "I have no tune, but I have Melody", to hilarious applause.
The general standard of singing and acting was excellent for a student cast. The direction was superb, and the comic timing impeccable.
The script was consistently intelligent, subtle, and witty. The dialogue sparkled, and the lyrics were refreshing, like "not kopi shop inclined" rhyming with "mind". Often the unfinished sentences, the unanswered questions, the pregnant pauses, were so cleverly designed, that it tore right through the usual Asian audiences' reserve, and induced uncontrollable guffaws.
The songs were well-written, with beautiful melodic lines. The band was commendable, but investment in a higher quality keyboard might help enhance the quality of the accompaniment. My only gripe is that there were not enough songs, and I would have liked to alter the ratio of dialogue to song in favor of the latter.
One could quibble about small issues, like the excessive symmetry of the love triangles, whose resolutions were perhaps a little bit too facile. The choreography was good. The sets, though simple, were ingenious.
I thoroughly enjoyed this most memorable musical. With a little bit of reworking, I think it can make it to the commercial stage. The Law IV team must be congratulated for such a brilliant production. Not only have they have upheld the long tradition of fine original musicals, but they have raised the bar (pun intended).
Kopi Shop really rocks!
21 September 2007
The Rise of Singapore’s New Creative Class: Beat-by-Beat
by Leong Phei Phei, The Straits Times, August 9, 2007
Medical practice and music composition may seem strange bedfellows but they found a perfect match in Dr Kenneth Lyen.
Along with his hectic full-time job as a paediatrician, the self-professed musical fanatic found time to start Beat-by-Beat, a musical incubation programme involving workshops, playreading and courses.
The group was conceptualised during a regular tennis session with three good friends - one a singer-songwriter, another an accomplished musical composer, and the third, a designer. All passionate about musicals, they decided to do something for the music scene in Singapore.
Dr Lyen recalls: "Although all of us have full-time jobs, we have never given up our love for musicals. As we felt strongly that there was a dearth of Made-in-Singapore musicals, we decided to do something about it."
And so Beat-by-Beat was born.
While response from the public was overwhelming, support was less than encouraging. Dr Lyen says: "During our first year, we knocked on all doors to ask for funding to no avail. We had the people, but we lacked the support to be given an opportunity to prove our talents to the world."
When he broke the news to members, half expecting them to withdraw, the exact opposite happened. "It was incredible. Nobody withdrew. Everybody was so passionate and all they wanted was to still put on a good performance," says Dr Lyen, with a tinge of pride.
As it was, for every night the no-frills musical was staged, it was sold out to an audience which gave it their two-thumbs up.
A year later, thanks to much-needed funding and support from the Creative Community Singapore, Dr Lyen and his team were able to se many more projects come to fruition. More importantly, they were able to provide a platform for many more individuals to see their dreams come true.
Dr Lyen says: "I am so glad that we pressed on despite the initial hurdle. There is a lot of talent in Singapore - what they need is training and opportunity."
Today, Beat-by-Beat has grown from strength-to-strength, and has also seen the birth of several spin-offs that have self-sustaining business modles. For instance, its "Adapt a Baby Musical" programme encourages corporate sponsors to support the development of these musicals. Its "Sing Avenue", on the other hand, aims to produce and market musicals internationally.
Dr Lyen says: "Given the opportunity and training, and very importantly, with the support of Creative Community Singapore, our productions can be as good as others anywhere in the world!"
Beauty World, which I saw successfully performed by TheatreWorks on June 5, may be the first Singaporean musical.
There have been musicals in the past that may or may not relate to the debut of Beauty World. Mostly, these are of two kinds.
The first are of largely American Broadway musicals, of which Annie Get Your Gun by ST*RS earlier in the year was an example.
The second belongs to the history of attempts to put up musicals in the Festival of Arts, of which there were two, The Samseng and the Chettiar’s Daughter, and Bumboat, in the 1982 and 1984 Festivals respectively.
Although staged by locals, both had strong foreign elements, especially in terms of directors - Australian John Tasker in Samseng, and American Tzi Ma, with Lim Siauw Chong, in Bumboat.
Neither play convinced me that we were in the presence of a truly Singaporean musical.
A Singaporean musical must be a 100 per cent local effort: in its music and songs, script, director and cast.
Beauty World has all these four - and more. I like to think that the not entirely successful attempts to stage the Singaporean musical probably produced the divine disaffection that has lead to the triumph of Beauty World.
Take the cast in all three and see the continuity. Alex and Jacintha Abisheganaden, Margaret Chan, Lok Meng Chue, Tann Yean were in Samseng; the Abishgenadens were in Bumboat; they were in Beauty World together with Chan and Lok.
There are other aspects of continuity too: Dick Lee’s music, Kalyani Kausikan’s lighting and Justin Hill’s sets for both Bumboat and Beauty World, and Michael Chiang’s script of Beauty Box (one of the plays in Bumboat).
It could be that the people who were engaged on the two previous musicals learned from their experiences and determined to work from scratch with their very own resources to give us our first musical.
But this reason, if accepted, only partically accounts for the joyous romp that Beauty World is. There are other factors.
From the opening choral number, Dick Lee transports us to the 1960s with its cha-cha rhythm reminiscent of the time when the cha-cha was the popular dance.
Choral numbers are followed by solos and duets with strong reminders of American film musicals. These not only provide occasion for singing bit heighten the melodrama.
Objection has been raised that Lee wrote ‘80s music about the ‘60s, but he has been clear about what he wants to do.
It would be unrealistic to expect him to write nostalgic ‘60s melodies in the ‘80s but what he has done is, from today’s vantage, to evolve the period two decades ago.
He gives away his intention in songs like Single in Singapore in which the singular difficulty of remaining single in Singapore, heightened by the Social Development Unit’s anxieties, finds expression in lines like "I may seem self-adjusted, strong/self-assured? Ivy, you are wrong".
Michael Chiang’s script - in his creation of scenes from black-and-white Hongkong melodrama movies, and loveable, stock characters - has the right mix of involvement and distance. Here, fun is the criterion.
Finally, Beauty World is a triumph of acting and for this much of the credit must go to director Ong Keng Sen and his cast.
There was some wavering between those who played their roles for real and those who gently mocked the characters they played, but the general effect was of uniformly excellent performances.
Mohd Najip Ali’s choreography was effective, and Tan Woon Chor’s costume details were accurate, and Justin Hill’s set appropriate.
My hope is that our first musical will lead to others and give us a succession of such efforts. Much depends on timing, on the theatre being ripe for the event. It appears we are ready for such a watchable and entertaining event as Beauty World.
[Robert Yeo has been Chairman of the Drama Advisory Committee, Ministry of Community Development, for the past 10 years. His play, One Year Back Home, was given a stage at La Mama, New York, in 1985. Another play, Second Chance, was produced in Hongkong and Singapore late last year and early this year.]
Something has been bothering me for a while. It's a statement made by a friend who said that lions did not exist in the wild in Southeast Asia and China.
It is postulated that the ancient Chinese may never have seen a live lion, and they may only have heard reports of lions from travelers in India and further west. This explains why their portrayal of a lion (sculpture and lion dance) is so unrealistic.
However, lions did exist in west Asia and India, but not in Southeast Asia.
What is the possibility that some lions may have accidentally strayed from India into Southeast Asia? Possible because there is a continuous land mass connecting India to Southeast Asia. All very well until you reach the Straits of Johore which separates Malaysia from Singapore.
Could a lion have swum the three quarters of a mile from Johore to Singapore Island? Probably not. While lions have been observed to swim, they are not regular swimmers. However, under certain circumstances they can swim for short distances.
All in all, it is highly unlikely that there ever were lions in Singapore. Tigers, on the other hand, are indigenous to Southeast Asia, and the last wild tiger was observed in Singapore as late as the 13th August 1902.
Sang Nila Utama, the discover of Singapore in the 13th century, is reputed to have spotted a lion, and named the island "Singa pura" or "Lion City".
But if no lions ever came to Singapore, what might be the explanation? Could he have seen a tiger, and not a lion?
According to Ng Kiat Han "Sang Nila Utama likely saw no lion. He may have been misrepresented by history, misinformed by his courtiers or just plainly mistaken. At that time, there were other lion cities in the Majapahit empire and Indian states. There may have been political forces behind this baptism by the crownless Prince of Palembang."
He goes on to say, "But with respect to the Malay Annals and legends of this region, all this indicates that the older ages of the world had perpicacious storytellers with fertile imaginations, never mind the biogeographic disagreements. Some of this ability spills over to modern life. Witness the made-in-Singapore fairy tale of the Merlion. The older Sentosa version has laser beams shooting out of its eyes to kill its enemies, and the newer taller version comes complete with its own "myth" relayed through video on the TV screens."
Thus, it seems almost certain that the name given to our country, Singapura, the lion city, is based on an error of observation. And we have accepted this mistake for centuries.
"Interestingly, this shows that Singaporeans would rather believe in the veracity of a myth and forget the facts, the evidence, and the incongruences," says Ng Kiat Han.
But how can any obsessional, self-respecting, self-righteous Singaporean allow such a major error to persist? We go to great lengths to sue anybody who makes even the slightest error about us. It's in our national genetic make-up.
What should we do? Should we create a mass movement to petition for rectification of this error? Perhaps we could have a nationwide competition to rename Singapore?
Tiger City? Tigerpolis?
Oops, sorry, Malaysia has already laid claims to the tiger. How about naming it after our national cat, the kucinta? Or a wild boar... my theory is that Sang Nila Utama saw a wild boar, which, partially hidden by undergrowth, can resemble a lion.
We will have to re-label all our maps, rewrite all our history books, and (I would like to be the first to volunteer) compose a new national anthem!
HOW TO WRITE THE BOOK OF A MUSICAL
by Kenneth Lyen
There are many ways to write the book of a musical. This article shows one possible way. The book is often, although not necessarily, the first thing written. It is generally recognized that the book of a musical is one of the most important component that often determines whether a musical is a success or failure.
Also known as the play, the book is the script containing the story, and stage directions. Dialogue need not be present, if the musical is sung-through, or if it is a dance musical. Most musicals, however, contain lines of spoken dialogue.
The words of a song.
The combination of the book and lyrics. All the words of a musical.
The combination of lyrics and music.
The plot is the main thread or pattern of events in a narrative or drama. Plot is what happens scene by scene.
This is the deeper meaning behind the plot, what is inferred to be the moral truth, the inner moral struggle of the main characters. The observation of how the main characters to a progression of plot events and the cumulative insight obtained, is called the story.
What makes a good story is very subjective. Many writers consider one of the elements of a good story is a protagonist who faces a strong moral choice. Emotions in a musical must be strong enough so that it feels appropriate for characters to sing. In addition, the story must also sing, meaning that the environment and mood must be conducive to music. Another element of a good story is that the audience must care about the characters sufficiently to follow their every thought and action, all the way to the end. A few writers believe that some form of love should be present in a musical, although it need not be the dominant feature.
The book of a musical is usually extremely concise. The dialogue is economical and utilitarian. There is usually an equal balance of dialogue and song (unless it is a sung-through musical).
A screenplay has some features similar to that of the book of a musical. If there is dialogue, it is used very economically. Songs are integral to a musical, but not to a play or screenplay, unless the latter is a movie musical. There are physical limitations to the cast size in a stage play or musical, whereas a film does not have such constraints.
What the story is about. The theme of a musical or play is its intellectual notion or the abstract idea that forms the basis of the story. Examples include "trust and betrayal", "love and need".
The fundamental idea upon which the story is built. The moral of the story, the "take-home" message.
Fiddler on the Roof
Theme: Long-held traditional values need to change with the times.
Spine: Tevye finds it increasingly difficult to approve of his three daughter’s chosen marriage partners, as they challenge his beliefs and social values.
My Fair Lady
Theme: How you speak affects how others regard and behave towards you.
Spine: Professor Henry Higgins takes on a bet to transform the Cockney accent of a flower girl into refined English, so that she can pass off as a high-class lady.
1. Look Around You
Become more sensitive to the sights and sounds that surround you. Watch the world go by, and ask questions about what is really going on, and why things are the way they are.
2. Draw From Your Own Experiences
Delve into your own life and past experiences for ideas. You may have some special knowledge or have encountered interesting personalities in your own family, your education, your workplace, your hobbies, etc.
3. Keep an Eye on the Media
Scan newspapers, magazines, television, radio, internet, advertisements, etc, as these are often excellent sources for story ideas.
4. Read Read Read!
It is a cliché, but it is true nonetheless. Read as much as you can. Fiction, nonfiction, novels, articles, trash, etc. Read with a "writer’s eye", which means you should always keep a lookout for story potential.
Movies can be a fantastic source of inspiration and ideas. Watch with a "writer’s eye".
Talk to family, friends, acquaintances, and listen to their experiences, always looking out for story ideas.
7. Use Your Imagination: Ask "What if?" Questions
What if a hacker successfully immobilized the world’s computers by inserting viruses into them? With medical breakthroughs, what if the average life expectancy rose to 300 years old? What if somebody had stolen your identity and you are now a wanted criminal? What if bird flu killed half the world’s population in one year? Predict a trend, and ask what if all society embraced a rigid social caste system, or rejected an idea, such as nuclear family or social welfare? Imagine what would happen to yourself, your friends, your country in the future, say, fifty years’ time?
Interesting titles can sometimes suggest a story. For example, "Ghost opera", "The Lady Whisperer", "I Married a Zombie".
Draw up lists of new occupations, religious wars, movies adapted from books, obsolete appliances, exotic holidays, science fiction musicals, etc.
Examples: Abortion, environment, cloning, poverty, gun control, reality TV, censorship, Iraq, spam.
Think of interesting characters and their quirks: James Bond, The First Emperor, Justice Bao, Julia Roberts, US Presidents, etc.
Examples include collecting dolls, staying young, washing hands, writing musicals, etc.
13. Opening lines
Examples include "You ever killed anything?" "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." "It was love at first sight." "All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." "Last night I dreamt I went to Mandalay again."
14. Mind Map
Use mind mapping to connect and generate ideas.
15. Brilliant Ending Quotes
"This is the start of a beautiful friendship." - Casablanca
"Nobody’s perfect." - Some Like it Hot
"Mr Meyer, I’m ready for my closeup now." - Sunset Boulevard
Unrequited love (Phantom of the Opera), love at first sight (High School Musical), love triangle (Oklahoma, Camelot), feuding families (Romeo and Juliet), tragic love (Titanic, Love Story), forbidden love , unusual love (Edward Scissorhands).
Example: Count of Monte Cristo.
3. The Quest
Examples: Candide, Pippin, Wizard of Oz.
Examples: Huckleberry Finn, Man of La Mancha.
5. The Chase
Examples: Les Miserables, The Fugitive.
6. One Against Many, the Underdog
Example: Les Miserables, The Scarlet Pimpernel.
7. One Apart: The Anti-Hero
The anti-hero adheres to his own code of honor rather than society’s. His moral code remains steadfast. Example: Casablanca
8. Power, Rivalry
Example: The Godfather, Lord of the Rings
Example: Animal Farm, Moby Dick, Narnia
10. Faust: Deal With the Devil
Example: Damn Yankees, Dr Faustus
11. Redemption: Deeply flawed character
Example: A Christmas Carol, Evita, Schindler’s List
12. Buddy Story
Example: Man of La Mancha, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
13. Coming of Age
Examples: Grease, Lion King, The Student Prince, Dirty Dancing.
14. Female Drive
Examples: Evita, Annie Get Your Gun, Mame, Sunset Boulevard.
Example: Oceans Eleven, Company
16. Odd Couples
Examples: Human & alien, black & racist white
17. The ___________ From Hell
Example: Plant = Little Shop of Horrors; Patient = What About Bob; Doll = Child’s Play
18. Fish Out of Water
Example: Side Show, Rocky Horror Show, Wicked, Oliver.
19. The Amateur ________________
Example: Psychiatrist = Couch Trip; Lawyer = Trial and Error
20. Fairy Tales, Myths, Fables, Legends
Examples: Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan, Ali Baba.
21. Borrow and Change
Borrow ideas from:
a) Shakespeare (Hamlet, Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, Falstaff, Macbeth)
b) Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility)
c) Charles Dickens (Great Expectations, Nicholas Nickleby, Our Mutual Friend),
d) Old films (It Happened One Night, Philadelphia Story, Some Like it Hot)
e) Operas (Flying Dutchman, Barber of Seville, Turandot, The Magic Flute, Madam White Snake, Dream of Red Mansions, Romance of the Three Kingdoms)
f) Nursery rhymes (Jack and Jill, Sing a Song of Sixpence)
g) The Bible (Noah’s Ark, Parables)
Then change it... change the sex of the protagonists, flip the genre (Western ÷? science fiction, horror ÷? comedy) change the country, or the time.
22. Information that nobody knows
Example: Men in Black
23. First Time (Rookie)
Example: Lawyer = My Cousin Vinnie
24. Stumble Into Situation
Example: Rear Window, Blow Up, Cellular
25. The Ultimate _____________
Example: Car = Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Shark = Jaws; Cop = Robocop
26. Unintended Consequences, Metamorphosis
Example: The Evil Dead, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Jurassic Park
27. Going to Extreme Measures
28. Mistaken Identity
Example: Working Girl, Prince and the Pauper
29. Major Character Flaws
Example: A Christmas Carol, Sweeney Todd, Macbeth, Liar Liar
30. Debt That Must be Repaid Example: Jekyll and Hyde, Sweeney Todd
31. Unusual Gift
Example: It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman!
1. Supplication: Persecutor, Suppliant, Authority Figure
2. Deliverance: Unfortunate, Threatener, Rescuer
3. Crime Pursued by Vengeance: Criminal, Avenger
4. Vengeance taken for Kindred upon Kindred: Avenger, Guilty Remembrance, a Relative of Both
5. Pursuit: Punishment and Fugitive
6. Disaster: Vanquished Power, Victorious Enemy, Messenger.
7. Falling Prey to Cruelty or Misfortune: Unfortunate, Master
8. Revolt: Tyrant, Conspirator
9. Daring Enterprise: Bold Leader, Object, Adversary
10. Abduction: Abductor, the Abducted, Guardian
11. Enigma: Interrogator, Seeker, Problem
12. Obtaining: Solicitor, Adversary or Arbitrator & Opposing
13. Enmity of Kinsmen: Malevolent Kinsmen, Reciprocally Hated Kin
14. Rivalry of Kinsmen: Preferred Kinsman, Rejected Kin, Object
15. Murderous Adultery: Two Adulterers, Murdered Spouse
16. Madness: Madman, Victim
17. Fatal Imprudence: Imprudent, Victim, Object Lost
18. Involuntary Crimes of Love: Lover, Beloved, Reveler
19. Slaying of Kinsman Unrecognized: Slayer, Unrecognized Victim
20. Self-sacrificing for an Ideal: Hero, Ideal, Creditor, Sacrifice
21. Self-sacrificing for Kindred: Hero, Kinsman, Creditor, Sacrifice
22. All Sacrificed for Passion: Lover, Object of Passion, Sacrifice
23. Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones: Hero, Beloved, Necessity
24. Rivalry of Superior & Inferior: Superior, Inferior, Object
25. Adultery: Two Adulterers, Betrayed Spouse
26. Crimes of Love: Lover, Beloved, Social Norm
27. Discovery of Dishonor of Beloved: Discovered, Guilty
28. Obstacles to Love: Two Lovers, Obstacles
29. An Enemy Loved: Beloved Enemy, Lover, Hater
30. Ambition: Ambitious Person, Thing Coveted, Adversary
31. Conflict with (a) God: A Mortal, an Immortal or Holy Principle
32. Mistaken Jealousy: Jealous, Object, Accomplice, Perpetrator
33. Erroneous Judgement: Mistaken One, Victim, Cause, Guilty
34. Remorse: Culprit, Victim or Sin, Interrogator
35. Recovery of Lost One: Seeker, One Found
36. Murder of Loved One: Slain Kinsman, Spectator, Executioner.
(from Patricia Ryan's "Pat's Premises: Popular Plots, Conflicts and Elements in Romance Novels," Romance Writers' Report, 17(4), April 1997)
a) Marriage of convenience
b) Hero as guardian or protector
c) Arranged or coerced marriage
d) Pretence marriage or relationship
e) Stranded together in a house, a boat, or on an island, etc.
f) In a disaster together, such as in a flood, earthquake, or snowbound
g) Matchmaker schemes to throw lovers together
h) Made to share office, home, cabin, lift, etc.
Love Conquers All
a) The healing power of love
b) Redemption through love
One Lover Rehabilitates or Cures the Other Who Suffers from:
b) Physical disabilities
c) Psychological problems such as depression, paranoia, neuroses, phobias, obsessions, gambling
d) Disfigurement, loss of limbs
g) Drug dependency
Emotional Baggage or Internal Conflicts that Keep Lovers Apart
a) Inability to trust, especially the opposite sex
b) Fear of commitment
c) "I am a rock;" emotional detachment or isolation
d) Some past incident, e.g., abuse, has left emotional scars
e) Lover blames other for some hurt to self or loved one
f) Lover harbors a secret that threatens love
g) Lover must find self or solve problem before committing
h) One lover has lied to other about something important
i) Lover cannot forgive the other for some past hurt
j) Fear of abandonment
k) Sense of unworthiness
l) Feeling that one doesn't belong or fit
The Lovers' Differences Keep Them Apart
a) Lovers from different socio-economic, religious, ethnic worlds, or whose respective families, institutions, or countries are warring with each other
b) A difference of opinion on a critical matter or belief
c) Bad boy, good girl; or vice versa
d) Lovers have opposing loyalties, or who have close friends who engineer their separation
e) Lovers who are business rivals
f) Lovers whose personalities are incompatible
g) A wide difference in age
h) Unrequited love
The Lovers' Similarities Keep Them Apart
a) Lovers engage in a battle of wills
b) Lovers share goal, but only once can achieve it
Babies and Children
a) Secret baby
b) Arranged pregnancy
c) Accidental pregnancy
d) Reunited with child given up for adoption
e) Child play matchmaker or otherwise brings lovers together
f) Child lost or threatened
g) Heroine plays nanny
Comedy of Errors
a) Heroine disguised as a male, hero disguised as a female
b) Mistaken identity
a) Platonic friends fall in love
b) Ex-sweethearts are reunited
c) Divorced spouses rediscover their love
Mythic or Fairy Tale Elements
a) Kidnapping (Persephone)
b) Taming of the savage male (Beauty and the Beast)
c) Transformation (My Fair Lady)
d) Rags to Riches (Nerds, Dreamgirls)
e) Awakening, emotional rebirth (Sleeping Beauty)
2. Mass Appeal
3. Obvious Potential
1. Scenes Flat
Make sure scenes have tension. Each scene must have a focal point, an essential part of the scene, sometimes referred to as the "hot spot". Cut out nonessential fluff.
2. Mishandling Flashbacks
Is the flashback really necessary? If necessary make sure it does not detract from the main story.
3. Off Tangent
This is a side road, not on your original plot map. An outline may help you avoid this. Delete the tangent.
4. Control Your Character
Sometimes the character seems to "take over" the story and changes the plot. Unless the result is an improvement, this must be resisted.
When one reaches a dull point, and slogging away does not improve matters, try a reversal of the plot. Alternatively do a jump cut... move ahead in time.
6. Shut Down
Have a break, recharge your batteries, relive your scenes, recapture your original vision.
The short answer is no. However, certain genres and topics are more difficult to write successfully. For example, few horror musicals work, unless they are spoofs or comedies and not really horror. There are many martial arts musicals coming from the far east, and most do not work, because they focus more on the techniques of fighting rather than on the story.
Act 1 Beginning: Setup
Act 2 Middle: Complications
Act 3 End: Climax and Resolution
Acts 1 and 3 each take up about a quarter of the total time. Hence Act 2 usually take up half the remaining time.
1. Introduce the main characters as early and quickly as possible.
2. Establish the needs of the main characters.
3. What is blocking the protagonist from achieving his needs? The more powerful and antagonist, the more powerful the drama.
4. Raise the stakes.
Conflict is the most important element in drama, and this applies equally to musical theatre. Every scene should have some element of conflict, and in this regard romantic love can be loosely classified as conflict, although some may say that this is stretching things a bit too far.
1. Man against Nature (or God or Fate)
2. Man against Man
3. Man against Society
4. Man against Himself
1. Songs presume a basic sincerity, unless there has been prior indication of the opposite, or that the musical is a satire or spoof.
2. Important events take place on stage and not merely reported.
3. Principle of Opposition: for example if a character feels unhappy, he should sing a slightly more upbeat or optimistic song. On the other hand, if a character feels unhappy and he sings an unhappy song and wallows in self-pity, the net result is comedy.
1. Identification, Empathy
Create a real human being, with imperfections and flaws. Example: A reluctant hero.
a) Jeopardy: forcibly separate a loved one, or have the loved one die, or have a close relative hate the main character, or make the protagonist gives reasons why he or she should give up the quest or the fight.
b) Hardship: inflict the protagonist with misfortunes, physical or mental handicap, or the loss of all one’s money.
c) Underdog: show the young naive protagonist battling against a ruthless corrupt corporation, an unreasonable dogma, or an unsympathetic government or institution.
d) Vulnerable: examples include the battered wife or child running away from an abusive psychopathic husband or parent.
Ideally the protagonist should have attractive attributes such as selflessness, generosity, helpful to others, has a keen sense of humor, and forgiving of others.
4. Inner Conflict
The protagonist should display internal struggles, such as being plagued with doubts and uncertainties, divided loyalties, torn between a sense of duty and upholding his or her own principles and integrity.
APPEARANCE: _______________________________________________ (hair, eye color, height, weight, build, etc.)
MARITAL STATUS: ___________________________________________
CURRENT HOME: _____________________________________________
PARENTS: ____________________________________________________ (alive or dead?)
SIBLINGS: ____________________________________________________ (names, ages, marital status, etc.)
CHILDHOOD: _________________________________________________ (happy, sad, traumatic, etc.)
RELATIONSHIPS: _____________________________________________ (past and present)
SPECIAL SKILLS: _____________________________________________
ANY OTHER RELEVANT INFORMATION: ________________________
(From "Heroes and Heroines: 16 Master Archetypes," by Caro LeFever, Tami Cowden, & Sue Viders.)
1. The Chief: The honcho, tough, decisive, and goal-oriented.
2. The Bad Boy: Dangerous, but absolutely fascinating, charismatically attractive, street smart, hates rules and regulations.
3. The Best Friend: Everybody’s ideal hero, kind, decent, and responsible.
4. The Charmer: The smooth operator, the fun guy, irresistible, and unreliable.
5. The Lost Soul: Tortured and secretive, he's got a vulnerable heart and discerning eyes
6. The Professor: Intelligent nerd, logical, introverted and inflexible, but also genuine in feelings, extremely faithful and honest.
7. The Swashbuckler: The person who is on the go, loves adventure, physical, daring, mercurial.
8. The Warrior: The reluctant rescuer, dark and dangerous, driven and remote
1. The Boss: eloquent, self-confident, competitive, and persuasive.
2. The Seductress: mysterious, cunning, devious, distrusting, and cynical.
3. The Tomboy: Spirited, loyal, reliable and supportive.
4. The Free Spirit: Hedonistic, impetuous, "flaky".
5. The Waif: The damsel in distress, child-like innocence, naive, gentle, and compliant.
6. The Librarian: Conscientious, meticulous, conventional, methodical, leads with her brain, not her looks
7. The Crusader: A woman on a mission, determined, obstinate, and courageous.
8. The Nurturer: Altruistic to a fault, kind, pleasant, generous, optimistic, a listener, and looks after everybody.
1. Bad Book
There is a saying "You live by the book, you die by the book." Most musicals fail because the plot is absent or weak, and there is little to make one care for the story. It has often been pointed out that Cats and Hair have no substantial plot. However, these are the isolated exceptions to the rule.
2. Unsympathetic Leads
Lead actors that you not care for, with no redeeming qualities, is disastrous. Eg George M, Jamaica.
3. Lack of Romance
Although not all musicals have romance, the lack of it can be a significant reason for its failure.
4. Unremarkable Music
This may not be as serious as it first seems, provided that the book (story and characters) are strong and can compensate. However, if the music is mediocre, it is an additional nail to the coffin of a moribund musical.
5. Difficult Genre
Certain genres do not translate well into live theater, such as horror, and action.
6. Wrong Media
The story may be better told as a novel, on film, or on television.
7. Incompetent Execution
Bad direction, wrong theater, poor production values, can conspire to cause a musical to fail.
8. Too Much Dialogue
If the musical has a mixture of dialogue and song, too much dialogue makes it a play with music, rather than a musical. There are no hard and fast rules, but in general one expects a musical to have at least half the time devoted to song and/or dance, and the remainder to action and dialogue.
I Thou shalt not bore thine audience.
II Thou shalt not use cliches, tired plots and feeble jokes.
III Thou shalt not preach to thine audience.
IV Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s ideas.
V Thou shalt not procrastinate but shalt strive to meet all writing deadlines.
VI Thou shalt not kill the melody, for the melody maker may enter the kingdom of song.
VII Thou shalt not have a dying actor sing an interminable dying song.
VIII Thou shalt not become a total idiot and abandon thine commercial sensibilities.
XI Thou shalt be generous and smile and listen to thine critics before thou sockest him or her one.
X Above all, thou shalt be true to thyself.
There are three possible endings:
a) Positive Ending
b) Negative Ending
c) Ambiguous Ending
Complicate an ending by:
a) "Positive" Ending: Protagonist gets what he wants, but the end result is bad.
b) "Negative" Ending: Protagonist does not get what he wants, but the end result turns out good.
The book is considered the most important element of a musical. It contains the story, and it integrates all the elements (action, dance, song, dialogue). If the book writer is a member of the collaborative team, there needs to be good understanding of the characters, the plot, and the style of the musical by all the members. A good working relation between the collaborators, with good lines of communication, are essential. Conflict should be confined to the story, and hopefully not too excessively between team members. Indeed, conflict is central to a good book. In the classical 3-act play, quite early on, the needs of the protagonist must be clearly presented. There needs to be blocks to achieving these goals, causing escalating complications, and this should occupy most of the musical. Crisis and its resolution then concludes the drama. However, it is common for the 3-act structure to be modified, for the sequence of events to be nonlinear, and for the outcome to remain unresolved and ambiguous. There are even musicals without songs or dialogue. While all these changes are quite acceptable nowadays, one should not forget that musical theatre is first and foremost entertainment. Above all, the audience should not be bored!
MUSICALS DIRECTORY A-L
by Kenneth Lyen
1776 (1969). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/1776.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/1776.html] Music and lyrics: Sherman Edwards, Book: Peter Stone.
:A musical comedy about the meeting of the founding fathers in 1776 leading up to the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence.
[http://www.videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://www.videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?publishedid=526374 Movie Trailer]
25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (2005). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/bee.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/putnamspellingbee.html] Music and lyrics: William Finn, Book: Rachel Sheinkin.
:Comedy based on a fictitious annual spelling competition held in Putnam County. Real
audience members invited on stage to participate.
42nd Street (1980). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/42nd.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/42ndstreet.html] Music: Harry Warren. Lyrics: Al Dubin.
:Musical set during the 1933 Depression. Peggy Sawyer arrives late for an audition but is helped by a fellow actor to get into the chorus. When the leading has an accident, Peggy takes over her role, and becomes a star.
Aida (2000). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/aida.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/aida.html] Music: Elton John, Lyrics: Tim Rice, Book: Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls, David Henry Hwang.
:Modern version of Verdi’s opera. Aida is an Egyptian slave who is captured by an Egyptian captain, Radames. He falls in love with her, and saves her from captivity by giving her as a handmaiden to Amneris his future bride.
All Shook Up (2005). [http://www.allshookup.com/home_content.html]
[http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=383114] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/18.html] Songs of Elvis Presley, Book: Joe Di Pietro.
:Jukebox musical about pump attendant Natalie, who falls in love with a mysterious motorcyclist, Chad, but he does not reciprocate her feelings. Natalie disguises herself as an unskilled laborer, Ed, and Chad falls in love with Ed, unaware that she is Natalie.
Annie (1977). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/annie.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/annie.html] Music: Charles Strouse, Lyrics: Martin Charnin, Book: Thomas Meehan.
:Set during the depression, Orphan Annie spends Christmas with millionaire Oliver Warbucks, bringing happiness. Mean-spirited orphanage matron, Miss Hannigan, has dastardly designs to trick Annie and Mr Warbucks.
Annie Get Your Gun (1946). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/anniegetyourgun.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/anniegetgun.html] Music and lyrics: Irving Berlin, Book: Herbert and Dorothy Fields.
:Illiterate hillbilly Annie Oakley outshoots sharpshooter Frank butler at Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. They fall in love, but her brilliant shooting is a threat to Frank's masculine ego.
Anyone Can Whistle (1964). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/anyonecanwhistle.htm]
Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim, Book: Arthur Laurents.
:An American small town facing bankruptcy, creates a fradulent miracle, claiming that water flowing from a rock has healing properties. Tourists attracted to this bogus site are accidentally joined by patients who have escaped from a nearby mental hospital. [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2922251202401352125&q=anyone+can+whistle Barbara Cook]
Anything Goes (1934). [http://broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/anythinggoes.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/anythinggoes.html] Music and lyrics: Cole Porter, Book: Guy Bolton and PG Wodehouse, revised by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. :Nightclub singer, Reno Sweeney, and her friend, Billy Crocker, sail to London on a steamship full of gangsters. Billy is in love with Hope Harcourt, but he is mistaken for a notorious killer. In the meantime Hope's fiancee, Sir Evelyn, falls in love with Reno.
Applause (1970). [http://broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/applause.htm] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/487.html] Music: Charles Strouse, Lyrics: Lee Adams, Book: Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Adapted from the film All About Eve.
:When successful mature actress Margo Channing gives Best Actress Award to young Eve Harrington, she flashes back to recall Eve's ruthless rise to stardom.
Apple Tree, The (1966). [http://www.answers.com/topic/the-apple-tree-musical]
Music: Jerry Bock, Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick, Book: Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick.
:Concept musical with three stories whose three main characters are the equivalent of Adam, Eve, and the serpent, and the unifying theme is that of leaving paradise.
Aspects of Love (1990). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/aspects.htm]
[http://www.nodanw.com/shows_a/aspects_of_love.htm] Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics: Don Black and Charles Hart.
:Youthful and impetuous Alex becomes infatuated withJenny, the teenage daughter of an actress, Rose, with whom he had an affair many years ago. Jenny's father objects, but he does not carry much moral authority, as he himself is senior to his wife Rose by 40 years.
Assassins (1991). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/assassins.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/assassins.html] Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim, Book: John Weidman.
:Theme musical about US presidents and their assassins, both the successful and the unsuccessful ones.
Avenue Q (2003). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/avenueq.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/avenueQ.html] Music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx.
:Muppet-like puppet show for mature audiences, with songs about aids, homosexuality, pornography, and racial discrimination.
Babes in Arms (1937). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/babes.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/babes.html] Music: Richard Rodgers, Lyrics: Lorenz Hart, Book: Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.
:Kids left at home when their parents go off on a touring holiday put on a musical to make money. Financial backer, Lee Calhoun, does not want two black children to perform, but he is thwarted by the youngsters.
Baby (1983). [http://wiki.stageagent.com/more_show_info.php?id=1591] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/691.html] Music: David Shire, Lyrics: Richard Maltby Jr, Book: Sybille Pearson.
:Three couples... a pair of unmarried college students, a 40+ year-old hospital administrator and his wife, and two gym coaches in their 30s, all conceive a baby on the same day. The musical follows the pregnancy to the birth of the babies.
Baker's Wife (1976). [http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/bakerswife.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/929.html] Music and lyrics: Stephen Schwartz, Book: Joseph Stein.
:Adaptation of the 1938 movie, La Femme Boulanger. Genevieve is the young wife of a French town's baker, who is older than her. She has an affair with Dominique, a young amorous villager.
Barnum (1980). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/barnum.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/barnum.html] Music: Cy Coleman, Lyrics: Michael Stewart, Book: Mark Bramble.
:The musical follows the real-life self-styled showman, Phineas T Barnum, from his days as a circus entertainer, to his entry into US politics.
Bat Boy (1997). [http://www.batboy.co.uk/]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/batboy.html] Music and lyrics: Laurence O'Keefe, Book: Keythe Farley and Brian Fleming.
:A boy with pointed ears struggles to fit into a world that favors conformity. The townspeople fear him, and his foster father is jealous of him.
Beautiful Game (2000). [http://www.reallyuseful.com/rug/shows/beautifulgame/] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/682.html] Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Book and lyrics: Ben Elton.
:Set in Belfast in the late 1960s, a period rife with sectarian violence, the young men and women playing in a local youth soccer team get caught up in the political and religious conflicts of the time.
Beauty and the Beast (1994). [http://disney.go.com/theatre/beautyandthebeast/index.html]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/beautyandbeast.html] Music: Alan Mencken, Lyrics: Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, Book: Linda Woolverton.
:Disney musical based on the fairy tale of a beautiful daughter who agrees to be exchanged for her father who has been captured by a beast.
Bells Are Ringing (1956). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/bells.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/bellsareringing.html] Music: Jule Styne, Book and lyrics: Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
:A shy telephone switchboard operator for an answering service, falls in love with a subscriber, an author who has writer's block.
[http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3032720282171603077&q=the+party%27s+over Judy Holliday]
Best Foot Forward (1941). [http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=1113] Music and lyrics: Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Book: John Cecil Holm.
:High school student Bud Hooper invites attractive movie star to his school prom. Complications arise when Bud's girlfriend becomes jealous.
Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, The (1978). [http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/bestwhorehouse.html] Music: Carol Hall, Book:
Peer Masterson and Larry L King.
:Raunchy story about the closure of a Texan brothel after exposure by a slimy television reporter, Melvin P Thorpe.
Big River (1985). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/bigriver.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/bigriver.html] Music and lyrics: Roger Miller. :Adaptation of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Billy (1974). [http://www.nodanw.com/shows_b/billy.htm] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/655.html] Music: John Barry, Lyrics: Don Black, Book: Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. :Adaptation of Keith Waterhouse's novel, Billy Liar. Billy Fisher, an undertaker's clerk, fantasizes about a life of luxury, which is in stark contrast to his actual dingy environment.
Billy Elliott (2005). [http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/billyelliot.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/475.html] Music: Elton John, Book and lyrics: Lee Hall.
:Adaptation of the film about Billy Elliott, a boy living in a decaying mining village. He meets objections from his father when he refuses to follow his footsteps to become miner, and instead, he wants to become a ballet dancer.
Blood Brothers (1983). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/bloodbrothers.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/bloodbrothers.html] Music, book, and lyrics: Willy Russell.
:Twin brothers separated at birth, grow up in completely opposite ends of the social spectrum. Years later, by chance they meet up again, and their lives are drawn inexorably towards tragedy.
Bloomer Girl (1944). [http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=1583] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/636.html] Music: Harold Arlen, Book: Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy.
:Set during the American Civil War, the daughter of a hoop skirt manufacturer refuses to marry one of her father's salesman. Instead, she supports her aunt's crusade for women's rights, and she champions women's freedom to choose what to wear, including bloomers.
Bombay Dreams (2004). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/bombay.htm] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/949.html] Music: AR Rahman, Lyrics: Don Black, Book: Meera Syal.
:Akaash, a young man living in the slums of Bombay, aspires to be a Bollywood star. A rich lawyer and his fiancee, Priya, arrive at Akaash's slum, trying to prevent its clearance. Akaash falls in love with Priya, who turns out to be an aspiring filmmaker.
Boy From Oz, The (2003). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/boyoz.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/boyfromoz.html] Music and lyrics by Peter Allen, Book: Martin Sherman.
:While giving a concert, Peter Allen, an entertainer, flashes back and relives his life from his youth as a performer in an Australian bush town in the 1950s.
Boys From Syracuse, The (1938). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/boys.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/boysfromsyracuse.html] Music: Richard Rodgers, Lyrics: Lorenz Hart, Book: George Abbott.
:Based on Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors. Antipholus and Dramio of Syracuse are each looking for their respective twin brothers.
Brigadoon (1947). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/brigadoon.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/brigadoon.html] Music: Frederick Loewe, Book and lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner.
:Two American tourists hiking in the Scottish highlands get mysteriously transported into fabled Scottish town, Brigadoon. One of them falls in love with a pretty girl living there.
Bugsy Malone (1984). [http://www.toacorn.com/news/2006/0921/Dining_And_Entertainment/062.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/611.html] Music and lyrics: Paul Williams, Book: Alan Parker.
:Gangster spoof where the entire cast is played by children. Adapted from the 1976 movie.
By Jeeves (1975). [http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/byjeeves.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/152.html] Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Book and lyrics: Alan Ayckbourn.
:Farcical story about PG Wodehouse characters, the bumbling aristocratic Bertie Wooster, and his astute loyal butler, Jeeves.
Bye Bye Birdie (1960). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/birdie.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/byebyebirdie.html] Music: Charles Strouse, Lyrics: Lee Adams, Book: Michael Stewart.
:The musical tells of Albert Peterson, a flamboyant manager and promoter of rock and roll star, Conrad Birdie, who is about to be drafted into the US Army. Together with his girlfriend, Albert engineers Birdie to appear on the Ed Sullivan show.
[http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6727431257878882408&q=bye+bye+birdie Dick Van Dyke]
Cabaret (1966). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/cabaret.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/cabaret.html] Music: John Kander, Lyrics: Fred Ebb, Book: Joe Masteroff.
:Adaptation of Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories. Cabaret is set in decadent pre-Hitler's Germany. Clifford Bradshaw, an American writer, meets Sally Bowles, an English nightclub singer, at the sleazy Kit Kat Klub in Berlin. which is hosted by an egregious emcee.
[http://trailers.warnerbros.com/web/play.jsp?trailer=cabaret_trailer Movie Trailer]
Calamity Jane (1953). [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/937.html]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/calamityjane.html] Music: Sammy Fain, Lyrics: Paul Francis Webster.
:Unable to get the singing star Adelaide Adams as advertised, the saloon regulars are turning ugly. Calamity Jane steps in and promises to bring the star back from Chicago. However, she brings back the wrong person.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=M98JF4TIVNw Doris Day]
Call Me Madam (1950). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/callmemadam.htm] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/938.html] Music and lyrics: Irving Berlin. Book: Russel Crouse and Howard Lindsay.
:Satire on politics and foreign affairs, the musical, revolves around a well-meaning but ill-informed Washington hostess, Sally Adams, who is made ambassador to a fictional country, Lichtenberg. She falls in love with their suave foreign minister, Cosmo Constantine, who does not want his country Americanized, whereas his political opponents want to get aid from the USA.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=i7CpAk-Z5wY Ruthie Henshall]
Camelot (1960). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/camelot.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/camelot.html] Music: Frederick Loewe, Book and lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner.
:Based on TH White’s novel The Once and Future King, it centers around the love triangle between King Arthur, his wife Guinevere, and a knight of the round table, Sir Lancelot.
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGLYKJHpRbU Bryn Terfel]
Candide (1956). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/candide.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/941.html] Music: Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics: Richard Wilbur, Book: Hugh Wheeler.
:Comic operetta based on Voltaire’s classic novel. Candide, the illegitimate nephew to the Baron is in love with his daughter, Cunegonde, much to the Baron’s displeasure, as he regards Candide as a social inferior. The two are parted and suffer catastrophic adventures, but they are always consoled by the words of their professor, Doctor Pangloss, who imbues in them an undiluted optimism.
[http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/shows/candide/# Kristin Chenoweth]
Caroline or Change (2004). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/caroline.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/carolineorchange.html] Music: Jeanine Tesori, Book and lyrics: Tony Kushner.
:A sung-though musical engaging in racial and social issues in Louisiana in 1963 during the height of the Civil Rights movement. It is about Caroline is a 39-year-old black woman, who works as a maid in a white Jewish household in Lousiana in 1963. She is persuaded to take the change left in the young white boy’s discarded trouser pocket, but this has tumultuous consequences.
[http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5420612676897816496&q=caroline+or+change&hl=en Tonya Pinkins]
Carousel (1945). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/carousel.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/carousel.html] Music Richard Rodgers, Book and lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II.
:Adapted from Ferenc Molnar's play, Liliom. A shy New England girl, Julie, falls in love with a fairground barker, Billy. When Julie becomes pregnant, Billy tries to get rich quick by organizing a robbery, but things go wrong and he kills himself to avoid capture.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=lbbq2Mfbhsw&mode=related&search= Shirley Verrett]
Cats (1981). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/cats.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/cats.html] Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Book and lyrics: TS Eliot.
:Concept musical based on the poetry of TS Eliot's Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. At the end of each Jellicle Ball, a cat is chosen to ascend to the Heaviside Layer, and on this occasion it is the aged Grizabella, the Glamour Cat.
Chess (1984). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/chess.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/chess.html] Music: Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersen, Book and lyrics: Tim Rice.
:Set during the cold war era, Anatoly, a Russian chess grandmaster, is challenged for the world title by Freddie, a truculent American. The Russian has an affair with Freddie's second, Florence,
and she helps him defect to the West.
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2IkLGFiKx0 Paige and Dickson]
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_PpwoRSSVo Murray Head]
Chicago (1975). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/chicago.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/chicago.html] Music: John Kander, Book and lyrics: Fred Ebb.
:Set in Chicago in the 1920s, chorus girl Roxie Hart is imprisoned for killing her lover. Cunning, manipulative, exhibitionist lawyer, Billy Flynn, is the defense lawyer, and he successfully gets both Roxie and fellow inmate, Velma, off the hook.
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1U-7jJzzvOE Ashlee Simpson]
Children of Eden (1991). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/eden.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/childrenofeden.html] Music and lyrics: Stephen Schwartz, Book. John Caird.
:Recounting the Biblical story from the Creation until just after The Flood.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (2002). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/chitty.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/23.html] Music and lyrics: Richard M and Robert B Sherman, Book: Jeremy Sams.
:Adapted from the film. Eccentric inventor invents a self-driving car that can float, and fly. Baron Bomburst of Vulgaria uses skullduggery to kidnap the car.
Chorus Line, A (1975). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/chorus.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/967.html] [http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/achorusline.html] Music: Marvin Hamlisch, Lyrics: Ed Kleban, Book: James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante.
:A group of chorus dancers audition for a show, and tell about themselves one by one.
Cinderella (1957). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/cinderella.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/cinderella.html] Music: Richard Rodgers, Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II.
:Made-for-television musical of the fairy tale.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=Dzp4UJnzhm4 Whitney Houston]
Civil War, The (1999). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/civilwar.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/civilwar.html] Music: Frank Wildhorn, Lyrics: Jack Murphy, Book: Gregory Boyd and Frank Wildhorn.
:Musical revue inspired by letters, diaries and first-hand accounts of the American Civil War.
Color Purple, The (2005). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/colorpurple.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/1611.html] [http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/colorpurple.htm] Music and lyrics: Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. Book: Marsha Norman.
:Adapted from the film, the story centers on Celie, a black girl living in the rural South during the early part of the 20th century. She is made pregnant by her father, who subsequently takes away the baby for adoption. Later, Celie marries a farmer who is a cruel philanderer. Despite all her hardships and suffering, Celie rises above them, and her inner strength and courage embodies the triumph of the human spirit.
[http://www.colorpurple.com/sightssounds.php# Video Featurette]
Company (1970). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/company.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/company.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/985.html] Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim, Book: George Furth.
:Concept musical with a nonlinear plot that revolves around Robert, a bachelor, who is being persuaded by five well-meaning friends, to consider settling down.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=cbE_Y_9fMuU Patti Lupone]
Contact (1999). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/contact.htm]
[http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/albm89.html] Creators: Susan Stroman and John Weidman.
:Three short stories told through dance, containing no original music, no singing, and minimal dialogue. The first piece is about an attractive girl with two men vying for her attention; the second is about a timid woman married to a controlling husband both having a meal in an Italian restaurant; and the third story is about a middle-aged suicidal man trying to get the attention of a girl in a yellow dress.
Damn Yankees (1955). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/damnyankees.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/damnyankees.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/994.html] Music: Jerry Ross, Lyrics: Richard Adler.
:Senator Joe Boyd, a married middle-aged baseball fan, makes a faustian pact with the devil, selling his soul so that he can be rejuvenated and become a star performer in the Yankees baseball team.
Dirty Dancing (2006). [http://www.dirtydancing.com.au/] Music and lyrics: Various, Book: Eleanor Bergstein.
:Based on the 1987 movie, this coming of age story is about Baby Houseman who is forced to spend her vacation with her parents in a holiday resort. Initially bored, she discovers a group of young people who devote their free time dancing, and she falls in love with a sexy dance instructor.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (2004). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/dirty.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/dirtyrottenscoundrels.html] Music and lyrics: David Yazbek, Book: Jeffrey Lane.
:Based on the 1988 film, it is about 2 con men on the French Riviera placing a bet with each other, that the first to swindle a young heiress of $50,000 will win, and the loser would have to leave town.
Dreamgirls (1981). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/dreamgirls.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/dreamgirls.html] Music: Henry Krieger Tom Eyen. book Bennett. Story of a black singing group inspired by The Supremes. Lead singer Efie White relinquishes the spotlight to allow a more attractive colleague to take over. Later, Effie leaves the group and becomes her own star.
[http://www.movie-list.com/trailers.php?id=dreamgirls Movie Trailer1]
[http://www.ifilm.com/video/2781830 Movie Trailer2]
[http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0443489/trailers Movie Trailer3]
Drowsy Chaperone, The (2006). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/drowsychaperone.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/drowsychaperone.html] Music and lyrics: Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison, Book: Bob Martin and Don McKellar.
:While listening to a record of a fictitious 1920s-style musical called The Drowsy Chaperone, the show suddenly comes to life right in the listener’s apartment.
Evita (1978). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/evita.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/evita.html] Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Book and lyrics: Tim Rice.
:A sung-through musical based on the tragic life of Eva Peron, wife of Argentinian dictator, Juan Peron.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=EkvKGhDl__U London Montage]
[http://www.movie-list.com/e/evita.shtml Movie Trailer]
Falsettos, The (1992). [http://www.imagi-nation.com/moonstruck/albm62.html] [http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/falsettos.html] Music and lyrics: William Finn, Book: William Finn and James Lapine.
:This is a story about Marvin, a bisexual who leaves his wife Trina, for a male friend, Wizzer. Trina goes and marries Marvin's psychiatrist. Wizzer then leaves Marvin temporarily but they reconcile, only to discover that Wizzer is dying of aids.
Fame (1988). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/fame.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/fame.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/1370.html] Music: Steve Margoshes, Lyrics: Jacques Levy, Book: Jose Fernandez.
:Based on the movie, Fame is set in New York City's famous High School for Performing Arts. It follows a batch of new students, portraying their highs and lows, their romances, their sorrows, and triumphs.
Fantasticks (1960). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/fantasticks.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/fantasticks.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/1505.html] Music: Harvey Schmidt, Book and lyrics: Tom Jones.
:Longest running off-Broadway stage musical. Two neighbours use reverse psychology to help their respective offspring come to a romantic union.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=huUmENpJ8p4&mode=related&search= Jerry Orbach]
[http://www.videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://www.videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?customerid=97135&publishedID=516212 Movie Trailer]
Fiddler on the Roof (1964). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/fiddler.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/fiddler.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/1509.html] Music: Jerry Bock, Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick, Book: Joseph Stein.
:Set in rural Tzarist Russia during the early years of the 20th century with the escalating threat of anti-Semitism, it follows Tevye, a Jewish milkman, who wants his 5 daughters to get happily married.
[http://www.ifilm.com/ifilmdetail/2316079 Movie Trailer]
Finian's Rainbow (1947). [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/1547.html]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/finiansrainbow.html] Music: Burton Lane, Lyrics: EY 'Yip' Harburg, Book: EY 'Yip Harburg and Fred Saidy.
:Political satire about Finian, who steals a pot of gold from Glocca Morra in Ireland, and brings it to America, pursued by Og, a leprechaun. There is a subplot about white racist senator who becomes black following an accidental invocation of one of the leprechaun's magic wishes.
[http://videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?publishedId=979641&customerID=97135 Movie Trailer]
Five Guys Named Moe (1990). [http://www.fiveguysnamedmoe.com/]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/1551.html] Music: Louis Jordan. Musical revue about
Nomax, who pines for love, and drowns his misery in alcohol.
Materializing from a radio that he is listening to, are the five Moes
who teach him, through song and dance, about life and love.
Flora the Red Menace (1965). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/flora.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/1555.html] Music: John Kander, Lyrics: Fred Ebb, Book: George Abbott and Robert Russell. Set in the 1930s Depression, it is a story of Flora, a naive young girl, who joins the Communist party purely because of love for her boyfriend.
Flower Drum Song (1958). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/flowerdrum.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/flowerdrumsong.html] Music: Richard Rodgers, Book and lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II.
:Mail-order bride from Hong Kong, Mei Li, arrives in San Francisco, looking for her prospective husband, Sammy Fong, a middle-aged nightclub owner. However, she falls in love with a young student, Wang Ta, instead.
Follies (1971). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/follies.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/follies.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/1610.html] Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim. Book: James Goldman.
:It takes place during a 30th anniversary reunion of ex-showgirls from
the famous Follies revue. Many of them have married, and they
reminisce and confront the ghosts of their past, and in so doing,
solve their current unhappiness.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=cxx0FMFVjiA Marin Mazzie]
Footloose (1998). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/footloose.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/footloose.html] Creators: Dean Pitchford, Tom Snow, Walter Bobbie, and Kenny Loggins.
:Based on the 1984 movie, about Ren, a city boy who moves back to a backwater town in rural America, where dancing is banned.
[http://videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://videodetective.com/home.asp?PublishedID=2974 Movie Trailer]
Fosse (1999). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/fosse.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/1744.html] Creators: Various.
:Musical dance revue showcasing pieces choreographed by the late Bob Fosse.
Full Monty, The (2000). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/fullmonty.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/1747.html] Music and lyrics: David Yazbek, Book: Terrence McNally.
:Musical version of the movie, about a group of frustrated unemployed steel workers who decide to present a striptease act at a local club.
Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A (1962). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/forum.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/forum.html] Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim, Book: Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart.
:Musical burlesque set in ancient Rome, about dysfunctional Roman
families and their slaves.
George M! (1968). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/georgem.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/georgem.html] Music and lyrics: George M Cohan, Book: Michael Steward, John and Francine Pascal.
:The life of the entertainer, George M Cohan, starting from his days in vaudeville, to his final triumph as a Broadway star.
Godspell (1971). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/godspell.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/godspell.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/1778.html] Music and lyrics: Stephen Schwartz.
:Set in contemporary New York, it is a modern retelling of the Gospel according to St
[http://videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?customerid=97135&publishedID=890360 Movie Trailer1]
[http://www.rogersvideo.ca/movie.asp?mid=2860# Movie Trailer2]
Grease (1972). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/grease.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/grease.html] Music and lyrics: Barry Gibb, John Farrar.
:Set in the rock and roll era of the 1950s, it follows the story of innocent Sandy Dumbrowski, and macho Danny Zuko who, after a brief summer romance, unexpectedly reunite in their high school.
[http://www.videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://www.videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?customerid=97135&publishedid=720 Movie Trailer1]
[http://www.movie-list.com/g/grease.shtml Movie Trailer2]
Great American Trailer Park Musical, The (2004). [http://arts.monstersandcritics.com/reviews/article_10222.php] Music and lyrics: David Nehls, Book: Betsy Kelso. Norbert and Jeannie have been married for 20 years, and there is little electricity left in their relationship, a situation exacerbated by Jeannie’s agoraphobia, in which she refuses to leave their trailer. Norbert is drawn by Pippi the Stripper, who comes to town. His moral conundrum is commented by a Greek chorus of trailer park neighbors.
[http://www.trailerparkmusical.com/ Video Clips]
Guys and Dolls (1950). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/guysdolls.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/guysndolls.html] Music and lyrics: Frank Loesser, Book: Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling.
:Based on Damon Runyon's New York short stories. Inveterate gambler, Nathan Detroit, runs a successful floating crap operation in New York, and makes a bet that his gambling colleague, Sky Masterson, cannot persuade Salvation Army stalwart, Miss Sarah Brown, to travel with him to Cuba.
[http://www.mgm.com/title_title.do?title_star=GUYSANDD Movie Trailer]
Gypsy (1959). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/gypsy.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/gypsy.html] Music Jule Styne, Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim.
:Taken from the autobiography of Gypsy Rose Lee, the musical follows her life from a young entertainer, to her transition into a popular striptease artist.
[http://videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?customerid=97135&publishedid=4220 Movie Trailer]
Hair (1968). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/hair.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/hair.html] Music: Galt MacDermot, Book and lyrics: Gerome Ragni and James Rado.
:This musical revue is set in the hippie peace and love
movement of the 1960s, and shocks the audience through its use of strong language and nudity.
[http://videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?customerid=97135&publishedID=386 Movie Trailer]
Hairspray (2002). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/hairspray.htm]
Music: Marc Shaiman, Lyrics: Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Book: Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan.
:Based on the 1988 movie. When Tracy Turnblad gets a chance to dance on the Corny Collins TV Show, she becomes an overnight teen celebrity. She then embarks on a mission to racially integrate the show.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/hedwig.htm]
Music and lyrics: Stephen Trask, Book: John Cameron Mitchell.
:Hedwig Schmidt starts off as a boy brought up by an overly strict mother in Germany. He meets Luther, an American GI, who is prepared to take Hedwig back to the USA provided he undergoes a sex-change operation and becomes his bride. Unfortunately the operation is botched up, and not only is she left with a one-inch remnant of her past, but her new husband leaves her. She forms her own band and becomes a rock and roll superstar.
[http://www.ifilm.com/ifilmdetail/2398040 Movie Trailer1]
[http://www.get-hed.com/# Movie Trailer2]
Hello Dolly (1964). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/hellodolly.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/hellodolly.html] Music and lyrics: Jerry Herman, Book: Michael Stewart.
:Adapted from Thornton Wilder's play The Matchmaker, the musical is about Dolly Gallagher, a matchmaker, who puts herslf up as a candidate for marriage when she falls for the wealthy businessman, Horace Vandergelder.
High Fidelity (2006). [http://www.topfivebreakups.com/] [http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,1971549,00.html] Music Tom Kitt, Lyrics: Amanda Green, Book: David Lindsay-Abaire.
:Adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel and 2000 film, this romantic comedy is set in New York, and is about a record-store owner who, when rejected yet again by another girlfriend, revisits his former relationships to ascertain where he went wrong.
High School Musical (2005). [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_School_Musical]
Music: Peter Barsocchini.
:Made for TV movie about two high school students, Troy, captain of the basketball team, and Gabriella, an academically bright but shy transfer student. They audition for the leading roles in their high school musical. But they encounter opposition from an arrogant pair who resent inexperienced neophytes usurping their position.
High Society (1998). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/highsoc.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/h/high_society.shtml] Music and lyrics: Cole Porter, Book: Arthur Kopit.
::Based on the 1940 film Philadelphia Story and the 1956 film High Society. Tracy Lord, a wealthy socialite, is planning to marry her second husband, when her first husband, Dexter Haven, plans to upset proceedings. In the meantime, a magazine reporter sent to cover the story also falls in love with Tracy.
[http://videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://videodetective.com/home.asp?PublishedID=218 Movie Trailer]
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/howto.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/howtosucceed.html] Music and lyrics: Frank Loesser, Book: Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert.
:Witty satire on climbing the corporate ladder. Young J Pierpont Finch starts off as a window-cleaner and following the advice given in a book with the same title as the musical, he eventually becomes Chairman of the Board.
[http://www.rogersvideo.ca/movie.asp?mid=20698# Movie Trailer]
I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (1996). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/loveperfectchange.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/iloveyouyoureperfect.html] Music: Jimmy Roberts, Book and lyrics: Joe DiPietro.
:A musical revue looking at relationships from the first date, marriage, and death.
Into the Woods (1987). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/intothewoods.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/intothewoods.html] Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim, Book: James Lapine.
:The merging of several fairy tale characters leads to an exploration of the inner psyche of these people. The story centers around the baker, whose wife is infertile. A neighboring witch helps get her pregnant in exchange for some objects which the couple have to find. The second half of the musical changes into a much darker and somber tale.
Irma la Douce (1958). [http://www.stageagent.com/shows.php?id=1031] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/i/irma_la_douce.shtml] Music: Marguerite Monnot, Book and lyrics: Julian More, Monty Norman, David Heneker. Irma, a prostitute, breaks up with her pimp because of his rough treatment. Nestor, a young student, helps Irma and they fall in love. But he is jealous of her other male clients, and masquerades as a fictitious sugar daddy to pay for her exclusive services.
It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman (1966). [http://www.musicalheaven.com/i/Its_A_Bird.shtml] Music: Charles Strouse, Lyrics: Lee Adams, Book: David Newman and Robert Benton. Comic strip superhero, Superman, thwarts the evil plans of mad scientist, Dr Sedgwick, who tries to blow up Metropolis.
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (1968) [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Brel_is_Alive_and_Well_and_Living_in_Paris]
Music and lyrics: Jacques Brel.
:Musical review of the songs of Jacques Brel.
Jekyll and Hyde (1997). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/jekyllhyde.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/jeckylhyde.html] Music: Frank Wildhorn, Book and lyrics: Leslie Bricusse.
:Based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, it concerns the brilliant Dr Jekyll, who conducts an experiment on himself, and creates his evil alter ego, Mr Hyde.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=9KiX2Wgo7hg Anthony Warlow]
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=R1_JQUy3Dq4&mode=related&search= Linda Eder]
Jersey Boys (2005). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/jersey.htm]
Music: Bob Gaudio, Lyrics: Bob Crewe, Book: Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice. Jukebox musical about Franki Valli and the Four Seasons, four blue-collar boys who go from rags to riches.
Jesus Christ Superstar (1971). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/jesuschrist.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/jesusuperstar.htm] Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Book and lyrics: Tim Rice.
:Rock opera retelling of the life of Jesus seen through the eyes of Judas Iscariot.
[http://www.videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://www.videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?publishedId=837200&customerID=97135 2000 Movie Trailer1]
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=Zi1WhdcsVoU 1973 Movie Trailer2]
[http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0070239/trailers Movie Trailer3]
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1968). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/joseph.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/joseph.html] Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Book and lyrics: Tim Rice.
:A pastiche of songs relate the biblical story of Joseph who is sold into slavery by his brothers. By interpreting Pharaoh’s dream he is put in charge of the Egyptian granaries.
[http://videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?publishedId=225720&customerID=97135 Movie Trailer]
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=164DrxqyJRc&mode=related&search= Donny Osmond]
King and I, The (1951). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/kingandi.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/kingni.html] Music: Richard Rodgers, Book and lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II.
:English schoolteacher, Anna Leonowens, is employed by the King of Siam to teach the royal children. There is a clash of cultures, but in time, Anna and the King develop a mutual respect for each other.
[http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8448450733242898465&q=i+have+dreamed&hl=en George Lyons]
Kismet (1953). [http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Kismet_(musical)] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/k/kismet.shtml] Music: Alexander Borodin, Lyrics: Goerge Forrest and Robert Wright, Book: Charles Lederer and Luther Davis.
:Set in the Arabian Nights, a public poet assumes the identity of a beggar, Hajj, and through a series of cons, curses, and mistaken identities, he becomes appointed Emir of Baghdad. He runs off with the beautiful Lalume, after getting rid of her husband, the wicked Wazir.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=etGHmduZQyw Johnny Mathis]
[http://www.videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://www.videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?customerid=97135&publishedID=2093 Movie Trailer]
Kiss Me Kate (1948). [http://www.musicalheaven.com/k/kiss_me_kate.shtml] [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/kate.htm] [http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/kissmekate.html] Music and lyrics: Cole Porter, Book: Bella and Samuel Spewack.
:Fred Graham and his ex-wife Lilli Vanessi are members of a touring theatrical company and play the roles of Petruchio and Kate in Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. There is parallel conflict both on stage as well as off, and, as in Shakespeare’s plot, all ends well.
[http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/shows/kissmekate/kissmekate.html Great Performances]
[http://www.videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://www.videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?customerid=97135&publishedid=220 Movie Trailer]
Kiss of the Spider Woman (1992). [http://www.musicalheaven.com/k/kiss_of_the_spider_woman.shtml]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/kissofthespiderwoman.html] Music: John Kander, Lyrics: Fred Ebb, Book: Terrence McNally.
:Adapted from Manuel Puig’s novel, the story is about two prisoners in a Latin American jail, one a Marxist revolutionary, and the other a gay window dresser. The brutality and torture of prison life is contrasted with the fantasy world of movies that they dream of.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=DQQ5K1tCh6M Tony Telecast]
La Cage Aux Folles (1983). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/cage.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/lacage.html] Music and lyrics: Jerry Herman. Book: Harvey Fierstein.
:Adaptation of the French play and film. Two ageing homosexual partners who perform as drag queens in the nightclub, La Cage Aux Folles, suddenly face a minor crisis when the son of one of them decides to bring his fiancee and her moralist parents to meet his gay father.
Lady in the Dark (1941). [http://www.nodanw.com/shows_l/lady_in_the_dark.htm] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/l/lady_in_the_dark.shtml] [http://www.stageagent.com/shows.php?id=1057] Music: Kurt Weill, Lyrics: Ira Gershwin, Book: Moss Hart.
:This play with music concerns Liza Elliott, a magazine editor, who suffers from depression and consults her psychiatrist, Dr Brooks. Analysis of a series of her dreams enables Liza to gain insight and to make the right decisions both for her magazine as well as her own life.
Last Five Years, The (2002). [http://www.nodanw.com/shows_l/index.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/lastfiveyears.html] Book, music and lyrics: Jason Robert Brown.
:The musical follows Cathy’s relationship with Jamie over the 5 years that it has lasted. With Cathy, the story is told backwards starting at the end. In contrast, Jamie’s story starts at the beginning and progresses forward in time.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=26oQPsWGF7o Jason Robert Brown]
Lennon (2005). [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lennon_(musical)] [http://theater.about.com/od/broadwaymusicals/p/Lennon.htm] Music and lyrics: John Lennon, Book : Don Scardino.
:Jukebox musical biography of John Lennon’s life using his own words and songs.
Les Miserables (1980). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/lesmis.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/lesmis.html] Music and book: Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, English lyrics: Herbert Kretzmer.
:An adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel. Jean Valjean, condemned to 19 years’ hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread, breaks parole, only to be pursued by obsessional police inspector Javert. Valjean joins the doomed 1832 student uprising in Paris and saves the life of Marius, who is in love with his adopted daughter, Cosette.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=M1JO4p1FElw Lea Salonga]
Lestat (2006). [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lestat_(musical)]
[http://www.stageagent.com/shows.php?id=1060] Music: Elton John, Lyrics: Bernie Taupin, Book: Linda Woolverton.
:Inspired by Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles,
Light in the Piazza, The (2005). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/light.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/lightinthepiazza.html] Music and lyrics: Adam Guettel, Book: Craig Lucas.
:Clara Johnson, an American on holiday in Tuscany, falls in love with an Italian, Fabrizio Naccarelli. But her mother objects to this relationship.
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUewIzN6Y08 Adam Guettel]
Li’l Abner (1956). [http://www.musicalheaven.com/l/lil_abner.shtml]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/lilabner.html] Music: Gene de Paul, Lyrics: Johnny Mercer, Book: Norman Panama and Melvin Frank.
:This hillbilly musical is based on Al Capp’s satirical comic strip. Daisy Mae wants Li’l Abner, and joins a race in which the prize is Li’l Abner. In the meantime, the US Government wants to evacuate there are to be used for atom bomb experiments.
Lion King, The (1997). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/lionking.htm]
Music: Elton John, Lyrics: Tim Rice, Book: Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi.
:Adaptation of Disney’s cartoon using Julie Taymor’s puppets. This is a coming of age story of Simba, the royal lion cub.
Little Me (1962). [http://www.musicalheaven.com/l/little_me.shtml] [http://www.nodanw.com/shows_l/little_me.htm] Music: Cy Coleman, Lyrics: Carolyn Leigh, Book: Neil Simon.
:Musical burlesque featuring an old movie star writing her memoirs and recalling each of the 7 men in her life, all played by the same actor.
Little Night Music, A (1973). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/nightmusic.htm] [http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/alittlenitemusic.html] [http://wiki.stageagent.com/more_show_info.php?id=735] Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim, Book: Hugh Wheeler. Based on Ingmar Bergman’s 1956 film, Smiles of a Summer Night, it takes place over a weekend in the country in early 20th century Sweden. The story revolves around 3 couples. Middle-aged widowed lawyer, Fredrik Egerman, has remarried, but his young new wife Anne is still a virgin after 11 months of marriage. He meets up with his former mistress, Desiree, but the latter turns up unexpectedly with her current lover. In the meantime, Fredrik’s son has fallen in love with his father’s young wife.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=e0tTCaFEEKI Barbra Streisand]
Little Shop of Horrors (1982). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/shophorrors.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/littleshophorrors.html] Music: Alan Menken, Book and lyrics: Howard Ashman.
: Based on the film, this campy musical with an offbeat humor is about Seymour, a sales assistant at Mushnick’s flower shop, who brings a weird plant to work, but it turns out to be a man-eating monster.
[http://videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://videodetective.com/home.asp?PublishedID=2188 Movie Trailer]
Lord of the Rings (2006). [http://www.lotr.com/]
Music: Varttina and AR Rahman, Book and lyrics: Matthew Warchus and Shaun McKenna.
:Musical stage adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
MUSICALS DIRECTORY M-Z
by Kenneth Lyen
Mack and Mabel (1974). [http://www.musicalheaven.com/m/mack__mabel.shtml] [http://www.stageagent.com/shows.php?id=1084] Music and lyrics: Jerry Herman, Book: Michael Stewart. Film director, Mack Sennett, recalls the days of the silent movies, and the occasion when a girl, Mabel Normand, accidentally enters the stage trying to obtain money for the sandwich she has delivered, when her performance is filmed. Mack and Mabel fall in love, but they separate and reunite several times over the years.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=YgSATgDjoJA Michael Ball & Ruthie Henshall]
Magic Show, The (1976). [http://www.musicalschwartz.com/magicshow.htm] [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Magic_Show] Music and lyrics: Stephen Schwartz, Book: Bob Randall. A failing entertainment establishment is saved from ruin when a magic show replaces its regular act.
Mame (1966) [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/mame.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/mame.html] Music and lyrics: Jerry Herman, Book: Robert E Lee and Jerome Lawrence.
:Mame is one kookie aunt who attempts to pass on her unconventional lifestyle and philosophy to her orphaned nephew. The 1929 Wall Street Crash leaves her with financial difficulties, which she overcomes when is marries a wealthy ex-client.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=ubDADcbS62U Marilyn Horne & Frederica von Stade]
Mamma Mia! (1999). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/mamma.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/m/mamma_mia.html] Music and lyrics: Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, Book: Catherine Johnson.
:Jukebox musical about Sophie who is preparing for her wedding on a Greek island. She wants to invite her father to attend, and by reading through her mother’s diary, she discovers that there are 3 potential candidates, and invites all 3 to come to the island.
[http://www.mamma-mia.com/video.asp?sec=show TV Commercials]
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2BT0POF-vM Charity Show]
Man of La Mancha (1965). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/mancha.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/manoflamancha.html] Music: Mitch Leigh, Lyrics: Joe Darion, Book: Dale Wasserman.
:Based on Miguel de Cervantes classic novel about Don Quixote who is best remembered as the knight who fought windmills. The musical interweaves Cervantes’ fictional character with his real life of frequent imprisonment.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=ci7e78Ss7kg Linda Eder]
Martin Guerre (1996). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/guerre.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/martinguerre.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/m/martin_guerre.shtml] Music: Claude-Michel Schonberg, Lyrics: Alain Boublil, English lyrics: Edward Hardy and Stephen Clark. Based on a true story, the musical is set in 16th Century France. Martin Guerre, a Catholic, is married to Bertrande, but abandons her to fight the Protestants. Seven years later, severely wounded in battle and given up for dead, his friend Arnaud assumes his identity and deceives Bertrande into accepting him as her husband.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=DqHjPMLPM78 David Campbell]
Mary Poppins (1999). [http://www.nodanw.com/shows_m/index.htm]
Music and lyrics: Richard M and Robert R Sherman, Book by Julien Fellowes, New songs and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drew.
:Adaptation of Disney’s movie, Mary is a magical governess who comes to the Bank’s home to look after the two children, and helps the family find love and understanding.
Merrily We Roll Along (1981). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/merrily.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/merrilyweroll.html] Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim, Book: George Furth.
:Story told backwards, centers on Franklin Shepard, a successful composer, whose prodigal life includes betrayal of his wife and friends in pursuit of fame and wealth.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=wwPIUMPAAuk Audra McDonald]
Miss Saigon (1989). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/misssaigon.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/misssaigon.html] Music and book: Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, English lyrics: Richard Maltby Jr.
:A modern retelling of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. Set in Saigon during the last days of American presence in Vietnam, Chris, a young marine, falls in love with Kim, a novice prostitute.
Most Happy Fella, The (1956). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/happyfella.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/mosthappyfella.html] Book, music, and lyrics: Frank Loesser.
:Tony, attracted to Rosabelle, a waitress in a San Francisco restaurant, proposes to her by post. Thinking that he can increase his prospects, he includes a photograph not of himself, but of his handsome young foreman, Tony.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=HNfVUB24jho Gloria Lynne]
Movin' Out (2002). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/movinout.htm]
[http://wiki.stageagent.com/more_show_info.php?id=1094] Music and lyrics: Billy Joel, Choreography: Twyla Tharp.
:Jukebox dance musical concerning five childhood friends who are affected by the Vietnam War. One of them is killed in Vietnam, another turns to drugs, and a third cannot establish a loving relationship.
Music Man (1957). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/musicman.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/musicman.html] Book, music, and lyrics: Meredith Willson.
:Harold Hill, an itinerant con man, persuades a town that they need a boys band, and promises to supply the music instruments, which never arrive.
[http://www.videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://www.videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?customerid=97135&publishedid=420 Movie Trailer]
My Fair Lady (1956). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/myfairlady.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/myfairlady.html] Music: Frederick Loewe, Book and lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner.
:An adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion. Henry Higgins, a phonetics expert, makes a bet with a friend, that he can transform the speech of a flower girl with a heavy cockney accent, into a lady who can speak proper English and pass off as a royal princess.
[http://videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?publishedId=4261&customerID=97135 Movie Trailer]
[http://audrey1.com/lady.html Audrey Hepburn]
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=_JQ78BpYZS0 Ascot Gavotte]
Nick and Nora (1991). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/nicknora.htm]
Music: Charles Strouse, Lyrics: Richard Maltby Jr, Book: Arthur Laurents.
:Based on Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. Set in the film world of the 1930s, Nora Charles helps her old friend by trying to solve who murdered the studio book keeper, but her husband Nick decides to take over the investigation himself.
Nine (1963). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/nine.htm]
Music and lyrics: Maury Yeston, Book: Arthur Kopit.
:An adaptation of Frederico Fellini’s 1963 film, Eight and a Half. Movie director Guido Contini goes to a Venetian spa to rest, and to get away from his wife, his mistress, his mother, his producer, and his protege, all of whom he recalls as a series of flashbacks.
No, No, Nanette (1925). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/nanette.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/nononanette.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/n/no_no_nanette.shtml] Music: Vincent Youmans, Lyrics: Irving Caesar and Otto Harbach, Book: Otto Harbach and Frank Mandel.
:Married bible publisher, Jimmy Smith, is guardian to a young lady, Nanette, and has been surreptitiously supporting 3 pretty ladies in 3 different cities. When Jimmy is holidaying in Atlantic City with Nanette, all 3 ladies turn up unexpectedly, as does his jealous wife.
Oklahoma! (1943). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/oklahoma.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/oklahoma.html] Music: Richard Rodgers, Book and lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II.
:Based on Lynn Rigg’s 1931 play Green Grow the Lilacs. Two ranch hands, Curly and Judd Fry, have eyes for the same girl, Laurey. She actually prefers the handsome Curly, but to make him jealous, she flirts with Jud.
[http://www.videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://www.videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?customerid=97135&publishedID=2868 Movie Trailer]
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=jMoOusco5uA&mode=related&search= Michael Ball & Barbara Cook]
Oliver! (1960). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/oliver.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/oliver.html] Book, music, and lyrics: Lionel Bart.
:Adaptation of Charles Dicken’s novel. Orphan Oliver dared to ask for more food at the workhouse, and is expelled into the inclement world of Victorian London, where he joins a group of young pickpockets, led by a benign scoundrel, Fagin.
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1965.) [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/clear.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/onaclearday.html] Music: Burton Lane, Book and lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner.
:Daisy asks Dr. Brockner to hypnotize her to quit smoking, but instead, she finds that she has the incredible talent to remember past lives, like the 18th Century Melinda Wells.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=oZP66focZTc Shirley Bassey]
On the Town (1944). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/onthetown.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/onthetown.html] Music: Leonard Bernstein, Book and lyrics: Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
:Three sailors on 24 hour leave, meet three girls and go on a tour of New York.
[http://videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://videodetective.com/home.asp?PublishedID=2 Movie Trailer]
On The Twentieth Century (1978), [http://www.musicalheaven.com/Detailed/221.html]
Music: Cy Coleman, Book and lyrics: Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
:With 4 flops in succession and his theatre on the verge of foreclosure, producer Oscar Jaffee boards a luxury train named “Twentieth Century Limited”, hoping to entice back to the stage his star performer, Lily Garland.
Once Upon a Mattress (1996). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/onceuponmattress.htm]
Music: Mary Rodgers, Lyrics: Marshall Barer, Book: Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Marshall Barer.
:Based on the fairy tale Princess and the Pea, where a princess is tested by seeing if she could feel a pea placed under her mattress. The young lady could not sleep, despite an ever increasing number of mattresses placed on top of the pea, thus proving she was a princess, and eligible to marry the prince.
Paint Your Wagon (1951). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/paintwagon.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/paintyourwagon.html] Music: Frederick Loewe, Book and lyrics: Alan Jay Lerner.
:Gold is found in Californian mining camp in 1853, and this creates a gold rush and a new town is born. There are 400 men, and Jennifer is the only woman.
[http://videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://videodetective.com/home.asp?PublishedID=5048 Movie Trailer]
Pajama Game, The (1954). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/pajama.htm]
Music: Richard Adler, Lyrics: Jerry Ross, Book: Richard Bissell and George Abbott.
:Based on Richard Bissel’s novel 7½ Cents. Union leader of a pajama factory, Babe Williams, leads a strike to extract a pay rise of 7½ cents from management. Sid Sorotkin, representing management, has to negotiate with the union, and falls in love with Babe Williams.
Pal Joey (1940). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/paljoey.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/paljoey.html] Music: Richard Rodgers, Lyrics: Lorenz Hart, Book: John O’Hara.
:Joey Evans, a night club singer, is a cad. He seduces Linda English, only to dump her for a wealthy widow, Vera Simpson.
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRVmGgwRZog Movie Trailer]
Parade (1998). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/parade.htm]
[http://www.geocities.com/jason_robert_brown/parade.html] Music and lyrics: Jason Robert Brown, Book: Alfred Uhry.
:Leo Frank, a Jew, was convicted of rape and murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan, but because doubts were raised that the verdict was based on insufficient evidence and distorted by anti-Semitism, his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. While being transferred to another prison, he was lynched and hung.
Passion (1994). [http://www.nodanw.com/shows_p/passion.htm] [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passion_%28musical%29] [http://www.justball.net/home/musicals/passion/plot.php] Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim, Book: James Lapine.
:Giorgio, a young soldier, is having an affair with a married woman, Clara. He is then transferred to a northern Italy outpost, where he meets a sickly and unattractive woman, Fosca. The latter falls obsessionally in love with Giorgio, who initially does not reciprocate her feelings. Then Clara finds out about Fosca.
Peter Pan (1954). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/peterpan.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/peterpan.html] Music: Mark Charlap and Jule Styne, Lyrics: Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green.
:Based on a novel by James M Barrie, Peter Pan is a boy who does not want to grow up, and he brings the Darling children to Neverland, where he defeats his adversary, Captain Hook,
Phantom of the Opera (1986). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/phantom.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/phantom.html] Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics: Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, Book: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe. Based on Gaston Leroux’s novel. Facially disfigured masked phantom, hiding in the bowels of the Paris Opera House, is obsessed with Christine, a beautiful young soprano, whose voice he trains. However, she is in love with an opera patron, Raoul.
[http://www.movie-list.com/trailers.php?id=phantomoftheopera Movie Trailer]
[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0293508/trailers Movie Trailer2]
Pickwick (1963). [http://www.nodanw.com/shows_p/pickwick.htm] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/p/pickwick.shtml] Music: Cyril Ornadel, Lyrics: Leslie Bricusse, Book: Wolf Mankowitz.
:Musical comedy based on Charles Dickens’ Pickwick Papers.
Pippin (1972). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/pippin.htm]
Music and lyrics: Stephen Schwartz, Book: Roger O’Hirson. Pippin, the son of Emperor Charlemagne, seeks glory in war, but eventually decides to settle down with Catherine, a widow.
Porgy and Bess (1935). Music: George Gershwin, Lyrics: Ira Gershwin and duBose Heyward, Book: duBose Heyward. Opera based on duBose Heward’s novel, the story is about Porgy, a crippled beggar and the seductive Bess.
Producers, The (2001). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/producers.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/producers.html] Music and lyrics: Mel Brooks, Book: Thomas Meehan and Mel Brooks.
:Adaptation from the 1960 film, Max Bialystock, the worst Broadway producer, is told by his accountant Leo Bloom that he could make more money from a flop show than a successful one. Together they set out to produce the biggest flop.
[http://sonypictures.co.uk/movies/theproducers/ Movie Trailer1]
[http://www.movie-list.com/trailers.php?id=producers Movie Trailer2]
Ragtime (1998). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/ragtime.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/r/ragtime.shtml] Music: Stephen Flaherty, Lyrics: Lynn Ahrens, Book: Terrence McNally.
:Sung-through musical adaptation of EL Doctorow’s novel. Coalhouse Walker, a Harlem musician wants to win back the affections of his former girlfriend Sarah, by buying a new Ford model T to impress her. One day, while on a leisure drive, he asks directions from a group of white firemen, who harass him, vandalizes and destroys his car. Unable to find justice, Coalhouse burns down fire stations, and to blow up JP Morgan’s library.
Rent (1996). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/rent.htm]
Book, music, and lyrics: Jonathan Larson.
:Inspired by Puccini’s La Boheme, this rock musical is about Roger and Mimi, both of whom suffer from Aids, and their bohemian friends living in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
[http://www.movie-list.com/trailers.php?id=rent Movie Trailer]
Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd, The (1965). [http://www.musicalheaven.com/r/roar_of_the_greasepaint.shtml] [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Roar_of_the_Greasepaint%E2%80%94the_Smell_of_the_Crowd] Book, music, and lyrics: Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse.
:Cocky, a man who is ebullient in nature and always plays by the rules, engages in a Game of Life with cunning, imperious Sir, who always ignores rules.
Rocky Horror Show, The (1973). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/rocky.htm]
Campy raunchy rock musical about a couple, Brad and Janet, who take shelter from a storm in a castle full of strange people.
[http://www.videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://www.videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?publishedId=5413&customerID=97135 Movie Trailer1] [http://youtube.com/watch?v=UPNVZewZX5A Movie Trailer2]
Saturday Night Fever (1999). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/fever.htm]
[http://www.nodanw.com/shows_s/index.htm] Music and lyrics: Bee Gees, Book: Nik Cohn
:Adaptation of the 1977 film. Tony Manero, a troubled youth working in a dead end job, escapes into a world of disco music. He enters a competition hoping to become king of disco dancing.
[http://film.virgin.net/synopsis/synopsis.asp?filmid=3181&sec=syn&pgtitle=movietrailersarchive Movie Trailer1]
[http://www.videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://www.videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?customerid=97135&publishedID=1537 Movie Trailer2]
Scarlet Pimpernel, The (1997). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/pimp.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/scarletpimp.html] [http://www.ronbohmer.com/sp.html] Music: Frank Wildhorn, Lyrics: Nan Knighton.
:Based on Baroness Orczy’s 1905 novel. Set during the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution, Sir Percy Blakeney, a rich English aristocrat, discovers that his newly married beautiful French actress Marguerite St. Just, has betrayed his friend to the Revolutionary Government, leading to his guillotine. To avenge his friend, Sir Percy disguises himself as the Scarlet Pimpernel, and rescues many innocent lives. French agent Chauvelin is instructed to seek and destroy the Scarlet Pimpernel and his followers.
Secret Garden, The (1991). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/secretgarden.htm]
Music: Lucy Simon, Lyrics: Marsha Norman.
:Based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel, orphaned Mary Lennox returns to England to stay with her uncle Archibald, a depressed widower, who has a sickly bedridden 10-year-old son. Discovery of a secret garden restores love and happiness to the household.
Seussical (2000). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/seussical.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/seussical.html] Music: Stephen Flaherty, Lyrics: Lynn Ahrens, Book: Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.
:Based on the books by Dr Seuss. Horton the elephant, hears a small speck of dust speak, and learns that this speck is populated by people of Who-ville. The story is narrated by The Cat in the Hat.
She Loves Me (1963). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/shelovesme.htm]
Music: Jerry Bock, Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick, Book: Jose Masteroff.
:Based on the 19 film The Shop Around the Corner. Shop manager Georg constantly quarrels with the new sales assistent Amalie, unaware that they are one another’s good penfriend.
Showboat (1927). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/showboat.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/s/showboat.shtml] Music: Jerome Kern, Book and lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II.
:Adaptation of Edna Ferber’s novel. Magnolia, daughter of the owner of a showboat that plies the Mississipi river, falls in love with and marries Ravenal, a good-for-nothing gambler, who leaves her when he loses his money gambling. A subplot involves a mulatto, Julie, who is loyal to her man, Steve.
[http://www.videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://www.videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?customerid=97135&publishedID=210 Movie Trailer]
Side Show (1997). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/sideshow.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/sideshow.html] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/s/side_show.shtml] Music: Henry Krieger, Book and lyrics: Bill Russell.
:A pair of female conjoined “siamese” twins joins a vaudeville act, where they are exploited. One likes being in the spotlight, whereas the other wants a quiet life. A boyfriend falls in love with one of them, but he hesitates on marriage.
Singin’ in the Rain (1983). [http://www.stageagent.com/shows.php?id=1139] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/s/singin_in_the_rain.shtml] Music: Nacio Herb Brown, Lyrics: Arthur Freed, Book: Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
:Based on the 1952 film musical. Lina Lamont is a star of the silent movies, but when the studio converts to sound, her high-pitched grating voice becomes a handicap. The film studio hires an overdub artist, and when leading man Don Lockwood falls in love with her, Lina becomes jealous.
[http://www.ifilm.com/video/2672755/channel/movies Movie Trailer]
[http://trailers.warnerbros.com/web/play.jsp?trailer=singin_in_the_rain_trailer Movie Trailer]
Smoky Joe's Café (1994). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/smoky.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/s/smokey_joes_cafe.shtml] Music and lyrics: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
:Musical review celebrating the songs of Leiber and Stoller.
Sound of Music, The (1959). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/soundofmusic.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/s/sound_of_music.shtml] Music: Richard Rodgers, Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II, Book: Howard Lindsey and Russel Crouse.
:Maria a novice nun in Saltzburg, is sent to work at Captain von Trapp’s as a governess to his 7 children. She falls in love with the captain and they marry, but their happiness is interrupted by the entry of the Nazi German army into Austria.
South Pacific (1949). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/southpacific.htm]
[http://www.musicalheaven.com/s/south_pacific.shtml] Music: Richard Rodgers, Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II, Book: Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan.
:Based on James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific. Set in the south sea islands during World War II, American army nurse Nellie Forbush, falls in love with middle-aged French planter, Emil de Becque, but is disturbed when she discovers he has fathered 2 children by a Polynesian woman, who is now deceased. There is a subplot of Lieutenant Cable, a white American, who falls in love with a Polynesian girl.
Spamalot (2005). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/spam.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/spamalot.html] Music and lyrics: John DuPrez and Eric Idle, Book: Eric Idle.
:Monty Python’s absurdist humor in retelling of King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail.
Spring Awakening (2006). [http://www.springawakening.com/]
Music: Duncan Sheik, Lyrics: Steven Sater.
:Based on Frank Wedekind’s play, and set in Germany of 1891. This is a coming of age story of Melchior, who learns about love when he meets Wendla in the woods. His friend Moritz commits suicide because of academic failure, and Melchior is blamed for it, leading to his expulsion from school.
Starlight Express (1994). [http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/starlightexpress.html] Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics: Richard Stilgoe.
:Sung-through rock opera about train carriages that pair up to enter a race. All the performers are on roller skates.
Stop the World - I Want to Get Off (1962). [http://www.musicalheaven.com/s/stop_the_world_i_want_to_get_off.shtml] Book, music, and lyrics: Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse.
:Littlechap has ambitions to be famous, and he travels through the Seven Ages of Man, from factory teaboy, finally to Earldom. But on reaching the final goal, he is disillusioned.
Student Prince, The (1924). [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Student_Prince] [http://musicaltheatreguide.com/composers/romberg/student_prince.htm] Music: Sigmund Romberg, Book and lyrics: Dorothy Donnelly.
:Prince Karl-Franz of Karlsberg goes to Heidelberg University and falls in love with a waitress. But when his father dies, he has decide on the right course of action.
Sunday in the Park with George (1984). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/sunday.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/sundayinthepark.html] Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim, Book: James Lapine.
:George Seurat is painting his great work, Sunday Afternoon in the Island of La Grande Jatte. His relationship with his mistress who is also his model, and his mother, are explored.
Sunset Boulevard (1993). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/sunset.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/sunsetblvd.html] Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Book and lyrics: Don Black.
:Adapted from Billy Wilder's film. Norma Desmond, an ageing silent movie star, gets the help of Joe Gillis, a young screenwriter, to write her a screenplay for her to star in. They fall in love.
Sweeney Todd (1979). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/sunset.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/sweeneytodd.html] Music and lyrics: Stephen Sondheim, Book: Hugh Wheeler.
:Adaptation of Christopher Bond's play. Sweeney Todd, a barber, returns to London after an unjust imprisonment, to exact revenge on evil Judge Turpin. Renting a room for his barber practice above a meat pie shop, he slits the throat of unsuspecting customers, and the corpses are made into meatpies.
Sweet Charity (1966). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/sweetcharity.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/sweetcharity.html] Music: Cy Coleman, Lyrics: Dorothy Fields, Book: Neil Simon.
:Based on Frederico Fellini's film Nights of Cabiria. Charity, a dance hall hostess, falls in love, first with an Italian movie star, then with a conservative neurotic accountant. Unfortunately Charity's unseemly job threatens to be the stumbling block to her marriage to the accountant.
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQ7fQD3FiTk Shirley Bassey]
Taboo (2002). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/taboo.htm]
Music and lyrics: Boy George, Kevan Frost, John Themis, and Richie Stevens, Book: Charles Busch.
:Set in 1980s London, it follows the life of a pop star.
Tarzan (2006). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/tarzan.htm]
Music and lyrics: Phil Collins, Book: David Henry Hwang.
Shipwrecked in a pacific island, infant Tarzan and his parents are the only survivors. Not long after, his parents are killed by a leopard. Found by gorillas, Tarzan is brought up by them. Several years later, a ship arrives, bringing humans to the island.
[http://disney.go.com/theatre/tarzan/theshow-video.html Video] [http://www.broadwayworld.com/videoinfo.cfm?showid=1050 Broadwaryworld.com]
They're Playing Our Song (1979). [http://www.stageagent.com/shows.php?id=1691] [http://www.musicalheaven.com/t/theyre_playing_our_song.shtml] [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/They're_Playing_Our_Song] Music: Marvin Hamlisch, Lyrics: Carole Bayer Sager.
:Vernon, a composer, and Sonia, a lyricist, team up to write songs. Unfortunately, frequent telephone calls from Sonia's ex-boyfriends are jeopardizing the songwriting relationship.
Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002). [http://www.nodanw.com/shows_t/thoroughlymillie.htm]
Music: Jeanine Tesori, Lyrics: Dick Scanlan, Book: Morris and Dick Scanlan.
:Adaptation of the 1967 movie. Millie Dillmont arrives in New York, coming from rural Kansas, finding a job and a husband. She forms a list of potential employers who, with a bit of luck, will also fall in love with her and become her husband. However, the person who loves her is the young handsome but not wealthy.
Threepenny Opera, The (1928). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/threepenny.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/threepennyopera.html] Music: Kurt Weill, Lyrics: Bertolt Brecht, English book and lyrics: Marc Blitzstein.
:Based on John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. Outlaw Macheath, also known as Mack the Knife, marries Polly, the daughter of a Soho gangster, but he is betrayed by her family, and sentenced to jail. He is freed by the intervention of the police chief's daughter Lucy, but he is betrayed by Jenny the whore, and sentenced to death.
Tick, Tick... BOOM! (2001). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/tickboom.htm]
Book, music and lyrics: Jonathan Larson.
:Based on Jonathan Larson’s experience, where his girlfriend wants to get married and move to Cape Cod, while his best friend wants him to join corporate America. However, Jonathan wants to hang on to his dream of writing a successful musical, even though it means waiting at tables and barely able to make ends meet. The musical was produced posthumously.
Times They Are A-Changin’, The (2006). [http://www.playbill.com/news/article/97339.html]
[http://www.talkinbroadway.com/world/TimesChangin.html] [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Times_They_Are_A-Changin'_(musical)] Music and lyrics: Bob Dylan, Choreography: Twyla Tharp.
:Jukebox dance musical using the words and music of Bob Dylan. A low-rent traveling circus has been stuck in one location for a bit too long, and the owner’s son needs to decide whether to leave, or stay and invigorate the company.
[http://www.musicnetvision.com/video.php?play=191 Bob Dylan]
Titanic (1997). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/titanic.htm]
Music and lyrics: Maury Yeston, Book: Peter Stone.
:This musical follows the lives of real people who were on board the doomed Titanic. It includes Kate McGowan who travels Third Class and dreams of a better life in America, and Chief Steward Etches who is awed by the millionaires he attends to.
Tommy (1969). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/tommy.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/tommy.html] Music: Pete Townshend, Book:
:Rock opera about a deaf and blind boy who is molested by his uncle. He regains his sight and hearing, whereupon he discovers his innate skills in the game of pinball, and challenges the pinball wizard to become the world's champion.
[http://videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://videodetective.com/home.asp?PublishedID=886012 Movie Trailer]
[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-VkA9UrC0A&mode=related&search= The Who]
Two Gentlemen of Verona (1971). [http://www.nodanw.com/shows_t/two_gentlemen.htm] [http://www.stageagent.com/shows.php?id=1698] Music: Galt MacDermot, Lyrics: John Guare. Rock musical version of Shakespeare's play.
:Ignoble Proteous and his friend, noble Valentine, meet two ladies in Milan, Julia and Sylvia, and they fall in love.
Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964). [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Parapluies_de_Cherbourg]
Music: Michel LeGrand, Book: Jacques Demy.
:Film musical about Genevieve, a young girl who works in her mother’s umbrella factory, and Guy, an auto mechanic, who she falls in love with, but it is a union which her mother objects to. Then Guy is called away to do his two years’ national military service.
[http://videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://videodetective.com/home.asp?PublishedID=6796 Movie Trailer]
Unsinkable Molly Brown, The (1960). [http://www.nodanw.com/shows_u/unsinkable.htm] [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Unsinkable_Molly_Brown] Music and lyrics: Meredith Willson, Book: Richard Morris.
:Molly Brown rises from poverty and her effervescent personality gets her the attention of Johnny, a successful prospector, whom she marries. Her gauche behavior while holidaying in Europe threatens her relationship. However, while returning to America on the ill-fated Titanic, she exhibits great heroism, and wins back the affections of her husband.
Urinetown (2001). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/urinetown.htm]
Music and lyrics: Mark Hollmann, Book and lyrics: Greg Kotis.
:A town suffering from severe water shortage charges for visits to the town’s only toilet. The penalty for urinating in the street is exile. The owner operating the toilet facility is corrupt and unprincipled.
Music: Henry Mancini and Frank Wildhorn, Lyrics: Leslie Bricusse, Book: Blake Edwards.
:Based on the 1982 film, it is about Victoria Grant, who is unable to find work. Her friend suggests that she might secure a job as female impersonator in a nightclub, by posing as a man pretending to be a woman.
[http://www.whvdirect.com/trailers/victor_victoria Movie Trailer]
Wedding Singer, The (2006). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/weddingsinger.htm]
Music: Matthew Sklar, Lyrics: Chad Beguelin, Book: Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy
:Adapted from the 1998 film. Robbie, a wedding singer, and Julia, a waitress, are both engaged to be married to the wrong persons. Then they discover each other.
West Side Story (1957). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/westside.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/westsidestory.html] Music: Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim, Book: Arthur Laurents.
:Retelling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, set in New York. Maria, a Puerto Rican girl, falls in love with Tony, a white American. Unfortunately they belong to rival gangs, and their well-meaning attempts to stop the violence between the gangs end up tragically.
[http://www.videodetective.com/default.asp?frame=http://www.videodetective.com/trailer-preview.asp?customerid=97135&publishedID=474 Movie Trailer]
[http://www.ifilm.com/video/2672371 Movie Trailer2]
Where's Charley? (1948). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/charley.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/wherescharley.html] Music and lyrics: Frank Loesser, Book: George Abbott.
:Based on Brandon Thomas’ 1892 farce, Charley’s Aunt. Charley and Jack are two undergraduates at Oxford University, and they need a chaperone in order to entertain two young ladies. Initially Charley’s aunt would serve as that role, but her visit is delayed, and so they persuade their friend, Lord Fancourt Babberly, to disguise himself as Charley’s aunt, and act as their chaperone instead. But this phoney aunt is also interested in the two girls.
Wicked (2003). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/wicked.htm]
Music and lyrics: Stephen Schwartz, Book: Winnie Holzman.
:Adaptation of Gregory Maguire’s novel, this is a retelling of the Wizard of Oz story from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the East, redeeming her of the bad publicity propagated by Frank L Baum’s version.
Wild Party, The (Lippa) (2000). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/lippawild.htm]
Book, music, and lyrics: Andrew Lippa.
:Musical adaptation of Joseph Moncure March's 1928 poem. Queenie and Burrs throw a party in their Manhattan apartment, but it gets out of hand, becoming violent.
[http://youtube.com/watch?v=KxL-GBS8y6E Idina Menzel]
Wild Party, The (LaChiusa) (2000). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/thewildparty.htm]
Music and lyrics: Michael John LaChiusa, Book: Michael John La Chiusa and George C Wolfe.
:Based on Joseph Moncure March's 1928 poem. Queenie and Burrs throw a party in their Manhattan apartment, but it goes out of control.
Wiz, The (1975). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/wiz.htm]
Music: Charlie Smalls, Book: William F. Brown.
:An all black version of Frank L Baum’s Wizard of Oz.
[http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0078504/trailers Movie Trailer]
Wizard of Oz, The (1939). [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wizard_of_Oz_(1939_film)] Music: Harold Arlen, Lyrics: EY 'Yip' Harburg.
:Film musical. Dorothy is caught in a Kansas tornado and mysteriously transported to a mythical place. She needs to find the Wizard of Oz to help her return home. On the way she meets Scarecrow, Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion, who join her on the journey to the Emerald City.
[http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0032138/trailers Movie Trailer2]
Woman in White, The (2004). [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Woman_in_White_%28musical%29]
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics: David Zippel, Book: Charlotte Jones.
:Adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ 1860 novel. Late at night, while on the way to Limmeridge House as a drawing instructor, Walter Hartright meets a mysterious woman in white and saves her from her pursuers. At the house, Walter falls in love with his niece, Laura, but she is already engaged to Sir Percival Glyde.
Wonderful Town (1953). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/wonderful.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/wonderfultown.html] Music: Leonard Bernstein, Lyrics: Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Book: Joseph Field and Jerome Chodorov.
:Based on Ruth McKinney's New Yorker short stories. It follows the adventures of two sisters, one of whom is trying to get her stories accepted by a New York magazine.
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (1967). [http://www.broadwaymusicalhome.com/shows/charliebrown.htm]
[http://www.musicaltheatreaudition.com/shows/goodmancharlie.html] Book, music, and lyrics: Clark Gesner.
:Inspired by Charles Schultz's comic strip Peanuts, the musical follows the adventures of Charlie Brown from Valentine's Day to the baseball season.
Interesting videos of musicals and film trailers can be found on YouTube.com and MySpace.com IMDB.com and the following websites:
2nd January 2007
Is there a link between genius and madness?
by Kenneth Lyen
In her book A Beautiful Mind, Sylvia Nasar writes about Nobel Prizewinner John Nash and describes how schizophrenia affected his thought processes. The biography reconfirms an age-old observation that “There is no great genius without a tincture of madness” (Seneca 3BC-AD65).
The idea of a link between genius and madness has long fascinated people. There are still a number of contentious issues. For example how does one define “genius” and “madness”? The boundaries between normal, abnormal, and supernormal, are arbitrary and blurred, and there may never be a satisfactory resolution. What may seem eccentric behavior to one observer may be regarded as madness by another. A crazy nut to some may be considered a genius by others. And if a genius is too far ahead of his time, his brilliant ideas might not be appreciated except posthumously. The social and cultural environment plays an important role in interpreting what is genius and what is madness. It may be prudent for one not to be sucked into the quicksands that surround the definition of madness. However one could loosely define a genius as one who is highly creative and has made a significant contribution to mankind, often through challenging established orthodoxy and establishing a new paradigm.
Some earthshaking ideas may have appeared insane when first proposed. For example, the concepts of Copernicus and Galileo’s solar-centric world, Darwin’s theory of evolution, Einstein’s space-time universe, or Picasso’s geometric paintings, all seemed quite preposterous initially. Furthermore, the revolutionaries themselves were considered by some of their contemporaries to be out of their minds as to so brazenly challenge established orthodoxy. However, one is not concerned with such matters in this article. The focus is whether or not geniuses have a propensity to psychiatric disorders, and if so, what is their impact.
IS THERE REALLY A LINK BETWEEN GENIUS AND MADNESS?
Studies in the United States have shown that up to one-third of its population will suffer from some form of mental illness during one’s life. The chances of developing a mental disorder, regardless of whether one is a genius or a mere mortal, are extraordinarily high. Is the link between genius and madness spurious and just a matter of pure coincidence?
Proponents of a positive link will point to a number of research studies. Unfortunately nearly every one of them is flawed. Criticisms include ambiguous inclusionary criteria, the impossibility of validating historical data, the lack of control groups, small sample size, and the often unclear definitions of the highly creative (genius) and of mental illness. But despite all these shortcomings, there is growing support for the link between genius and mental illness. Research has generally followed two lines of approach:
a) Studying Creative Individuals
Eminent historical individuals have been studied by researching their biographies to see what percentage of them have psychiatric illnesses. In 1949, Adele Juda investigated 113 German artists, architects, composers and writers. She found that one third of these subjects suffered from a mental illness, which included bipolar disease (manic-depression), major depression, and schizophrenia. Colin Martindale in 1972 studied 42 English and French poets, and found significant psychiatric illness in 45% of them. Joseph Schildkraut and colleagues reported that about half of 15 American visual artists that they studied suffered from psychiatric illnesses. Arnold Ludwig (1992) in an impressive study of 1004 twentieth century artists and writers, found that 74% of them exhibited psychiatric symptoms at some stage of their lives, which compares with 32% for the national average. It must be admitted that labeling dead artists retrospectively with psychiatric diagnosis has raised many skeptical eyebrows, and hence this line of evidence has to be taken with a hefty pinch of salt.
Fortunately, there are a few studies of contemporary artists, writers and musicians. In 1974, Nancy Andreasen from the University of Iowa studied 30 faculty members attending a writers’ workshop and matched them with 30 controls. She found that 80% of participating writers suffered from depression or bipolar disorder, compared to 30% of her controls.
Kay Redfield Jamison in 1989 studied 47 distinguished British writers and visual artists, and found that 38% of them had been previously treated for a mood disorder, including bipolar disorder, which compares with less than 15% of the British general population.
Arnold Ludwig studied a sample of 59 female writers attending a Women Writers Conference and found that psychiatric problems were higher in writers compared with non-writers:
Childhood Sexual Abuse
The last category of evidence to support the link between mental illness and creativity comes from the US Bureau of the Census. The overall suicide rate among artists in the USA is three times the national average. These figures are broken down for each subcategory of artists (Figures given as number of suicides per 100,000 population): ARTISTS RATE OF SUICIDE (per 100,000 population) Painters and Sculptors 43.9 Musicians and Composers 32.6 Dancers 29.4 Authors 24.1 Actors and Directors 23.5 National Average 11.3
RATE OF SUICIDE (per 100,000 population)
Painters and Sculptors
Musicians and Composers
Actors and Directors
b) Studying Individuals with Mental Illnesses
From the opposite standpoint, individuals with psychiatric conditions have been studied to see if they are more creative compared to the normal population. Hagop Akiskal of the University of Tennessee studied 750 of his patients with depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He found that among the more mildly affected patients, some 10% were creative artists and writers. A study of 33 bipolar subjects was conducted by Ruth Richards and Dennis Kinney in Denmark, and they found that creativity was significantly higher in subjects with bipolar disorder compared to their controls.
There is a small body of epidemiological evidence to support a link between creativity and bipolar disorders, but this is not the same as saying between genius and madness.
WHAT SPECIFIC PSYCHIATRIC DISORDERS HAVE BEEN LINKED TO GENIUS?
Without much hard evidence many authors have credited famous people to have suffered from one or more mental disorders. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is notably missing from the list below because it is a condition which is hard to diagnose, and the evidence linking it to creativity is least convincing.
Dyslexia is a learning disorder characterized by severe difficulties in recognizing and understanding written language resulting in reading, writing, and spelling problems. It occurs in persons with a normal intellectual capacity who has had adequate instruction to read. It affects boys three times more commonly than girls. There is a tendency for it to run in families. Currently it is believed that the primary contributing factor to dyslexia is an auditory language deficit. Eminent people thought to have suffered from dyslexia include Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison, Walt Disney, Pablo Picasso and Lee Kuan Yew.
Also known as manic-depressive psychosis, bipolar disorder is characterized by mood swings between euphoria and depression. Many may also show such psychotic symptoms as delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, or grossly bizarre behavior. Unlike unipolar disorder (depression only) which affects females predominantly, bipolar disorder affects males and females equally. The etiology of bipolar disorder is still uncertain. Neuroimaging studies have demonstrated a larger third ventricle but smaller cerebellum and temporal lobe. Bipolar disorder is inherited as a dominant gene, and the chromosome responsible is thought to be number 11. During manic episodes, there appears to be greater noradrenergic activity. Bipolar subjects have reduced levels of key substances involved in intraneuronal signal transduction (protein kinase C, marcks protein). Famous people thought to have bipolar disorder include Winston Churchill, Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Robert Schumann, Vincent Van Gogh, Tim Burton and Francis Ford Coppola.
Schizophrenia is a severe psychiatric disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions, blunted emotions, disordered thinking, detachment from reality and withdrawal into the self. It affects males and females equally. There is a strong genetic component. While the etiology is still not fully established, the current favorite biochemical theory revolves around disordered dopamine metabolism affecting certain areas of the brain. The most prominent example of a genius affected by schizophrenia is John Nash.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a psychiatric condition characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive behavior, for example continual washing of the hands prompted by a feeling of uncleanliness. It can occur equally in males and females. Obsessions can also be a manifestation of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Famous persons who have displayed obsessive-compulsive tendencies in the absence of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia include inventor Nicola Tesla, film and airline magnate Howard Hughes, and entertainer Marc Summers.
About 10% of autistic people may have the savant syndrome in which they display outstanding talents in a certain area. This was well illustrated by the character played by Dustin Hoffman in the film Rain Man. Savant skills usually manifest within a narrow band of mental functions, such as lightning fast arithmetic calculations, calendar calculating, mechanical abilities, art (drawing or sculpting), and music (usually piano playing, perfect pitch). To date, none of the autistic savants have reached the rank of genius. However it has been conjectured that some university professors who display reclusive tendencies may be a manifestation of undiagnosed autistic savants.
Although not a psychiatric condition per se, terminal illness can precipitate tremendous emotional responses in people. John Stuart Mills suffered from tuberculosis, which was incurable and led a slow death. Upon diagnosis, he started writing the works that would make him famous. Other artists who suffered from tuberculosis included John Keats, Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Maxim Gorky, Robert Louis Stevenson, Eugene O’Neill, George Orwell, Albert Camus and Edvard Munch. Stephen Hawking had motor neurone disease and when he was informed of the diagnosis, he was galvanized to start his researches. There seems to be no doubt that the realization of one’s imminent demise can focus the mind immeasurably.
Again not a psychiatric condition, but many brilliant people have a history of epilepsy, and because it is a brain condition, it is relevant when discussing superior brain functioning. There are at least two theoretical possibilities why epilepsy may have a beneficial effect on one’s thinking. Firstly the electric discharges that occur during an epileptic fit may cause flashes of new ideas. Secondly, recurrent epilepsy or the transient hypoxia it can engender might fortuitously cause minor damage to those areas of the brain that inhibit thinking, and this disinhibition of thought processes may enhance creative thinking. Famous people who suffered from epilepsy include: Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Charles Dickens, George Handel and Hector Berlioz.
DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
A few artists have admitted to experimenting with drugs to enhance their creativity. These include Sigmund Freud and Thomas Edison. Alcohol addiction has afflicted a number of creative individuals, including Jackson Pollock and Eugene O’Neill. Are drugs or alcohol a manifestation or the cause of the psychiatric disorder? Or do artists take them because they find them helpful in enhancing their creativity?
HOW CAN MADNESS PROMOTE GENIUS?
Just as the blind have a heightened sense of hearing and touch, and the deaf have increased sharpness of vision, certain types of mental disability may cause compensatory adaptation. The best candidate for this is dyslexia. If a dyslexic has difficulty with language, then he compensates by increasing his powers of visual perception.
Direct Effects of Mood Swings
Mild mania has some benefits. It is associated with quicker thinking, greater verbal fluency, play on words, increased self-confidence, and greater optimism. Severe mania, on the other hand, can be counterproductive and may result in loss of concentration and wild behaviors. Mild depression can act as a sort of editor to prune the excesses of mania. But severe depression can dampen all activities and thinking.
Knight’s Move Thinking
Certain mental disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are characterized by sudden jumps in one’s thinking. These leaps from one idea to another can be quite unexpected and illogical, and are referred to as Knight’s Move thinking. This way of thinking is important in creative thinking because it enables a person to make innovative leaps without being anchored to preconceived ideas or imprisoned by one’s sense of logic.
SHOULD MILD MENTAL ILLNESS BE TREATED?
John Nash is quoted by Sylvia Nasar as saying that he often refused to take medication for schizophrenia because it blunted his creative thinking. This sentiment is reflected by a number of artists and scientists suffering from mild bipolar disorder. The medical profession is therefore faced with a dilemma of deciding whether or not to treat mild mental afflictions knowing that medical treatment may smother creativity, while untreated, a percentage of patients with bipolar disorder might become worse, and commit suicide.
CAN GENIUS BE DEVELOPED?
Allow me to change tack for the rest of this article. I would like to attempt answering the question that all educators are asking, namely, what are the factors that can create geniuses. Biographies of many geniuses have shown that they were once child prodigies. Unfortunately most child prodigies that we hear about in the newspapers usually fade into oblivion and never achieve their early promise. The question is why some prodigies flower into geniuses, while others wither. Clues are given in biographies and autobiographies.
Parents play a pivotal role in the upbringing of their children. They are their child’s advocates, and they provide the milieu for their child’s development. A stable, loving environment seems to be a key factor. Nobel Prizewinner Norbert Weiner was a child prodigy, whose parents were academics themselves, and they recognized their son’s early talents. They introduced their son to other academics at Harvard University, some of whom were also Nobel Prizewinners. This is in contrast to another child prodigy contemporaneous with Norbert Weiner, Billy Sidis. At the age of 4, he taught himself Latin, and by 6 years old, he could read 8 languages, and 8 years old he had already written 4 books. He was admitted to Harvard University at the age of 11 years. However, from then onwards he petered out. The parents gave him the sort of accelerated learning that would not be out of place in a kiasu Singapore family. However, the parents were overprotective, and failed to allow him to develop his own independence. It was only by adolescence that he could clean or dress himself. Further more the parents tended to show off their son, and they allowed the press to gain access to him too readily, with the result that some of the articles written tended to ridicule his childish behavior. Furthermore the family was an unhappy one, with constant parental strife. They were unable to support their son emotionally. So despite having ample intellectual stimulation, he did not have an emotionally nurturing environment.
Teachers can play an important role in a child’s development. They can provide the balanced in a prodigy’s distorted educational development. They can set challenging problems for their students to solve. Sylvia Nasar gives an interesting anecdote that when John Nash misheard his tutor and thought that his assignment was to solve some hitherto unsolved complex mathematical problems, he handed in the solutions to these problems the next day! Bertrand Russell and Stephen Hawking enjoyed solving mathematical problems, and both had read Euclid with great fervor, establishing their own proofs of these theorems. Great minds seem to like to tackle classic problems and to work out their solutions by themselves.
Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein both had uncles who acted as mentors and helped develop their nephew’s early mathematical abilities. Half the Nobel Prizewinners had other Nobel Prizewinners as mentors when they were young. It appears that highly creative people know how to foster creativity in others.
Clusters of Excellence
It has been noted that people of genius tend to be found in clusters. For example ancient Greece produced Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge University produced 10 Nobel Prizewinners, and Bell Laboratories produced 11 Nobel Prizewinners. The fostering of centers of excellence is an important way of attracting and catalyzing talent, among whom may be found a few geniuses.
Age of First Significant Creative Achievement
It is well known that there is an optimal age at which certain disciplines can shine. Olympic swimmers and prizewinning pianists reach their pinnacle in their teens. Below is a list of scientists and inventors, and the age at which they made their first discovery or publication:
CREATOR CREATION AGE (years) Louis Braille Invented a system of printing and writing for the blind 15 Blaise Pascal Formulated Pascal’s Theorem 16 Galileo Galilei Discovered the laws of pendulum motion at the age of 17 Edwin Land Patented his first polarizing light filter 19 George Westinghouse First patent for a rotary steam engine 19 Guglielmo Marconi Invented a system of radio telegraphy 21 Joshua Lederberg Discovered bacterial conjugation 21 Thomas Edison Invented automated relaying communications device 22 Carl Gauss Proved the theorem of complex coefficients 22 John Nash Published his theory of non-cooperative games 22 Brian Josephson Predicted the Josephson effect 22 James Hillier Developed the electron microscope 22 Isaac Newton Calculus, principles of optics, elements of circular motion inverse square law of gravity 23 Louis Parker Invented a low frequency receiver for radio waves 23 Srinivasa Ramanujan Published his first mathematical papers 24 Satyendra Bose Published is first statistical mechanics papers 24 Paul Dirac Quantum mechanics for motion of atomic particles 24 Richard Feynman Published his theory of electromagnetic waves 24 Walt Disney Drew his first animated cartoon 24 Max Perutz Crystallographic studies of glaciers 24 James Clerk Maxwell Published first paper on electromagnetic lines of force 25 Enrico Fermi Postulated his statistical laws 25 Earnest Rutherford Discovered the alpha, beta and gamma radiation 25 George Eastman Made commercial dry photographic plates 25 James Watson Co-published his paper on DNA 25 Louis Pasteur Discovered tartarate isomers 26 Henri Poincare Created automorphic functions 26 Albert Einstein Published 3 ground-breaking articles (including relativity) 26 Niels Bohr Proposed his model of the Bohr atom 26 Werner Heisenberg Derived his uncertainty principle 26 Nicola Tesla Constructed his first induction motor 27 Linus Pauling Laid down Pauling’s Rules 27 Lee Tsung-Dao Discovered the decay modes of kaon 29
Law of falling bodies
Applied Xray crystallography to study hemoglobin
A large proportion of the top scientists and inventors throughout history achieved success while quite young. If one extrapolates backwards, the years preceding the discovery or publication would be crucial. This means that the late teens and early twenties are critical periods for the flowering of highly inventive scientists. Hence the importance of protecting and nurturing this creative period of their lives.
Invented a system of printing and writing for the blind
Formulated Pascal’s Theorem
Discovered the laws of pendulum motion at the age of
Patented his first polarizing light filter
First patent for a rotary steam engine
Invented a system of radio telegraphy
Discovered bacterial conjugation
Invented automated relaying communications device
Proved the theorem of complex coefficients
Published his theory of non-cooperative games
Predicted the Josephson effect
Developed the electron microscope
Calculus, principles of optics, elements of circular motion inverse square law of gravity
Invented a low frequency receiver for radio waves
Published his first mathematical papers
Published is first statistical mechanics papers
Quantum mechanics for motion of atomic particles
Published his theory of electromagnetic waves
Drew his first animated cartoon
Crystallographic studies of glaciers
James Clerk Maxwell
Published first paper on electromagnetic lines of force
Postulated his statistical laws
Discovered the alpha, beta and gamma radiation
Made commercial dry photographic plates
Co-published his paper on DNA
Discovered tartarate isomers
Created automorphic functions
Published 3 ground-breaking articles (including relativity)
Proposed his model of the Bohr atom
Derived his uncertainty principle
Constructed his first induction motor
Laid down Pauling’s Rules
Discovered the decay modes of kaon
Yes, there is a link between genius and madness, but it is a complex one. It appears to be the result of a fortuitous convergence of a number of factors, including a minimum level of intelligence, the ability to join ideas from different domains, the ability to record these ideas, independence and flexibility of thinking, intense focus, self-discipline, perseverance, the right social and cultural environment, all conspire to create a genius.
A tantalizing question is whether or not one can create the right physical, emotional and educational environment to produce a genius. By studying the mechanisms, both biochemical and educational, that link mental disorders and genius, one may gain insight into factors that can engender creativity and kindle future potential geniuses. But even if this were possible, would a genius thus produced be recognized?
To sum up, here is a modified quote: “You don’t have to be mad to be a genius… but it helps.”
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Potter WZ, et al: Biological findings in bipolar disorders, in Hales RE, et al (eds): American Psychiatric Association Annual Review, vol 6. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Press, pp 32-60.
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Lyen KR et al. Creativity and education. Armour Publishing 1998.
Eysenck JJ. Genius : The Natural History of Creativity. Cambridge Univ Press 1995
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[This article first appeared in the Singapore Medical Association News http://www.sma.org.sg/sma_news
and can also be found in this website http://www.lyen.net/gpage.html]
Sunday in the Park
by Kenneth Lyen
It's been a while since I visited Chicago. But the moment I arrived one crisp winter morning several years ago, I made a beeline to the Art Institute of Chicago. And the main reason was to pay my respects to George Seurat's painting "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte."
George Seurat started painting Un Dimanche à la Grande Jatte in 1884 at the age of 25 years, and finished it two years later. He employed the theory of colors, and by juxtaposing tiny dots of color, he could painstakingly create an entire picture. This technique was known as "pointillisme." The painting caused quite a stir when it was first exhibited in Paris. Viewers sneered at it, calling it "bedlam," "a scandal," and "hilarity." That was 120 years ago. It is now considered one of the finest post-impressionist works.
Inside the art gallery, the first thing that struck me was how large the painting was. I spent a long time studying it. The composition seemed a little off balance, tending to tilt slightly to the left. Everything looked so still and silent. I savored the painting dot by dot. At a certain distance from the canvas, I experienced that shimmering staccato effect caused by his pointillist style. A bizarre thought flashed through my mind ... what if it were a gigantic jigsaw puzzle ... how long would it take for me to assemble it?
The human figures are slightly out of focus and seem rather stiff. The picture is much too stylized to even consider it as a photograph. From a distance, you can see a crowded scene of Parisians enjoying a pleasant Sunday afternoon in the small island in the middle of the River Seine. On the right is an aristocratic couple with no interest in each other. The lady is holding a parasol, inexplicably, because she is already standing in the shade. Her dress has a pronounced posterior hump that accentuates her bottom. The man is holding a lit cigar with one hand, and a monkey on a leash with the other. The monkey is interested in a small brown dog, which in turn is running toward a larger black dog. Sitting on the grass are three isolated figures on the left, a manual worker smoking a long-stemmed pipe, a lady having a solitary picnic, and a man wearing a top hat staring into the river. Two young ladies are seated in the center, one looking at a small bunch of flowers, and the other holding a parasol. Facing the viewer are a mother and child standing in the sun, but they look immobile. In the distance are sailing boats, a small steamboat and a skiff.
The entire picture feels static. There are no expressions on any of the faces, and they look dehumanized. None of the people are interacting with each other, and all appear terribly lonely in this crowded park. Even the River Seine looks like a calm lake, with the reflection of the boats visible on the water surface.
When I got too close to the painting, all the figures disappeared, and all I could see were millions of tiny dots. The effect was quite astonishing. I continued looking at the picture for a while, and it did have a strangely profound emotional effect on me. Despite depicting a rather prosaic view of Parisians relaxing in a park on a Sunday afternoon, the painting transcends the mundane and I entered that joyous, sunny, and silent world of Seurat's Un Dimanche à la Grande Jatte.
This transformation is what makes it such a wonderful masterpiece!
Many years later, I watched Stephen Sondheim's musical "Sunday in the Park with George", based on Un Dimanche à la Grande Jatte. Suddenly all the paralyzed figures burst into life. And I then realised that the painting possessed a hidden depth. The characters had an aura of mystery, they each had a life story to tell. After watching the musical, I feel as if I've known many of these weekend visitors. I now have a different perspective of the painting, and it remains one of my favourites.
[Published in BlogCritics http://blogcritics.org/archives/2004/09/06/131253.php]