If Your Life Were a Musical...
What would the title be? What Broadway star would play you? Would you include lavish dance numbers? Get some inspiration from classic American musical structure and come up with your own proposal for a new musical about you! Share your ideas with us and tag @seattlerep.
Consider the following brainstorming questions when turning your life into a musical:
- What style of music best encapsulates your day-to-day? Or decide if different styles make sense for particular periods of your life.
- Music style examples: hip hop, R&B, pop, jazz, folk music, heavy metal, country, gospel, rock, classic showtunes...
- Would dance take a prominent place in your life’s musical? If so, do any specific styles of dance best fit your life or moments in your life? Consider how dance would help further your story.
- Dance or movement style examples: ballet, modern, hip hop, tap, jazz, folk dance, tango, burlesque...
- Is your musical setting a fictionalized version of your reality? Or a different, more abstract world?
- Would your musical be primarily sung, more like an opera (ex: Les Misérables, Here Lies Love)? Or a more standard musical format combining scenes of dialogue with songs interspersed?
Types of Musical Theater Songs
According to Musical 101, the most effective songs in musical theater come through events that feature a:
- Transition: A moment of change or conversion
- Realization: Reaching an insight or new level of understanding
- Decision: After long wrangling, a character finally makes up their mind
To give your life’s musical some variety, consider including a few of the many types of songs featured in classic works of musical theater:
- “I Am” Song: Characters give context as to who they are in that moment
- “I Want” Song: Characters describe their utmost desires and what motivates them
- Ballad: A song coming from a place of strong emotion
- Comedic Break: Offers the audience a respite and moment to laugh
- Comment Song: A character often giving another character advice
- Exposition Song: Sets up events or happenings that occurred before the start of the musical or off-stage
- Conflict Song: Characters with different approaches or opinions clash
- Narration Songs: A character or characters describe action that is immediately happening, often in the third person or from the perspective of an observer of the primary action
- Solos, Duets, Trios, or larger group numbers
Consider the order of songs, used often in many popular musicals. One basic example includes:
- Opening Number: Something to grab people’s attention and (literally) set the stage and tone for you to tell your story. In some musicals, this number can be big and flashy.
- “I Want” Song: Sets the driving motivation for the character(s)
- “11 O’Clock” Number: A song that takes place about half-way through the second act as the musical begins its denouement to the finale. This number is sometimes a ballad, and generally is a powerhouse number that invigorates both the characters on stage and the audience through the end of the show.
- Finale: The last moment the audience is left with before the story ends. This often features all or many of the characters from the story joining together and oftentimes helps in completing story arcs or tying up narratives. The finale sometimes features a reprise, or a revival of a previous song heard earlier in the musical.
Give it a try: You don’t have to be a singer/songwriter! Have a favorite musical theater or, really, any song that speaks to you? Or do you have a genre of music that you feel best encapsulates your life story? Choose an existing song and take your best shot at changing the words to fit your message.
- Come up with a name for your life musical
- Put together your dream cast. Who would play you, your friends, family, etc.?
- What would your "elevator" pitch be for your musical? Try describing your story and style in 1-2 sentences
Resources and Further Reading
- Musical 101
- The Dramatic Function of Songs in Musical Theater, Professor Larry A. Brown