The Art of Musical Theater
(The Freeman) - September 13, 2017 - 4:00pm

CEBU, Philippines — Many people would swear they are fervent music lovers. The have a rich musicalvocabulary,’ ready to utter lines from any hit song in the last ten years or so. They can guess the title of a song and its original singer when they hear just a few notes.

Thats as far as their musical breadth extends. Music to them is exclusively pop music, the popular tunes of their times. Thats goodbut it leaves out much more of the musical experience.

There various established ways of music presentation and, thus, equally various ways to enjoy the art. One that is quite emotionally engagingbut is sadly not so popular in the countryis musical theatre, a form of theatrical performance that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. While other theatrical presentations also employ music, they do so only tofill the airor to help establish a certain mood. With drama theater, for example, music is used only to highlight a scene or points in a scene.

In a musical play, the story and emotional contenthumor, grief, love, angerare conveyed mainly in a musical way; and the presentation is often referred to simply as amusical.” The words, music, movement and technical aspects come as an integrated whole. And it is common knowledge how music can bolster the emotional power of the story.

Although musical theatre overlaps with other theatrical forms like opera and dance, it is distinct in the way that it treats music as equal element as dialogue, movement and others. The emotional appeal, thus, is more solid. Some of the most famous and iconic musicals of the recent time includeWest Side Story” (1957), “The Fantasticks (1960), “Hair” (1967), “A Chorus Line” (1975), “Les Misérables (1985), “The Phantom of the Opera” (1986), “Rent” (1996), “The Producers” (2001), “Wicked” (2003) andHamilton” (2015).

Musicals are performed around the world. The big-budget ones are often presented in large venues, such as on Broadway in New York City or West End in London. Elsewhere, musicals are staged in smaller venues, even in theaters at the shopping mall

In Cebu City, a few years ago the Arts Council of Cebu presented an original Cebuano musical titledMini,” which filled up the spacious SM City Cebu Cinema 1 to the last seat. The attendance came as a big surprise, since there had already been several earlier productions of the musical and it was also thought that an old material would no longer appeal to the modern crowd. “Miniwas originally staged in the 20s.

The emotional power of musical theater is such that the performers themselves easily get carried away. Of course, there are many factors that make it so.  Beyond the obviouscorrect pitches, rhythms, and other detailseverything else contributes to a truly stellar performance.

What about the audience? A love for musicals is mostly anacquired taste.” One has to learn to have it. Once it is in place, any member of the audience can intelligently and emotionally detect an outstanding performance from the painful or the common or a dud.

Avid fans of musical theater are glad they took the effort to learn to love it. It takes nurturing a passion, but the rewards are great.(FREEMAN)

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