Musical TheaterMusical Theater
In the immortal words of Gus the Theater Cat from T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, “Well, the theater is certainly not what it was!” You can say that again. Cats has closed on Broadway—so has Les Miserables. Now, in addition to the few classics like 42nd Street that have managed to survive, there’s a new crop of musicals like Urinetown and The Producers. With all the change, it’s an exciting time to major in musical theater—whether your talents lean more toward sweet Christine in Phantom or sultry Mimi in Rent. As a musical theater major, you’ll learn about every aspect of putting on a show—from the lighting and set design to costumes and makeup to the acting, singing, and dancing that brings those scores to life. You’ll study the technical aspects of the theater, like how to make a production run smoothly from the set changes to the curtain call. After blocking scenes and choreographing lively dances, you’ll be challenged to make those old songs seem new again—and to make the new songs part of our cultural history. If strengthening your own acting, singing, and dancing skills is what you’re after, you’re in luck. As a musical theater major, that will be your primary concern. You’ll get plenty of practice in musical performances on both small and large scales, and you may even have the opportunity to direct your own. You’ll take lessons in voice and you’ll learn the fundamentals of movement for the stage. You’ll also learn what it takes to make yourself a presence on the stage, a valued addition to any cast. Prima donnas won’t escape a bit of backstage grunt work too, as musical theater majors are required to take a look at the gears that turn behind the scenes to make musicals such a success—including production, stage managing, and directing. You’ll learn about the history of musical theater—where it got its start, how it has grown and changed, and the struggles it faces today. You’ll study musical theatre repertoire and literature. And while a major in musical theater is no guarantee that you’ll see your name in Broadway lights, you’ll learn a great deal about this art form and you’ll definitely have a very good time.
The best preparation for a major in musical theater is a broad selection of courses, with a focus on those in the humanities. Courses in English, religion, philosophy, psychology, and history will be especially valuable in giving you perspective on the world—necessary for any skilled actor or actress. Math will help too; music and math go hand in hand. Studying a foreign language is always a good idea, and might be valuable to your career in theater. And we’ll bet you’re already involved with the drama club at your school or theater groups in your community—there’s no better way to prepare for a major in theater than by actually doing it.