The sound of musicals

 The art of fusing music and narrative

Musicals have given us timeless songs and stories.

Musicals are a powerfully evocative medium for artistic expression and telling stories, yet they are all too often bemoaned by the public. 

They’re seen as trivial and silly, void of artistic merit, and inferior to high-brow mediums. However, as triumphant fusions of music and narrative, they’re a form that’s easy to look down upon but should be nearly impossible to hate.

From the artsiest musical to the campiest, the medium demands huge amounts of talent from its performers. Not only do they have to act, but they must also sing and dance. 

Musicals rely on synthesizing multiple art forms into one, resulting in a beautiful mosaic in which we discover how all mediums complement each other.

We can see this stitching together of mediums in Singin’ in the Rain, which follows the shift of Hollywood from silent to talking films. Replete with tap-dancing numbers, singing, and a cohesive, moving narrative tracking a dangerous period of transition, the film pulses with life. 

As Gene Kelly’s character waltzes, splashes, and sings in the rain, his whole being becomes a piece of art. His body, his voice, everything, becomes a facet for expression all working in perfect tandem.

The songs in musicals provide narrative context. 

We can feel revolutionary fervour beat in the songs of Hamilton as we understand their implications within the characters’ lives and wider American history. Whenever you like, you can turn on “Bet On It” from High School Musical 2 and instantly be back with Zac Efron prancing around a golf course, throwing sand.

The staying power of musicals is unique to the medium and vital in our consumption of art. The catharsis of the narrative can be experienced wherever we are—the story still vivid as we sing along. 

Musicals change how we listen to this music, even if we’re not actually viewing them, as the story becomes inseparable from the song. The story carries the music, and the music carries the story. Ultimately, we can carry both with us.

The songs from musicals stay with us; they grow with us. 

All of us can remember singing along to The Little Mermaid or Tangled as a child, and still, they remain. As we grow, musicals give us more songs to carry, from West Side Story to Dear Evan Hansen. These songs become our songs—as we sing with our favourite characters, we become participants in their stories.

Musicals are an all-encompassing experience, being both a visual and auditory spectacle. They are, above all, a vehicle for us to connect with narratives. 

When we sing to the soundtrack of Singin’ in the Rain, we become Gene Kelly’s character; we feel as if we’re besotted and splashing in puddles.

Art is all about telling stories and presenting a beautiful narrative to evoke a response from an audience. Musicals allow us to be engulfed by art, showcasing a menagerie of mediums, each worthy of praise. We carry their stories long after they’re over. 

Musicals are wonderfully personal—they invite us to lift our voices and sing.

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