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Musical Theatre musical (noun): a stage, television or film production utilizing popular-style songs dialogue optional - to either tell a story (book musicals) or showcase the talents of the writers and/or performers (revues). History We know that the ancient Greeks included music and dance in their stage comedies and tragedies as early as the 5th Century B.C. The songs were often a means for the chorus to comment on the action, but they also took part in the plot, and musical solos were not unheard of. The Romans copied and expanded the forms and traditions of Greek theatre. The Third Century B.C. comedies of Plautus included song and dance routines performed with full orchestrations. To make the dance steps more audible in large open air theatres, Roman actors attached metal chips called "sabilla" to their stage footwear – the first tap shoes. In the Middle Ages, Europe's cultural mainstays included traveling minstrels and roving troupes of performers that offered popular songs and slapstick comedy. By the 1700s, two forms of musical theater were common in Britain, France and Germany – ballad operas like John Gay's The Beggars Opera (1728) that borrowed popular songs of the day and rewrote the lyrics, and comic operas, with original scores and mostly romantic plot lines, like Michael Balfe's The Bohemian Girl (1845). The earliest American musicals were comic operas (satirical operas with original scores and libretti) The Park Theatre was New York's first world class entertainment venue. Seen at the center of this period print, it stood just across from City Hall Park from 1798 to 1848. By the 1850’s, most Broadway theatre companies ran varied repertories, so it was rare for a single production to rack up more than a dozen performances. In most cases, the scripts for these disposable entertainments are long-since lost, so we cannot be sure exactly what they were like. Broadway soon developed a homegrown form of musical theatre, sometimes defined by scholars as burlesque extravaganzas. Produced with lavish stage effects, these musicals spoofed anything from literary classics to contemporary celebrities, poking fun simultaneously at any number of targets. The form we know as musical comedy was born on Broadway in a series of shows starring Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart. Produced between 1878 and 1884, these musical comedies featured characters and situations taken from the everyday life of New York's lower classes. Beginning in the 1870s, William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan revolutionized the musical theatre, creating witty, melodic operettas that set a new standard for stage professionalism. Their songs sparkled with melody and clever rhyme, and Gilbert's librettos blended silliness and satire in settings that ranged from fantasy to the realistic. The late 1920s saw the birth of a new performing art, musical film. Although popular, the earliest Hollywood musicals were clumsy, and it would be several years before filmmakers recognized this new genre's unique artistic needs and possibilities. Walt Disney had been turning out animated short films for years, but industry experts scoffed at his plans for a full-length animated musical. Many believed there was little of any audience for such a project. Thanks to Disney's insistence on quality, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was as expensive to produce as most live-action films. However, Snow White's visual beauty and genuine sense of wonder made it a sensation with all age groups. Oklahoma! Rodgers and Hammerstein neither a typical musical comedy nor an operetta: every element moves the plot forward Wartime audiences loved the all-American show backers saw a 2,500% return on their investment Before Oklahoma, composers and lyricists were songwriters – after Oklahoma, they had to be dramatists, using everything in the score to develop character and advance the action. The diverting dance routines of the past were replaced by choreography that helped tell the show's story. Oklahoma was also the first Broadway musical to have every major number recorded by the full original cast and orchestra. Grease! Set a new record as Broadway's longest running musical It had enough low comedy and general goodwill to entertain almost anyone the most commercially successful 1970s rock musical The 1978 big screen version became the highest-grossing musical in Hollywood history By 1979, most Broadway musicals cost over $1,000,000 a piece, and operating expenses were so high that even a yearlong run could not guarantee a profit. Some blamed the volatile economy, but no one could pretend that inflation had run at a rate of 400 percent! Andrew Lloyd Webber and director Trevor Nunn reshaped the theatrical landscape with Cats (1982 ), a musical based on T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. They emphasized aerobic dance, high-tech effects and heavy-duty marketing tactics. The revolutionary thing about Cats was not the show on stage – it was the marketing. Before this, most musicals limited their souvenirs to photo programs, songbooks and T-shirts. Cats splashed its distinctive logo on all kinds of things! By the late 1990’s, almost every show that made it to Broadway was a corporate product. With the average musical budget running over $8,000,000, it took a lot of people to finance a show, and they all wanted some say in the production. This left no room for amateurs or rebels. From 1943 to the mid-1960s, Broadway musicals could be mounted for under $250,000, and a well-managed production could turn a solid profit in less than a year. Now physically simple productions like Rent can cost $3,000,000 or more, while The Producers is rumored to have cost over $10,000,000. Even with ticket prices topping $110, shows can run for several years and still close at a loss. The combined effects of inflation and too many people demanding a bigger share of potential profits take a mounting toll. The best musicals have three essential qualities – Brains – intelligence and style Heart – genuine and believable emotion Courage – the guts to do something creative and exciting.