The Ever-Changing Sounds of Lancaster Theatre
Type ‘ History of Theatre’ into Google and one of your top results will be Wikipedia’s entry on the topic where this is shown as the first picture —>
Reading (briefly) over the text, it isn’t until you pass Greek theatre, Medieval theatre, and a few more eras do you get to the late Nineteenth-century theatre era that included Gibert & Sullivan comic operas such as H.M.S. Pinafore and The Mikado. These operas were the precursors to the Twentieth century’s musical theatre which is practically synonymous for a section of New York City known as Broadway, and across the pond, London’s West End. Both of those areas are known for their big shows paired with their big budgets and have produced some of the most memorable theatre events of all time.
A lot of spectacle goes into a musical made for Broadway. The sets have to be big, the lighting impressive, the roles must be larger than life, and the songs have to hold their own because, without them, there’s nothing. They are arguably the strongest pillar to bear the weight of a musical, and it’s from the songs that one can judge the longevity of a show.
Imagine the musical Evita without the epic “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” or Annie without the super-songs that are “Hard Knock Life” or “Tomorrow.” It’s probably a safe bet to say that these shows wouldn’t be as ubiquitous within the musical theatre world without those songs. To even the untrained ear, they are powerful tunes, and they showcase the grandeur and amazing songwriting that is behind every Broadway production. The musical Kinky Boots received high praise after release – with original songs written by Cyndi Lauper – when it took home an impressive 6 Tony Awards thanks to the power of Cyndi’s songwriting.
There are shows such as Jersey Boys, Movin’ Out, or Mamma Mia! that take pre-existing songs from an artist or style and bundle them together into one cohesive show. These “Jukebox Musicals” ensure the music is already recognizable, and then the writers reverse-engineer a way to make it all fit together. It’s a relatively new and exciting way to get people excited about seeing a Broadway show, and it’s clearly successful – with a tour of Million Dollar Quartet already taking place, and a film version of Rock of Ages coming out last summer.
More than Music
There are, of course, shows that are just as known for their sets or another element than their songs. One could argue that the costumes in the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic Cats are the most iconic element of that show. Whereas in Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, though they worked with Bono and The Edge of U2 on the songs, it’s known for the somewhat constant production issues related to the show as well as it being the most expensive production in Broadway history (at a staggering $75 million). A show such as Rent, though packed with wonderful music, was highly regarded for the contemporary, real-world topics it was founded on.
With all of that said, it’s the music that matters most. The notes played and sung create the underlying bed that helps connect all of these wonderful shows to our lives. And it’s because of the songs’ sheer power that AMT, the Fulton, Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre, and more Lancaster theatres present these shows for your enjoyment.
Mike Rathfon is a member of American Music Theatre’s Marketing department. He can be reached on Twitter @MikeRathfon.
Photo Credit: Original uploaded by Arayilpdas (Transfered by sreejithk2000) (Original uploaded on ml.wikipedia) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons