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Musical theatre

Musical theatre is a form of theatrical performance that combines songs, spoken dialogue, acting, and dance. The story and emotional content of a musical – humor, pathos, love, anger – are communicated through the words, music, movement and technical aspects of the entertainment as an integrated whole. Although musical theatre overlaps with other theatrical forms like opera and dance, it may be distinguished by the equal importance given to the music as compared with the dialogue, movement and other elements. Since the early 20th century, musical theatre stage works have generally been called, simply, musicals.

Although music has been a part of dramatic presentations since ancient times, modern Western musical theatre emerged during the 19th century, with many structural elements established by the works of Gilbert and Sullivan in Britain and those of Harrigan and Hart in America. These were followed by the numerous Edwardian musical comedies and the musical theatre works of American creators like George M. Cohan. The Princess Theatre musicals and other smart shows like Of Thee I Sing (1931) were artistic steps forward beyond revues and other frothy entertainments of the early 20th century and led to such groundbreaking works as Show Boat (1927) and Oklahoma! (1943). Some of the most famous and iconic musicals through the decades that followed include West 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) and Hamilton (2015).

Jukebox musicals
Film and TV musicals
Related forms
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  • Morley, Sheridan (c. 1987). Spread a little happiness: the first hundred years of the British musical. London: Thames and Hudson. p. 224. ISBN . 
  • Parker, Roger, ed. (2001). The Oxford illustrated history of opera. Oxford illustrated histories (illustrated ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 541. ISBN . 
  • Rubin, Don; Solórzano, Carlos, eds. (2000). The World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre: The Americas. New York City: Routledge. ISBN . 
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  • Wollman, E. L. (2006). The Theater Will Rock: a History of the Rock Musical: From Hair to Hedwig. Michigan: University of Michigan Press. ISBN . 
  • Bauch, Marc. The American Musical. Marburg, Germany: Tectum Verlag, 2003.
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  • Botto, Louis (2002-09-01). Robert Viagas, ed. At This Theatre. Applause Books. ISBN . 
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  • Ewen, David (1961). The Story of American Musical Theater. First ed. Philadelphia: Chilton. v, 208 p.
  • Gänzl, Kurt. The Encyclopedia of Musical Theatre (3 Volumes). New York: Schirmer Books, 2001.
  • Kantor, Michael; Laurence Maslon (2004). Broadway: the American musical. New York, New York: Bulfinch Press. ISBN . 
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  • Stempel, Larry. Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater (W.W. Norton, 2010) 826 pages; comprehensive history since the mid-19th century.
  • Traubner, Richard. Operetta: A Theatrical History. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1983


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