Things change over time and this isn’t more prevalent in musical theatre. We change to fit our intended audience, change to fit our theme for our show. But it’s very hard to change to something to something that has never been done before. Luckily, these musicals did exactly that so you don’t have to!
The first musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Oklahoma is recognised as the first example of a "book musical", a musical where the song and dance have an impact on the plot. Pretty much every musical after Oklahoma was a book musical and they are still prevelent to this day.
While Oklahoma made dancing a way of plot development, West Side Story showed the extent on the impact dancing had on audiences. Choreographer Jerome Robbins (from my perspective) made every dance move have an emotion, from competitiveness in the opening number, to love in "Somewhere".
The phrase concept musical gets thrown around and the definition is debated but people agree that these shows focus more on the message of the show, rather than the plot itself. Fiddler on the Roof is said to be the first example of a concept musical, with its themes like anti-semitism being the main focus.
Most musicals have a dark themes, but musicals also try to hide them due to a fear of being to dark for audiences. Cabaret changed that being very explicit in its dark themes and being entertaining at the same time. Cabaret is one of my favourite shows some I'm glad it made the impact it did.
Today we are in the contemporary age of musical theatre, and it most likely all started with Company. By straying away from the standard 4:4 music format and having a non-linear story, Some of your favourite musicals of today may not have existed without Company.
Whether for better or for worse, 42nd Street showed that people can make successful musicals based off of films. Before this show, film based musicals never got the success of 42nd Street got. Nowadays musicals based on films are everywhere, from The Producers to Hairspray.
La Cage Aux Folles is a revolution in the content of musicals. This show portrayed gay people in a more realistic and emotional way. Before that, musicals with gay people in used them as a side character while La Cage Aux Folles made gay people the main focus. This paved way for shows like Falsettos, Fun Home and Everybody's Talking about Jamie.
The theatre community has become younger with musicals like Spring Awakening, Heathers, Be More Chill and Dear Evan Hansen being some of the most popular shows today. Rent portrayed young people in a positive light and not in the misbehaving way that some people like to think them as.
Humour before this show was put into quips and puns, and any inappropriate jokes were put as euphemisms. Avenue Q changed that by making everything vulgar and inappropriate in an incredibly explicit which now resides in much of our comedy such as Spamalot, The Book of Mormon and Something Rotten!
What list of musicals wouldn't be complete without Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda's revolution of including music styles such as Hip-hop and R&B has taken the world by storm and, though being recent, will most likely cause an increase of integration of different music styles for the future.
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