Musical Theatre: Pedagogy, Performance, and Presentation
Brianna Sterling Unit Objective:
Students will demonstrate an understanding of musical theatre pedagogy by researching current practices, applying various vocal, dance, and acting techniques, and either performing a solo musical scene or doing a presentation on an influential musical in PechaKucha form.
Storytelling, Singing, Dancing, Acting, Ensemble, Current Events
Puppetry, Stage Combat, Dramatic Scene Study
Influential Musical Presentation, Great White Way Quiz, Monologue Musical, Dance Call, Vocal Placement Auction, Who Am I? Reflection, Peer Preview, Final Performance
TH:Cr1.1.III.a. Synthesize knowledge from a variety of dramatic forms, theatrical conventions, and technologies to create the visual composition of a drama/ theatre work.
TH:Cr1.1.III.c. Integrate cultural and historical contexts with personal experiences to create a character that is believable and authentic, in a drama/theatre work.
TH:Cr2-III.a. Develop and synthesize original ideas in a drama/theatre work utilizing critical analysis, historical and cultural context, research, and western or non-western theatre traditions.
TH:Pr4.1.III.b. Apply a variety of researched acting techniques as an approach to character choices in a drama/theatre work.
How do the elements of musical theatre (music dance acting) connect/interact to tell a story?
Is a knowledge of current works helpful?
How do we ensure the story is the priority and not the technique?
What can I do to fully prepare a performance?
Why are strong choices essential to interpreting a drama or theatre piece?
How, when, and why do theatre artists’ choices change?
Musical Theatre requires split focus to effectively execute the various disciples (singing, dancing,
acting) when performing.
Knowledge of current musical theatre works helps prepare performers for future careers in the
Theatre artists develop personal processes and skills for a performance or design.
Theatre artists make strong choices to effectively convey meaning.
Theatre artists work to discover different ways of communicating meaning.
Lesson #1: Welcome to the Great White Way!
Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of current practices on Broadway by participating in a group discussion on recent performances and taking a pre-assessment quiz on their prior knowledge.
Lesson #2: Storytelling in Musicals
Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of storytelling within musicals by comparing and contrasting music and dance performances in a group discussion, and telling the class the story of their performance piece.
Lesson #3: Acting in Musicals
Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of how to act a song by performing their musical theatre piece as a monologue.
Lesson #4: Anatomy of Singing
Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of healthy vocal technique by identifying correct vocal placement from a live example and within their own vocal performances.
Lesson #5: Movement/ Choreography in Musicals
Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of how movement and specific choreography furthers the plot in musicals by participating in a dance review.
Lesson #6: Workshop Previews Day #1
Objective: Student will demonstrate an understanding of improving previous practice by previewing their performance and by creating a List of Tips for themselves.
Lesson #7: Workshop Preview Day #2
Objective: Student will demonstrate an understanding of improving previous practice by previewing their performance, adding to their List of Tips for themselves, and applying their other feedback not workshopped.
Lesson #8: Final Performance
Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of musical theatre pedagogy by performing a musical solo scene or presenting an Influential Musical PechaKucha.
Lesson #1: Welcome to the Great White Way! Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of current practices on Broadway by participating in a group discussion on recent performances and taking a pre-assessment quiz on their prior knowledge. Materials Needed: Great White Way, What Now?! Worksheet, Musical Theatre PPT, Class Chromebooks/ Laptops for research https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1HCEelzJDq8I39Ihov5D8fE03c73n_u9TlnirjI_OrJE/edit#slide=id.p
Hook: Great White Way, What Now?! (Pre-Assessment)
As the students come into class, have the seats arranged around the projector, and hand out TheGreat White Way, What Now?! worksheets to them. Challenge them to write down everything they currently know about each production on the worksheet. Reassure those who don’t know any of the productions that we will discuss them together throughout class. Evaluate their prior knowledge of musical productions by “blind voting”- students will cover their eyes and raise their hand if they know about the productions you call out from the worksheet.
Studying drama would be incomplete without knowledge of musical theatre. American theatre would be considerable less without it. It is a vital part of our country’s theatre history. Some people are hesitant to want to explore this aspect of drama, but its potential and ability to tell stories can’t be denied. Based on our blind voting, we have a generally limited knowledge of musicals, so today I want to expose you to current productions on Broadway. Think of this as a smorgasbord for you to become more familiar with how musicals tell stories in various ways.
Step 1: Musical Theatre PPT/ Discussion
Set up the projector to show the PPT of current and recent Broadway musicals clips. Provide context for each production before starting the clip. Questions for discussion: What tools are being used to tell the story? How does technique affect the storytelling? What style of music, dance, and theatre do you see? Why do you think this production ran for so long? Why do you think this production won this award? Would you want to see the full production after watching this clip? Yes or no?
Wrap Up/ Conclusion: Final Project Explanation
Hand out the Musical Theatre Final Project worksheet, and go over their three options and the requirements for each project. Clarify and answer any questions students might have. For the remainder of the class, give the students time to choose their performance piece using the classroom Chromebooks/ laptops or recommendations and suggestions from you.
The Great White Way, What Now?!
For each musical listed below, write down everything you know about it: plot, actors, music, etc.
These are musicals either created or revived recently. Fiddler on the Roof
The Color Purple
She Loves Me
School of Rock
American in Paris
Phantom of the Opera
The Lion King
Musical Theatre Final Project Requirements
Three options for the final project: 1. Solo Musical Performance
Lesson #2: Storytelling in Musicals Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of storytelling within musicals by comparing and contrasting music and dance performances in a group discussion, and telling the class the story of their performance piece. Materials Needed: Performance Videos from YouTube
Hook: Movement Telephone
Select five volunteers to participate in the activity. Have four go into the hallway/behind a curtain to wait until they are called in. The remaining volunteer (Person #1) will secretly be told a short story which they will have to interpret into a movement/dance sequence they will show the next volunteer who enters (Person #2). Person #2 must then interpret the story seen in the movement sequence into a verbal re-telling to be told to the next volunteer (Person #3). Person #3 will listen to Person #2 retelling of the story and interpret it into a movement/ dance sequence that Person #4 will verbally retell to Person #5 who will interpret the retold story into a movement dance sequence.
Transition: Did the integrity of the story stay the same throughout this exercise? Why or why not? How does this connect to musical theatre? Musicals are most effective when performers desperately remember one thing- THEY ARE STORYTELLERS FIRST! It’s very easy to get caught up in the technical elements of musical theatre since they require precision, but they (singing and dancing) become powerless if you the performer forgets to tell the story. They must have purpose. Some people like to separate music - dance - theatre into boxes. However it should be look at like this: When a character can no longer full express themselves with words/acting, they sing, and when sing isn’t enough, they dance. The habit is to forsake the acting and jump to the singing and dancing right away. Don’t fall into that trap. The acting or storytelling permeates throughout it all! Let’s explore some examples of powerful storytelling vs. less powerful storytelling using the elements of singing and dancing. Step 1: Compare & Contrast
Show two clips of the same musical theatre song being sung (See I’m Smiling) by an amateur performer and then a professional performer. Repeat this by showing two clips of the same musical theatre piece being danced by amateurs or professionals. Was their storytelling effective? Why or why not? What specific things did the performer do to tell the story? Are you seeing acting techniques we’ve learned at work?
● Amateur Singing: https://youtu.be/xnznrct1e8w
● Professional Singing: https://youtu.be/JP31L6AhB3M
● Drill Team: https://youtu.be/Zux_-g72GkE
● SYTYCD: https://youtu.be/hMlhpoIXegQ
● SYTYCD: https://youtu.be/zC-NgREtfWY
● WSS: https://youtu.be/wugWGhItaQA
Step 2: Storytelling Performance Pieces
Have the class get out their performance pieces and sit in a circle. Each student will share what their performance piece is about- the story of the song/ show, and their personal goal they want to accomplish throughout the unit.
Wrap Up/ Conclusion:
Remind the students to begin memorizing and practicing their songs since we will start workshopping them next class, and to begin finding information for their presentations.
Lesson #3: Acting in Musicals Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of how to act a song by performing their musical theatre piece as a monologue. Materials Needed: Les Miserable 1998, Heart Full of Love clip, Anatomy of a Song sheet
Hook: Acting vs. Singing
Show the class the scene from Les Miserables (1998) where Cosette and Marius first profess their love. Then play them “A Heart Full of Love” from the soundtrack.
Discuss what was different between the two scenes. Which one was easier to understand? Which one was more engaging? Did they both further the plot? What did the movie clip do that the musical clip didn’t? What did the music add to the scene beyond what the movie did? Explain that if a song isn’t acted well, it can detract from the plot rather than help to further it.
Step 2: Anatomy of a Song
Pass out the Anatomy of a Song handout. Discuss and point out how all of these things should be in their mind as they perform a song.
Step 3: Individual Practice
Have the students work by themselves to create a short paragraph that will help to develop their character as well as answer the questions on the sheet and motivate their song. They should also include basic information like name, what is the context of the song in the show etc. Check this off with them for points. (30 pts.)
Step 4: Monologue Musical Performance
Have the class come together and give each student a chance to perform their song as a monologue making sure not to follow the meter of the song but rather speak it as though they were just talking, grouping thoughts together. Give feedback as well as have the students give feedback to one another.
Anatomy of a Song
1) Choose a song:
· Choose a song that is age appropriate
· Choose a song that is within your vocal range
· Choose a song that you could become passionate about singing
1) What is my “problem” or that I need solved by singing this song: Why am I singing?
· Ex. “I am ANGRY and I think I’m going to hurt someone”
· “I am SAD and can’t stop crying”
· “I am so HAPPY that I can’t stop laughing…”
2) Who is my partner?
· Your partner is the one who you believe can solve your “problem”
· Your partner can be present (if they are on stage with you) OR they can be implied (if you partner is off stage, or is you “alter-ego” or “God” etc.)
3) What do I perceive the solution to my problem to be?
· What do I want my partner to DO to solve my problem?
· What will I DO to work toward that solution from moment to moment? (Tactics) Vocal dynamics and color will grow out of this.
· In some songs you may resolve the problem… in others you won’t.
· HOWEVER, even if you never get it by the end of the song, never stop fighting for your solution!
Lesson #4: Anatomy of Singing Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of healthy vocal technique by identifying correct vocal placement from a live example and within their own vocal performances.
Material Needed: Audio Clips for Hook
Hook: Vocal Showcase
Play a variety of different (good) vocal artists including opera, musical theatre, pop artists, jazz singers etc. Assess their preview knowledge of vocal production terms (pitch, tempo, volume/dynamics, tone/ resonance) by analyzing each example.
● Opera: https://youtu.be/rTFUM4Uh_6Y
● Pop: https://youtu.be/MJBzDY93aDw
● Jazz: https://youtu.be/y06DZzSiPp0
● Musical Theatre: https://youtu.be/5DQfAU7knc0
Ask the class what they noticed/liked about each of the singers. Tell them that the one thing they all have in common is good vocal technique. Ask them if they’ve ever blown their voice out at a football game or a rock concert. How did it feel? Tell them that good vocal technique is used more than for simply singing but can help us in numerous situations. How can we maintain healthy voices?
Step 1: Vocal Foundations Review
● Breathing: Have students lie on their back with their feet planted and knees bent. Have them place their hands on their stomachs to feel where their breath is coming from. Have them take a quick noisy breath through their mouth. Where did you feel the air go? Have them take a slow quiet breath through their nose. Where did you feel the air go now? Discuss the pros and cons of breathing through your diaphragm vs. your lungs.
● How Sound is Created: Air travels up your trachea until reaches the vocal folds or vocal chords which are protected by the larynx (voice box) which is made of cartilage. The chords themselves are two infoldings of mucous membrane located just above the trachea. The air rushes in between these folds (cords) causing them to vibrate thus producing a sound. The sound then continues up the through the pharynx which acts as a passageway to the mouth.
● Resonance: Resonance is how and where the sound vibrates. Have them sing a note and plug their nose. If the sound stops they were resonating in their nasal cavity. Have them try to produce a note that resonates somewhere else. Have them do an imploded “K” (or make a Darth Vader sound) Ask them if they felt anything happening in the back of their throat. Explain to them that this is the soft palate lifting. In singing, having a raised soft palate helps to create more space in the back of their throat and helps create a more open resonance.
● Diction: Explain that once the air reaches the mouth, the sound must be shaped with the articulators: Lips, teeth, tongue, and mouth.
Step 2: Placement Pair and Share
Explain how we are going to explore the next level of tone/ resonance by discussion placement in singing. Divide class into groups to share their given placement, and provide an example.
1. Belting: A singing technique by which a singer produces a loud sound in his/her mid to upper range. Singers can use belting to convey a sense of heightened emotion, but it can also cause damage to the vocal chords if done improperly.
2. Chest Voice: Place your hand on your chest and say Ahhhhh on a low pitch. Do you feel the rumbling under your palm? That is your chest voice. It is the singing voice that is closest to our speaking voice. Be careful when belting not to bring the weight of your chest voice up into your higher register.
3. Falsetto: In male singers, a high register (actually, sung in the female range) similar to the head voice. It is a light, often breathy often. All men also have a mix – they just need to know how to find it.
4. Head Voice: Singing in the higher part of the range. While singing in the head voice, the vocal folds are thin; the head voice is usually associated with lighter, brighter sounds. If you place your hand on your chest, you shouldn’t feel any rumbling when singing in your head voice.
5. Legit: A term used to describe a more classical singing style. Your head voice and soft palate are used the most in this style. It requires the most breath.
6. Mix: The blended part of the singing voice that combines the best qualities of head and chest voice. It is a more contemporary sound that is commonly used in Musical Theatre.
Step 3: Model Placement
Have the students gather back together, and explain how you are going to model singing through all these placements. While singing, hold up a sign with the corresponding placement for which you are currently singing. Afterwards, discuss the certain qualities each placement has with the class. Explain how you are going to sing it again, but this time, they have to hold up a notecard with the corresponding placement for which you are currently singing. *Instead of singing the same song again, you could choose a different song, or show video clip examples*
Step 4: Apply to Song
Have students mark where in their songs they would change vocal placement. Have them practice the various vocal placements by modeling vocal warm ups. Let them practice their performance piece for the remainder of the class
Lesson #5: Movement/ Choreography in Musicals Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of how movement and specific choreography furthers the plot in musicals by participating in a dance review.
Materials Needed: Dance Styles PPT & Clips of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder & An American in Paris Hook: Alibaba & the 40 Thieves
Have the students stand in a circle and begin to chant “Alibaba & the 40 Thieves” in the same tempo. The 1st person will start a movement/ dance that the 2nd person will copy. This gets passed down to each person in the circle. However, the first person will be creating new movement/ dance that the 2nd person will have to watch for, and pass around next.
Introduce and discuss the role movement and choreography have in musical theatre. Compare Gentleman’s Guide to American in Paris. *Write on the board* Explain that almost all movement has a purpose in musical theatre. It either:
introduces/gives deeper analysis of characters
Have the students give examples of performances that fit with each of the three purposes.
Step 1: Body Language
The students will be given a word or emotion for which they create a statue with their bodies as a class. (ex. Love, War, Isolation, Curiosity, Oppression, Friendship, Lies, etc. ) Ask the students to then create some sort of movement that takes them from shape to shape. Add different types of music and tell them to move in whatever way the music makes them feel.
Step 2: Dance Call/ Styles
Play the PPT of Dance Styles, and review the origin of each genre. Assess their knowledge of each genre by asking what moves they know from that genre. Teach the class the most iconic steps found in that genre after assessing.
Explain to the students that they are going to create a short series of movements that center around a theme (ex. My first date, my most awkward date, eating breakfast, studying etc.) Have them keep in mind the three aspects of dance and recognize which one their movement does. Their movement should be fairly short only about eight counts max.
Step 4: Give them time to work by themselves or with a partner to create their movement and give them an allotted time.
Bring everyone together. Depending on the class size, have either all of the students or just a few students show their movement to the class. Have the class see if they can pinpoint what aspect the movement covers. Then have the student teach the class their movement. The teacher should make it fit the music the best they can while still preserving the original as much as possible.
Lesson #6: Workshop Previews Day #1 Objective: Student will demonstrate an understanding of improving previous practice by previewing their performance and by creating a List of Tips for themselves. Materials Needed: None
Hook: Unpacking Quote
You need to make mistakes in rehearsal because that's how you find out what works and what doesn't. - Clarke Peters
Ask the class to share their initial thoughts about the quote written on the board. Do you agree or disagree? What’s your first reaction to the word “mistake”? Sometimes as actors we are afraid to take risks for fear of failing. Luckily we are in a safe environment today so go for it and we will help you! Step 1: Workshop Previews
Have the students sign up for a preview slot numbered on the board. Explain how today’s previews will be done in a workshop format. This means that after each preview, the class and teacher will give feedback, then work with the performer on one of their feedback notes in front of the class. Explain how this is done frequently in college conservatory programs where guest artists will give master classes (BYU Arts with MDT program & Audrey McDonald, Leslie Odom Jr., Katherine O’Hara, etc.).
While the workshop previews are going, explain to the students how they will need to take out a sheet of paper and pen/ pencil to write down a list of tips or suggestions they heard in other classmates previews that apply to their own performance pieces. Check this off with each student at the end of class. Tell them to keep them safe or leave them with so since we will refer back to them next class.
Wrap Up/ Closure:
As students are checking off their List of Tips with you, check in individually with the few students who chose to create an Influential Musical Presentation for their final assessment. Offer suggestions as needed.
***This lesson will take two days to require ample time to workshop with each student.
Lesson #7: Workshop Preview Day #2 Objective: Student will demonstrate an understanding of improving previous practice by previewing their performance, adding to their List of Tips for themselves, and applying their other feedback not workshopped. Materials Needed: None
Hook: List of Tips Share
Before starting the workshop previews for the remaining half of the class, select a few students to share their favorite tip from their List of Tips created last class. Why did that tip stick out to them? How could they apply it to their performance? Elsewhere?
Step 1: Workshop Previews
Have the remaining students who haven’t previewed sign up for a preview slot numbered on the board. Remind students (and those who were absent last class) how today’s previews will be done in a workshop format. This means that after each preview, the class and teacher will give feedback, then work with the performer on one of their feedback notes in front of the class.
Step 2: List of Tips
While the workshop previews are going, have the students add to their List of Tips based on tips or suggestions they heard in other classmates previews that apply to their own performance pieces.
Step 3: Application of Tips
With the remainder of class, have the students select three tips from their list that they will apply in their individual practice. Have them put a star or highlight these tips. Once they have practiced/ applied their chosen tips, have them team up with a fellow peer to preview their now revised performance, and have the peer give further feedback on if they have effectively applied their chosen tips.
Wrap Up/ Closure:
As students are checking off their List of Applied Tips with you, check in individually with the few students who chose to create an Influential Musical Presentation for their final assessment. Offer suggestions as needed.
Lesson #8: Final Performance Objective: Students will demonstrate an understanding of musical theatre pedagogy by performing a musical solo scene or presenting an Influential Musical PechaKucha. Materials Needed: Projector, Laptop adapters for PechaKucha Presentations, Self-Reflection supplement
Hook: Vocal Warm Ups
Start the class by leading them through vocal warm ups to prepare them for performance (Why Not and Buzz Arpeggios). Allow them 5-10 minutes to run through their pieces and set up their presentations.
Step 1: Final Performances
Have the students sign up for performance/ presentation slots in the board. After each performance or presentation, allow for peers to give praise on their improved performance or ask questions of the presentations. Allow performances to be recorded for the students to refer to in their self-reflections.
Step 2: Self Reflections
Once the performances and presentations are complete, explain the requirements for the Self-Reflection assignment. Encourage the performers to refer to their recorded videos for their reflection. If the reflection is not completed in class it is due next time.
Wrap Up/ Closure:
Informally ask the class to share their favorite thing they learned/ discovered about musical theatre/ themselves through the process of learning about it.