Musical Theatre

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The normalization of live theatre through TV live musicals

Every major broadcast network has at least one or two live TV musicals in the works for the next few years, and will this help to normalize musical theatre for the masses, or steal the magic. Hamilton has helped to usher in a different era of musical theatre, but is it drawing the elitism out of the art form, by facilitating the creation of broadcasts like this?

  • Interesting topic. The rising popularity of these live TV musicals certainly merits further critical exploration. That said, I take slight issue with your choice of the word "normalization," as it implies that musical theatre (i.e. an artform that, at least since the 1980s, quite literally exists for bourgeois consumption and merchandising) is something esoteric. Musical theatre has always been prominently positioned within the mainstream, and is one of the few forms of theatre to which that label still applies; I really don't think that television is a necessary mediator for acclimatizing the general public to the concept of musicals -- they're not exactly broadcasting Edward Bond or Sarah Kane. Perhaps there are better ways of approaching the subject. Two come to mind: 1) Aesthetically, regarding how this televisual intermediation affects the performance's fundamental theatrical elements. Is liveness enough to constitute "theatre"? Does the audience on the other side of a screen genuinely care if what they're watching is live, or are they missing out on the potential virtues of cinematic editing? Is there an appeal to simply knowing that the show is theatrical, even when not experiencing it in an actual theatre? If so, what and why? How does this differ from simply making a film adaptation of classic musicals? 2) Economically, regarding how television distribution allows a wider audience to experience Broadway productions (whose tickets are quite expensive, not to mention inaccessible to those living outside of New York and other major metropolitan areas). This, I believe, is more in line with what you may have meant by "normalization," as it allows people who otherwise would not have had a chance to see these plays an opportunity to see a version of them in performance. I see potential for an analysis of ratings, sponsorships, and funding models as a means of assessing the financial success or failure of this new distributional tactic. – ProtoCanon 1 year ago
  • Interesting topic....and definitely one worth exploring. One of the fascinating aspects of the theater is the confined environment and this type of unity within the crowd. One performance will not be an exact replica of another---part of what makes the theater so unique. A crucial component of theater is the fourth wall--the impenetrable invisible barrier between the audience and the actor--which, ironically feels breached during a televised performance? I would have to disagree with the idea of elitism and broadcasts as analogous, especially due to the high-cost of the theater today, and making this once enjoyable, frequent venture, less common among 'average' folk. The price of tickets are astronomical and really is a disservice in a society that supposedly upholds the importance of a cultured society through the medium of art. – danielle577 1 year ago
  • I love reading anything about theatre, especially musicals. In your suggested analysation though, be careful you're not looking at two separate topics here. Hamilton has indeed created a new generation of theatre-lovers and reinvented the genre of musical theatre. And live TV musicals have done this in their own way too; perhaps the discussion is more pointed towards where the future of musical theatre is heading, or, what is attractive about these refreshing works to a modern audience? – OJames 1 year ago
  • This is a really good topic.I think TV broadcasts can make theatre a little more accessible, it can introduce the theatre in a similar way that Hamilton has introduced theatre to new audiences. It also comes without the cost of making trips to the West End or Broadway. You don't really lose the elitism of theatre because you still have the west end and broadway. Perhaps the focus is on the future of musical theatre, there is the live versions (And I don't think they will ever really go away), tv broadcasts and things like Todrick Hall's Straight Outta OZ on youtube. – RJRStClair 1 year ago
  • I love the concept of theatre becoming more accessible to the public through TV broadcasts, but it would be interesting to also consider how this topic might also harm or stagnate theatre as an art form. It's true that more people would be able to see shows, but the shows that pull in the viewership numbers TV networks want will probably be already-popular spectacle musicals or reboots of classics. Would smaller, newer, and weirder shows get a chance to shine? Would straight plays be given some airtime, or would the definition of "theater" switch wholly to musicals in the eyes of the public? Also, as people have pointed out before, the experience of watching a taped show and being in the theater are very different. Not necessarily a bad thing, just something to consider. – ohnomegan 2 days ago