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The Importance of Story in Musicals

Questions and Answers from Stephen Schwartz. Used with Permission.

Writing the story first

Stephen Schwartz answers a question about where to start:

For me, when I am working on a musical number for a show, the story I am trying to tell comes first. It is a little like an acting exercise -- I try to become the character, think about what the character's action is (what he or she is trying to "do" at that moment), and then express myself as that character would. I think it's important that there be some action in a theatre song -- that it ends up in a somewhat different place than where it started, that it take a bit of an emotional journey. It may be that the character is trying to persuade him or herself of something, or get someone else to do something or feel something, etc. This is of course an over-simplification and doesn't actually hold true for all theatre songs, but it is a good thing to think about, I have found.

In terms of the music: I try to come up with something (melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically) that feels like the character to me. Beyond that, though, I basically just write music that I like and harmonies that appeal to me, and hope that they will appeal to others.



To send suggestions, comments, or questions write to carol@musicalschwartz.com

This recommended book Beating Broadway (above) covers the story of the musical

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