The word musical is defined as “a play or movie in which singing and dancing play an essential part.” The thrill of incredible voices belting songs that fill the theatre walls with lush sound, the electrifying choreography that grabs our attention with fancy footwork, the colorful costumes, detailed sets, special effects, and storyline plots that tug at our heartstrings and give us warm fuzzies. It’s all part of the magic that falls under the definition of a musical. But what makes up a GREAT musical?
I can’t tell you how many times I entered the question of “what are the elements that make up a great musical” in Google search and even with re-wording the question for what felt to me like a million different times, none of the answers that came up jumped out at me. So naturally, I decided to come up with my own persona list. So buckle up because here we go!
Element Number 1: A storyline. Just like every book, a great musical needs to have a storyline that grabs your attention from the start of act 1, leaves you on your seat for the start of intermission, then comes full circle throughout the remainder of act 2 right up until the final note of the finale. The storyline is one that should touch all of your emotions and makes you a part of the story from every crack of laughter to stream of tears. I’ve seen several musicals throughout the years, but I can honestly say without a doubt that The Lion King was one of those musicals for me. From the very first note that the orchestra hit in Circle of Life, to the dramatic death of Mufassa…all the way through the very end where peace is restored at Pride Rock, I was captivated.
If we step back for a moment and look at our own lives, wouldn’t you say that we too are creating a storyline for ourselves? Since the day of our birth when we were brought into this world, we have been crafting our own stories; constantly evolving and changing based on the world that is around us. We are dealt cards in our lives on a daily basis that put us on the edge of our seat, force us to make choices, and dance our way through the twists and turns of an ever-thickening plot.
Some of those cards we are dealt might cut our storyline short or bring about very intense emotions of happiness or sadness, but it is all in how we respond…how we write our storyline.
If I were to deal you the card of getting a pink slip at work, would you automatically give up and accept defeat, or stand up on you own two feet and get out there to look for another job?
Or, on the contrary, if I were to deal you the card of a family member passing, would you choose to celebrate their life in memory with smiles or fall into a depression of sadness and despair?
How are you evolving your storyline—today, tomorrow, in this very present moment? In a world that is constantly throwing us negative energy and hatred our way, are you one that responds with love and kindness or do you get overwhelmed, angry, and shut down?
Awhile back on social media, I remember stumbling across a post and picture that has been ingrained in my mind ever since I saw it. It was a photograph taken of a 4 year old girl in her final days while suffering from a battle with cancer. The picture was snapped by Andy Whelan, a British photographer. In the picture, tears are streaming down the young girls’ face, she has IVs in her arms, and the emotion, pain, and rawness snapped in the photo is unreal. The father who shared this picture that went viral with the world writes, “Please, I beg of you, as a heartbroken father, it is too late for my daughter, but childhood cancer needs to be cured. No family should have to go through this hell.”
Two weeks ago, I launched a year-long campaign of running 1000 miles to raise awareness and funds of 10,000 for pediatric cancer research in hopes of helping families who have been dealt the card of childhood cancer fight their battle with a gleam of hope.
Right now…in this very moment…how will you continue to live on in life and handle the cards that have been dealt to you? How will you navigate and respond to the personal plot twists to evolve your storyline before the curtain falls?
Element number 2: a great cast. For those of you who have seen a musical, you know that having a great cast is essential. You need people with energy, great voices, lots of talent, coordination…basically people who are amazing at everything. Typically, when you are watching a show from the audience, there always seems to be those few people that stand out from all others in the cast…those with the energy on their faces that just draw you in from the moment they hit the stage. A great cast is one that loves each other through thick and thin, puts aside their differences to come together, and has fun entertaining the masses.
So, once again, let’s step back and examine this element in our lives. We too, in our ever evolving storyline, have a cast of great people beside us: our friends and family. They are the glue that holds us together, the ones we love the most, the people we create memories with that we will always hold dear, and at the end of the day, the ones that stick by our side even when the music stops and our storyline has drawn to an end.
In the series finale of The Golden Girls that aired back in May of 1992, the final 3 minutes of the episode involve all four women (Rose, Blanche, Sophia, and Dorothy) hugging and trying to find the right words about their time together for the past 7 years. Bea Arthur, who plays Dorothy, begins to cry saying “It’s been an experience that I will always keep close to my heart and that these are memories that I’ll wrap myself in when the world gets cold and I forget that there are people who are warm and loving.” It then ends with them embracing in a big hug, and of course, lots of tears. For those who care to watch, it is below!
Who are the most valuable cast mates in your life that will help you remember that love and kindness do in fact exist when the world around you is cold and dreary?
Element Number 3: An intelligent director. In the world of musicals a good creative team is crucial, but none more important than the director. They are the ones that give direction to the cast, share their artistic thoughts of how scenes should play out, and ultimately can make last minute changes as they please. It can be a stressful job, but it is up to the cast to take the advice of the director and run with it to make it part of a beautiful production.
We are our own director in this life. It is up to us to utilize the blessings we’ve been given and the love in our hearts to go out and share them with the world. What gifts in your life are you being directed to use to evolve your own storyline and make a difference in this world?
As Anne Frank once said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Element #4: A good moral/catchphrase. We are constantly blasted with these on the daily, but isn’t it easier to remember something when it has a catchy phrase or moral to go along with it? In the world of TV through the form of advertisements, commercials, and jingles we are reminded constantly “to never leave home without it” (American Express), “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on your car insurance” (Geico), or my personal favorite, “America Runs On Dunkin.” Shifting gears to the world of musicals with both slogans and morals, The Wizard of Oz is one that pops immediately into my head. Dorothy and her travels across the yellow brick road through Munchkinland and Emerald City with the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion ultimately remind us in the end that “There is no place like home.” In addition, The Sound of Music tells us to “climb every mountain”—a powerful mantra that reminds us to stay strong and continue moving forward even when we want to give up in those dark moments of life.
Michael J. Fox revealed to the world in September of 1998 that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He was famous for many TV and movie roles including Alex Keaton on the 80’s sitcom Family Ties and Marty McFly in the movie, Back to the Future. In his memoir published back in 2002, Fox writes these words to readers:
“If you were to rush into this room right now and announce that you had struck a deal with God, Allah, Buddha, Christ, Bill Gates, whomever—in which the ten years since my diagnosis could be magically taken away, traded in for ten more years as the person I was before, I would, without a moment’s hesitation, tell you to take a hike. These ten years since my diagnosis have been the best ten years of my life, and I consider myself a lucky man.”
To me, Fox’s life slogan is that he is a “lucky man” not taking any moment for granted and someone who continues to live each and every day to the fullest without any regrets.
What is the catch phrase and moral that you want people to remember you by? What is the personal slogan that will tie in to the storyline you are currently writing? Can YOU create positive change in the world?
In my daily life, there are two famous quotes that I try to embrace each and every day—one from a famous children’s book author, and the other a classic film and fashion icon.
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
This of course comes from the infamous Dr. Seuss and to me is a slogan that we all should be living out 100% day in and day out. It is one moral and life slogan that to me will never lose relevance, even 50 years from now.
“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible!”
Audrey Hepburn is the one known for coining this phrase and what a great quote it is.
With Miss Hepburn’s wise words, I feel that I can take liberty to add just two sentences to make the quote have even more relevance to present day.
“Nothing is impossible; the word itself says I’m possible. You are possible. And together, this world is possible.”
In the world of musicals, there are no second chances. Anything can happen and a cast must learn to roll with the punches no matter what. The director can give insight; however, it is ultimately up to the cast for bringing the storyline to life, keeping it fresh, and driving home the catchphrase and moral for the audience to take with them as they leave the theatre.
We are given only once chance in this life. As you go about your life today, tomorrow, and the days after, how will you evolve the musical of your life? What changes and choices will you make to both your personal storyline and cast?
Our world can be an awful place, but each morning when we wake up, we have a choice. We can be part of the solution or part of the problem. What way will you choose and how will you decide to live out today, tomorrow, and every day after of your own life musical before the curtain falls?
Sprinkle sunshine always,