Four Common Types of Musicals

There are several forms for musical with the most common types including revue, rock, operetta, and religious or political musicals. These differing types of musicals provide composers and audiences with several forms of entertainment. Often, singers, songwriters, and actors involved in musical theater will specialize in one type of musical.Performers must have singing, dancing, and acting abilities unless of course you are a famous actor already that is being used to play the role of a character to increase box office earnings.


Operettas share many things in common with operas. Most operettas are shorter in duration than operas. Opera singers don't speak during a performance. When they do speak, they employ a musical technique called recitative. On the other hand, an operetta combines speech, singing and dancing to engage the audience. Operetta served as the poor man's opera for those without the financial means to attend an opera. "The Merry Widow" by Franz Lehar, which premiered in 1905, serves as an example of an early operetta. Operetta tackles lighter, less intense themes than opera, has English lyrics and always ends with a positive message.


Revues consist of a mixture of entertainment genres and go well beyond the standard song-and-dance musical. Revues use skits, dancers, singing, and showcase the multi-faceted talents of performers. Mainly a comedic act, comedy plays a large part in revues since the 1920s. George Gershwin, a composer, got his start in the revue. It helped him to develop and hone his craft while composing music for these idiosyncratic musicals. With the revue's popularity and success increasing, the format refined, becoming less chaotic. Revues began to make use of a central subject or overarching theme.

Political and Religious

Political and religious musicals broach subjects that affect modern-day life -- literally or by use of satire. The "South Park" creators released a musical called "The Book of Mormon" in 2011. The musical focuses on a group of Mormon missionaries going to Africa. Through satire, the musical attempts to portray the ironic event that sends young men out in the world with abundant energy to encounter the harsh realities dealt with daily by the poor and downtrodden. Political satires analyze political issues. Comedy exposes inconsistencies, hypocrisy, and dishonesty in the political system.


Rock musicals give rock musicians a medium to perform on the Broadway stage. The modern rock musical "Hair," in which a man goes through the traumatic event of getting drafted to fight in the Vietnam War. Instead of a classical score, "Hair" uses popular rock music for the songs in the program. Rock operas eventually turned into "pop/rock" operas, partially due to the broader acceptance and appeal of pop music.


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