So, let’s be real here: musicals are not for everyone. They can be tacky, predictable, and honestly, pretty annoying. The music stays in your head for days and the sets never look realistic enough. The characters are archetypical and often lack depth. However, if you’ve ever seen a production, whether at your school or on Broadway, there are elements that are impossible to ignore: the enthusiasm of the performers, the loyalty and dedication of the cast and crew, and the positive attitude of every ensemble member. If there is one thing you cannot deny, it is that musicals take a hell of a lot of work.
Musicals are like bridges: they take ages to build, but once they are finished, they connect everything together. They integrate the essential elements of both visual and performance art to create the pinnacle of entertainment. Musical theatre requires time, dedication, patience, and passion. The musical industry is competitive beyond belief, and while it is common knowledge that all theater divas are out to get each other, musicals require extensive teamwork. The cast of a production can easily range from four to forty, depending on the location and the popularity of the musical. On Broadway, some productions have run for decades due to demand. The longest running production on Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera, opened in January of 1988. The Times called it “God’s Gift to Musical Theatre” and it grossed a record 18 million US dollars at the box office on the opening night.
Not only is musical theatre capable of bringing together a multitude of art forms, it brings together people from all walks of life. From tourists to locals, musical theater has an unexplainable feature that all audience members find themselves drawn to. Whether it’s the empathy that one feels for the characters, or the inspiration found from the struggles of a protagonist, musicals make the audience feel strong emotion. This makes theater both a popular attraction and pastime; a survey conducted by Statista in January of 2015 found that 47.31 million people in the United States attended live theater over the course of one year. Furthermore, musical theatre contributes greatly to the economy of the area. In 2015, the ticket sales of Broadway productions in one season grossed 877 million USD and another 216 million USD per season can be attributed to production merchandise and food and beverage costs. In short, the average total revenue of Broadway productions per season is a whopping 1.38 billion US dollars.
All in all, individuals who are unable to appreciate musicals as an art form may just be ignorant of the myriad of social and economic benefits that theater provides. Not only are they capable of building bridges between artists of all fields, but they also strengthen the economic and social atmosphere of a region.
This article originally appeared in the August/September, 2015 issue of UNIT-E. It was written by Ellie Hu, a student at the Western Academy of Beijing.
UNIT-E was founded in the spring of 2010 with the aim of establishing a non-profit, student-run magazine for international students in Beijing. Staffed by current students from a range of international schools, the magazine provides an amalgam of cultural tidbits, fragments of Beijing student life, and a broad spectrum of unique perspectives from a diverse group of young adults.
Photo: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer (Flickr)