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Musical Theatre Song Types

Page history last edited by amrodrig@jeffco.k12.co.us 13 years, 4 months ago

A Performer Prepares


David Craig



12 Different Categories of Song Types in Musicals:

Show Ballad

Narrative Show Ballad

Dramatic Show Ballad

True Blues

Pop Blues

Theater Blues

Swinging Ballad

Up Tempo


Patter Song

Show Stopper




Show Ballad:


Basic building block of a musical

Melodic and Slow

Easily identified by un-pushed rhythmic beat

3 features:

song can be taken out of context of show and still maintain essential meaning.

Easiest to vocalize-was written for the world to sing and hum

Unifocus- boy to girl or vice versa- clear statements of love



Rogers and Hammertein: “People Will Say We’re in Love”

Gershwin: “Our Love is Here To Stay” ”Embraceable You”

Porter: “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”

Loesser: “I’ll Know”

Kern: “They Way You Look Tonight”

Lerner and Lowe: “Heather on a Hill”










Narrative Ballad:


Still slow and melodic, but a broader lyric statement, songs help move the plot along or establish information about a character

It too can be lifted from the score and still maintain its essential meaning

A does not have to sing B, but rather it actually becomes a soliloquy

In place of “I Love You” we hear about self-realization, lack or loss of a loved one



Rogers and Hart/Hammerstein: “You’ll Never Walk Alone” “My Funny Valentine”

Gershwin: “Someone to Watch Over Me”

Berlin: “White Christmas”

Kern: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”

Sondheim: “Not While I’m Around”

Styne: “Small World”



Dramatic Show Ballad:


Often eleven o’clock Number or finales

Often resolves a plot line rather than being done by the “book”

“Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy most famous example

They are affirmitive, contemplative, always self-reveltory


Tough to audition with: very vocally demanding, must be acted with creative energyand relation to the script


When sung will ALWAYS elicit a heightened audience response.



Styne: “Rose’s Turn”

Lerner and Loewe: “I’ve Grwn Accustomed to Her Face”

Sondheim: “Being Alive” ‘Send in the Clowns”

Webber: “All I Ask of You”

Bernstein: “Something’s Coming” “Tonight”

MacDermott: “Aquarius” form Hair


True Blues:


Not as often found in musical theater pieces, but rather were born from Tin Pan Alley and the unique musical expressions of the historic black experience

Roots are traced to spirituals

First appeared at the turn of the 20th century

Topics are usually of pain and torture/unrequited love

Rarely used in musical theater auditions



Gershwin: “Rhapsody in Blue”

Kern: “Blue Danube Blues”



Pop Blues:


Not true blues songs

“Blue” more in mood than in style

Pop blues find their roots more from arrangers/composers/conductors of big bands, films and Tin Pan Alley

Usually considered “Standards” therefore easily taken out of context and performed in cabarets and night clubs

Topics are usually of pain and tortured/unrequited love



Ellington: “I Got it Bad”

Carmichael: “Georgia on My Mind”

Akst: “Am I Blue”

Arlen: “Blues in the Night”

Holiday: “Lady Sings The Blues”


Theater Blues:


Origins usually traced back to scores written expressly for musical theater

The most famous composer of this genera was Harold Arlen

Topics aren’t as full of suffering often because they appear in musical comedies

Rely on dramatic/musical punch, best when the character’s obstacle is the focus in the song



Arlen: “Stormy Weather” “Come Rain or Come Shine:

Gershwin: “Summertime”

Krn: “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man”

Coleman: “Where Am I Going?”

Newman: “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today”


Swinging Ballad:


Songs swing

Must be played with a great deal of charm, cannot be forced

Usually of the same subjects as traditional ballads but with more “up” tempo

The performer must be comfortable with jazz and must not let their “training” get in the way of communicating the song

A category in which Gershwin excelled

“Seduces the ear with it’s melody”


Gershwin: “S’Wonderful” “My One and Only” “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off”

Kern: “A Fine Romance”

Porter: “I Get A Kick Out Of You” “Friendship” “You’re the Top”

Berlin: “I Got Sun in the Morning”

R&H: “I Enjoy Being a Girl” “Getting to Know You” “My Favorite Things”

Styne: “Let Me Entertain You” “Together Wherever We Go”

Hamlisch: “One”



Up Tempo:


Oftenreffered to as rhythem songs

Rhythm is as important and sometimes more important than the melody

Good choice for performers who don’t consider their voices their strongest trait

Allows performer to sell their “other wares”

Delivery of melody is easier and not as important

Songs in this category are often interchangeable with swing ballads

Often transformed into slow ballads or jazz because of our jazz history

“This type of song has one intention: to excite”



Gershwin: “I Got Rhythm”

Porter: “Too Darn Hot” “I Get a Kick Out Of You”

Webber: “Superstar”

Herman: “Hello, Dolly!”

Styne: “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”



The Waltz:


Categorized because of the time signature 3/4 time

Hard to sing, singers often tend to slow the tempo down


Songs in this time signature have their roots in dance

Rodgers most famous for waltzes



Rodgers: “My Favorite Things” “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” “Do I Hear a Waltz?” the overture to Carousel

Sondheim: The entire score of A Little Night Music was written in 3/4, 6/4, 9/4 &12/4




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