Making Your Show One Big Musical

Absurdist A Cappella

This time we discuss how to make your show one big musical.

Setting the Stage: Maybe it’s just me, but every time I exit the theatre after seeing a musical I feel a little bit down. After all, the world I was just taking in on stage was filled with constant singing and dancing. The world I live in—it’s just people walking around doing their boring ol’ talking thing, with no chance of a spontaneous melody arising from their everyday conversation.

The fact is, we’re never going to live in a musical, but the next best thing is to take parts of your life, and make them as such—walk around with your personal theme song playing in your head, have a singing-only party in which people can only communicate song, engage your local bus line in a lively sing along.

There all of these options, or there’s taking something that’s already musically oriented and adding the connective tissue of a plot. And so we arrive at the a cappella show presented as a musical.

Song Selection: You’ll want to pick songs that tell stories, and to have a range of them to express different emotions, capture different characters. Consider this story arc and song set for a mixed group: we start on a pair of young lovers walking down the street, and capture the moment with Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours.” Then the two of them start to get serious, and the girl is pushing engagement while the guys reluctant about the commitment, and we get a sampling of Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” The two of them do get down to business and tie the knot, having their first dance to something sentimental like “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain. The two of them have their first child, we’ll call her Grace, and follow that with the young father singing to his little girl with Ben Folds’s “Gracie.” The girls grows up and mom has to say goodbye in the form of her big solo, with Dar Williams’s “The One Who Knows.” We close on the old couple puttering around the empty nest to The Beatles’ “When I’m 64.”

There you have a six song set, and that’s without a violent divorce (Alanis Morissette’s “I Want You To Know”), and a disgruntled party moving on (“Ready to Take a Chance Again” by Barry Manilow).

Setting: You’ll want a formal stage for your show so there’s the space and infrastructure to make set and costume changes happen as simply as possible.

Choreography: This is the perfect chance to stop worrying about anyone passing your group off as “too musical theatre”—musical theatre is what you’re going for here! Bust out bit of choreography you’ve been dreaming of—there’s no such thing as going too far here.

Other Notes: Avoid the temptation to cover a song from a musical in this context. That’s just tacky.