Musical theatre workshops and productions

Blog 35 – In the Beginning…..

The Opening number in a musical


Opening numbers in musicals are so important. But they are the most difficult songs to write. The opening number must introduce the world of the show to the audience, tell us a little bit about the characters, the time and place. It must let the audience know what to expect.

As we are creating our new musical, I got some interesting advice: “Save the opening number till after you have an entire show. Then go back and create it. By then you will really know what it needs to say.” Interesting huh? And so far I am finding that this advice is on the mark. When you are creating a new show – from scratch, not an adaptation – you don’t know where the journey will take you. The voyage takes turns and twists. It strays from the original story idea. It evolves and morphs into its own identity. So, good advice!

BUT, still, the opening number remains an enigma to me. We all have our favorite opening numbers in musicals. Here are a few of mine and what I think about them.

“Age of Aquarius” from HAIR – this number propels the audience back into the late 1960’s. It is a virtual whirlwind of activity, with dance and costumes and a glorious song.

“Another Opening, Another Show” from KISS ME KATE –this is an old fashioned, fun, exciting number. The audience immediately knows they are about to watch a story of backstage in a traveling theatre company. Audiences love “backstage” stories! We meet the leading characters, we see the conflict between them and the whole company sings and dances away.

“Hello” from THE BOOK OF MORMON – what I like about this number is that it starts out simple and fresh. A sole person singing about greeting people. It immediately puts a smile on your face. You know you are about to be introduced to a parody – and it is hysterical.

The list goes on and on…….What are your favorites? What are your least favorites and why? (This is what I really want to hear about) and any advice for us as we work on our new show NUMBERS N3RDS?

Larry Little

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