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Discover Musical Theatre Styles

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

By. Brodie Baldwin

Musical Theatre - where would the Arts be without it!

This vast body of music and vocal work comprises of a variety of genres and styles that combine singing, acting and dancing.

We have Musicals adapted from books and films, jukebox, concept, biographical, revue musicals and more!

Generally, there are four main styles of Musical Theatre; Legit, Traditional, Contemporary & Pop/Rock Musical Theatre

Legit Musical Theatre

'Legit' Musical Theatre derives from the 'Golden Age' of musicals, shows produced pre-1965. Although Legit refers to as a style and not a time period, most of Legit repertoire were composed before 1965.

Legit comprises of classically voiced singing with characteristics of nice rounded vowels, clear diction, lots of vibrato, smooth transitions, beautiful sustained notes and vocal flexibility.

Legit shows have a classical feel which you can definitely hear in Falling in Love with Love from Boys from Syracuse, originally performed by Muriel Angelus in the 1938 Broadway premiere. Notable 'Legit' style singers include, Audra McDonald, Julie Andrews and Aaron Lazar.

Additional Repertoire

- Better Luck Next Time, Easter Parade

- Summertime, Porgy & Bess

- Il Mondo Era Vuoto, The Light in the Piazza

Traditional Musical Theatre

Traditional Musical Theatre, also known as 'Belt' combines both traditional and contemporary elements.

Vocal characteristics include crisp, percussive diction, strong chest belting, interesting vocal dynamics and more dominant female characters and voices. Some Traditional Musical Theatre shows include: Chicago, City of Angels and The Producers.

They Just keep Moving The Line from Bombshell

Additional Repertoire

- What Was A Woman To Do, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

- Im Still Here, Follies

- Everything's Coming Up Roses, Gypsy

Contemporary Musical Theatre

Contemporary Musical Theatre fuses traditional voice styles and contemporary pop/rock elements.

We are seeing more and more contemporary musical theatre shows being produced, all with unique stories and powerful vocalists, driven by story and lyricism.

Vocal characteristics include very bright tone colour, mix, chest-mix & chest belts, speech level singing, forward placement, sustained notes with not a saturation of vibrato, riffs & runs with a modern feel.

Some recognisable contemporary musical theatre shows include: Dogfight, Wicked, Something Rotten, Matilda, Amelie and Spelling Bee.

Before It's Over from Dogfight

Additional Repertoire

- Changing My Major, Fun Home

- Lost In The Brass, Band Geeks

- More To The Story, Shrek The Musical

Pop/Rock Musical Theatre

My personal favourite style of Musical Theatre is Pop/Rock.

This style is heavily influenced by contemporary music and their sub genres in pop, rock, hip-hop, country, etc.

Pop/Rock Theatre contains contemporary vocal stylisms and embellishments (fry, slurs, crys, growls, flips) with more creative freedom to what's written on the page. Other vocal characteristics include, sustained notes with not an overuse of vibrato, speech level singing, vowel manipulation, bright mix voice, strong chest, chest-mix and mix belts and vocal flexibility.

Recognisable Pop/Rock Musical Theatre shows include, Spring Awakening, Once, Bonnie & Clyde and Mamma Mia (Jukebox musical).

Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind from Spring Awakening

Additional Repertoire

- Falling Slowly, Once

- Superboy and the Invisible Girl, Next to Normal

- Where Do You Belong?, Mean Girls

Learning songs from this wonderful field of music is fun, filled with drama and exploration of character, and also, heritage.

A definite to consider in your journey as a singer.


Ready to learn more?

If you'd like to book a lesson with Brodie, or with any of our team, click below. We'd love to welcome you in-studio or online!


Sources & Further Reading:

Falling In Love With Love (Original Broadway Cast "Boys From Syracuse" - Topic, 2017)

Jones, KMJ, 21st Century Broadway Musicals Categorised by Music StyleMusical Theatre Resources,

They Just Keep Moving The Line - Megan Hilty BOMBSHELL (Jordan Lorimer,2015)

Before It's Over (Lindsay Mendez - Topic, 2017)

Track 13- Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind (Alex Worthington, 2011)

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