Disney is well known for taking the fairytales of our childhood, sweetening them, and turning them into animated musical extravaganzas for children. Beauty and the Beast was originally a French tale, written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, but it has been translated and retold almost from the moment it first appeared in print in 1756.
Looking for an antidote to the typical holiday entertainment fare? Consider a musical comedy that celebrates the simple pleasures of beer and sports while contemplating life’s deeper meanings. Guys on Ice takes place in an ice-fishing shack in Wisconsin. The book and lyrics are by Fred Alley, with music by James Kaplan.
The story of Cyrano de Bergerac, a man who is perfect in all ways but one, is based only loosely on the life of an actual man. The real Cyrano was a playwright and an expert swordsman, he did have a cousin, and she did marry a baron. His nose was largish.
The word “opera” comes from the Latin word for “work,” but it wasn’t until 1639 that the word was used to describe a theatrical piece that includes poetry, vocal music, orchestral music and dance.
Opera first appeared on the world stage in 1598, with the production of La Dafne in Florence, Italy. Ottavio Rinuccini wrote the book, known as the libretto, and Jacopo Peri composed the musical score. The music has long been lost to us, but the libretto survives mostly intact.
Improvisational comedy is a bit like watching a flying trapeze act: the excitement comes not simply from the skilled moves of the performers, but from the danger inherent to the act. Except in the case of improv, there is never a net.
Frequently, the word “farce” is used to describe a ridiculous situation that did not end well, such as a political campaign or a sports finals match, but in the theatre world, farce means fast, funny and fun.
Let’s talk melodrama—cue suspenseful organ music, please.
Almost everyone thinks they know what melodrama is, but the art form has taken many shapes over the years, influencing (and being influenced by) everything from the morality and mystery plays of the Middle Ages to Italy’s commedia dell’arte.
“A Tale of Mystery,” by Thomas Holcroft, was the first English play to be known as a melodrama. It was Gothic, in keeping with what was popular in 1802.