- It has been proposed that this page, Musical comedy, be titled, "Musical theater".
The musical comedy (also musical theater, Broadway musical, musical, or simply show) is a theatrical performance in which a story is told through a combination of spoken dialogue, songs, and dancing. When the emotional intensity becomes too strong for speech, the characters sing; when it becomes too strong for song, they dance.
A musical is usually credited to three people: the composer, who writes the music; the lyricist, who writes the words to the songs; and the librettist, who writes the spoken dialog, called the libretto or the book. It is not unusual for the same person to write the lyrics and the libretto. For one famous musical, The Music Man, Meredith Willson performed all three roles, writing music, lyrics, and book.
The golden age of the Broadway musical comedy is sometimes marked as beginning with Oklahoma! in 1943 and continuing through the 1960s. During the heyday of the musical, a significant proportion of broadcast radio hits were show tunes.
Many musicals were produced in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, but before Oklahoma! (with some exceptions—Show Boat being an important one) they were revue-like pastiches of songs glued together by flimsy excuses for a plot. Many of the songs from that era, by such composers as the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, and Irving Berlin, have proved durable, but the shows themselves have not. When they are revived, the books are usually extensively rewritten.
A list of fifteen musicals designated by PBS as "memorable" includes:
- Show Boat (1933)
- Porgy and Bess
- Oklahoma! (1943)
- Kiss Me, Kate
- Guys and Dolls
- West Side Story
- A Chorus Line
- 42nd Street
- Le Cage au Folles
- The Lion King
- The Producers