When we think music, and ask where we can find some, we often think about radios, gig stages or summer festivals. But there is another place where music close to our heart can be found, it’s on the stage of theatres. A little tour of what we could have discovered in these old buildings.
Like with the radio, we find a little bit of everything on stage: covers, creations, influences, live bands or recorded files. Like in films, music can be a factor of emotion, or a subject between two characters when it’s not the subject of the whole play. We are spoiled for choice!
Like said before, one of the simplest condition of using music is to put an accent on a particular feeling for the public. It goes from melancholy with Bob Dylan with the Hamlet produced by the Almeida Theatre; to a scene full of a funny humorous situation with Arthur Darvill covering Édith Piaf with an incomprehensible accent in Genesis Inc; or the electro-pop at the beginning of Tartuffe at the Haymarket Theatre to bring us in a party with champagne in every glass; to a rock gig before Julius Caesar at the Bridge Theatre to create a feeling of community with the crowd to welcome the rest of the play.
Not Dark Yet – Bob Dylan, used in the production of the Almeida Theatre for Hamlet.
Another way to bring music on stage is simply to get the characters talking about music. And here the examples are as numerous that the number of plays we can find in the contemporary or modern era. The discussion between Mark Rothko and his assistant about Jazz in Red is the last example I’ve seen live. We also have the process of music creation, made to match the play at the closest. Here again, we don’t lack examples. Some go with pre-recorded soundtracks but more often now we find the band directly present and integrated to the set design for an even more gripping live experience, like with Network at the National Theatre or the vibrant A Monster Calls at the Old Vic Theatre.
A Monster Calls at the Old Vic Theatre
Let’s not miss the play written with and about music, its industry and its particular world. Here, again, examples are easy to find. Mood Music written by Joe Penhall talks about a producer and a young prodigy, making us think about some court case like Kesha’s, but also of the brutal reality of the musical world which isn’t always easy. Or like Birdland, a play by Simon Stephens, inspired by the song by Patti Smith, that makes us follow Paul and his rock-star life.
Birdland at the Royal Court Theatre
And of course, in an extremely logical way, the theatre is also the house of musicals. These plays who tell us stories with a particular soundtrack, linked to the story, which stay sometimes in our head for long hours. Here again, examples are flowing. From big classic like Les Misérables or The Lion King, we also have more recent adaptation like Madagascar, to any subject like Everybody’s Talking About Jamie or Miss Saigon, or of course, the novelties that have already become a classic like Hamilton.
Alexander Hamilton – London Cast at Olivier Awards.
Music is part of this big ensemble of the performing arts as well as theatre and is also part of our everyday life, something that theatre loves to exploit and show on stage more and more, driving us to mix of style promising new creations for years and years.