|Flickr Credit: Ian|
What are you going to see?(many definitions are informed by Wikipedia, which are linked by each definition)
(straight) play—plays are literature meant to be performed. There are lots of different kinds and styles; in general they refer to the non-musical variety. Also, since they are literature, you usually study a few in school!
My Favorites: Othello by William Shakespeare, The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, Wit by Margaret Edson
musical—these plays incorporate music, dancing, singing, etcetera into the story. These are the things I go the most often to see and talk the most about on here.
My Favorites: Fiddler on the Roof, Legally Blonde, The Lion King (and fifty others)
operetta—these are “little operas” that maintain the style of operas but are shorter and less serious. As Wikipedia puts it, musicals are plays with singing and dancing, and operettas are operas with more acting.
My Favorites: Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado (Gilbert and Sullivan, anyone?)
opera—operas are another theatrical musical performance that is performed by performers and musicians. Not actors who can sing, but singers who can act. Everything is sung—dialogue (“recitations”) and the arias.
My Favorites: I’m not much into operas, but I’ll say Carmen because it was in Aristocats. Mozart’s Don Giovanni is famous, though.
These are, of course, blanket terms. Les Misérables and Hamilton, for example, are sung-through musicals—like an operetta, but not funny enough. That detail doesn’t define anything. Likewise, there can be overlap. Phantom of the Opera is a musical but opera pieces are performed because Christine is an opera singer.
symphony—these are just long musical pieces that orchestras play. Though they’re often associated with stories, all of that is left to the music, and there aren’t any actual performances.
concert—a concert is any live music performance in front of an audience. A symphony is a kind of concert, but if you went to see a Beatles concert that would not be a symphony. Also worth noting is that sometimes musicals are performed in concert, which means that performers will sing the songs but leave out all the acting. You can see examples of this for Les Mis’s 10th anniversary concert and also Chess on Youtube.
Helpful Hints Compiled by My Own ExperiencesCome early. Sure, getting there a while before it starts can be tedious, but if you take a later train or get delayed by traffic, it can cost. In the places I’ve been, they often don’t let people in once the production has started.
Stop talking once the overture starts playing. The music is just as much a part of the performance as the dialogue and singing, so finish up and shut up. (*pent-up anger directed towards the perpetrators of this crime somewhat dissipates*)
Don’t sing along unless you’re invited by the performers.
Do your research before going to a musical. A group of adults heading to a musical they’ve never seen before is one thing; it is another to tote small children to Sweeney Todd or Spring Awakening. Musicals aren’t always cutesy tootsy.
Don’t flip out if you don’t like what the research reveals. Musicals deal with tough themes and sometimes are graphic or crass or tough. It’s okay if you don’t like that, but also nobody likes other people policing their entertainment.
Buy your musical merch used. I’ve found three or four musical shirts at thrift stores for only a couple bucks when they are like $35 bought on-site.
The bathroom is a great place to become a leader. The lines are guaranteed to be long, so if you step out and point out open stalls if they aren’t easily visible, you are a hero.
The box seats are the perfect place to play I-Spy if you ever get bored. One time my sister and I got confused because we were looking at two different old white guys in cowboy hats and Hawaiian shirts. Fun stuff.
Finally, don’t take pictures or video during the performance. I think it’s hard because we’re so used to getting whatever we want and souvenirs from our experiences. But it is distracting for the actors and illegal and sort of disrespectful of the spirit of the work. Resist the urge. Turn off your phone. It’ll be there for intermission.