‘Does anybody have a map?’ The impact of ‘Virtual Broadway’ on musical theatre composition
AbstractIn contemporary popular music, ‘There are no longer subjective gatekeepers controlling who gets let “in”, promoted and exposed. The choice is ours. Now, anyone can be famous.’ (Price, 2011). This is a transformation also evident in musical theatre, where an upsurge in ‘YouTube musical theatre composers’ (Pasek & Paul, 2015) and social media engagement challenges the dominance of the book musical. Opportunities for self-promotion on the internet are vast, and allow composers to reach a more diverse audience, but in what ways do these emerging opportunities also influence the form of works produced. For instance, online audiences often lack time to invest emotionally in a long theatrical piece, and prefer songs that deliver similar emotional arcs in condensed form. If humans on-line have an average attention span of 8 seconds (Riecke-Gonzales, 2015), for example, this paper considers how musical theatre might evolve to meet the requirements of millennials. The growing popularity of Dear Evan Hansen, arguably the first truly ‘digital age’ musical (Takiff, 2016), provides a present instance of the impact of ‘virtual Broadway’ (Pasek & Paul, 2015) on the musical theatre model. It is both possible and timely to debate the extent to which this hybrid has ‘democratized access to creation and distribution tools’ (Bhargava and Klat, 2017), allowing new voices and models to break through, or has actually limited the genre’s scope.
CitationChandler, C. and Scheuber, S. (2017) ‘Does anybody have a map?’ The impact of ‘Virtual Broadway’ on musical theatre composition. Paper presented at Song Stage and Screen XII: Musical Multiplicity, 19th-22nd June, 2017, University of Surrey, United Kingdom.
PublisherSong, Stage and Screen
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