musical theatre or straight acting?

  • Tremayne Miller


    Do you believe you have to concentrate on one or the other in your career or that it is, in fact, possible to have a career doing both musical theatre and straight acting?

    • 19th Dec 2007
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  • Blake J Askew


    Oh boy..

    Now the question of all questions comes in.

    I will give my thoughts on this:

    In the seventies and early eigties and ever before in broadway and west End theatre, it was common for actors to cross over as it were.. dancers were ONLY dancers and singers did dance, but it was not nearly as hectic as todays choregraphy for singers.

    As time has passed, the trend is for musical theatre actors to be trained in all disciplines- acting, singing and dancing.

    In an ideal world, MT performers are the epitome of the all rounder or triple threat... but the industry does not see it that way, sadly.

    Muscial theatre has in fact developed such a lightweigt reputation simply because many as seen as hoofers who can sing and dance, have no subtlety whatsoever and can only "Sing out Louise."

    I know a lovely woman who was in the original cast of CHICAGO with Ruthie henshall and ute Lemper and when she decided to move into film after doing Fosse- she had to take ALL her West End credits off her CV- she only put Chicago on. She is getting good Tv roles etc, but she is the first to attest to the inverted snobbery.

    I personally think there is some truth to the "stright" theatre perceptions as i ahve sat in shows with some performers who have no ability as actors whatsoever..

    but that said, I think its perfectly possible to do both- if you take full control of YOUR career and dont allow an agent or manager to define what you shoul;d do.

    The West End has a few...and I mean a few... who have crossed over successfully- Laura Michelle kelly, Joanna Riding, Ben Richards etc.. and they have only managed to get the hjobs cos of their star status.

    I think its crucial to prove yourself in the straight theatre first- then get an agent who puts you up for a while for STRAIGHT THEATRE ONLY and then for selective roles in MT- you then develop a reputation as a "serious" actor and from there appease the snobby arrogance of the "classical" actors so you can do what you love and therefore dont pigeonhole yourself.

    Im not trying to offend MT people- I of all people know its much harder to do a musical than a simple straight play- and my thoughts are simply on what ive observed and seen in the industry- the irony is that MT people are making the salaries for West End theatres more than staright theatre.

    But as only a musical theatre performer- you will never get taken seriously fro TV, film and classics... and agents have said this.. including an agent at CAM I was once interviewed by a couple of years ago...

    Hope that helps.


    • 14th Dec 2007
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  • Andrew Lawden


    remember this , ( once told to me by expereinced known pro) ;- " all the good successful people who do both are actors who can sing and dance , in that order, !! ( eg, streep, kelly, jsckman, goodman, )

    i found this useful , allowing me to dip in and out musicals for years! gues it was good advice

    andrew x

    • 15th Dec 2007
    • 2
  • User Deleted

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    Well my eyes are being opened this week.

    First I saw that Paul Potts thing last night with all the opera critics saying that he's actually not very good and wouldn't even class him as an opera singer. At the same time as selling over 2 million albums worldwide. Whatever you ythink of him, that's an awful lot of sales, implying that an awful lot of people like what they hear.

    Then I read this thread.

    I had no idea that this industry had so many snobs. How naiive am I?

    I thought you went along for a casting and you either fit the job or you don't.

    Blake, maybe your friend just wasn't right for those jobs and wanted to put it down to something she could put her finger on?

    I'm as appalled as the next ccp member when a seamingly talentless person gets on really well. One who springs to mind is Gerry Halliwell. But on the flip side to her obvious lack of talent, she's clearly got a lot of balls and drive and I think you have to admire that and learn from it, as I'm trying to.

    If this is true, would casting directors be cutting their nose off to spite their face not to cast somebody who is perfect for the job just because they've just spent a cople of seasons in the West End doing 'The Lion King' and 'Wicked' or whatever?

    The thing I would say about crossing over is that it's more expensive to do this. If you're in a straight play for a month, for example, and you 'may' be doing a musical next, you have to keep up your vocal and dance excercises up. If you concentrate on straight plays, this money could be spent on other relevant courses or just tickets to see other plays.

    Anyway, most of you have loads more experience than me, so I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


    • 17th Dec 2007
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  • Blake J Askew


    Sarah, its not as simple as that. I wish it was.

    The fact is thatagents , like CDs have their box to put performers in- and a performer with eleven West end credits on thier Cv will NOT be taken seriously for film and tv-

    there are even drama schools that some diretcors wont touch for classical theatre as they know the programme doesnt include that in the training.

    One season of the Lion King or Wicked in a SUBSTANTIAL role will be fine- if you had Glinda, Elphaba or even Fiyero , youre still playing a lead... but if yu have been to Elmhurst or Laines you ae seen as a hoofer and not as an actor by many CDs.

    Im NOT saying that MT actors cant do straight theatre- Im saying that youhad better have an agent who cares about your career and manages you rather than only submit you for the areas you make money in... ie you become their cash cow.

    I read that when Martine McCutcheon did MY FAIR LADY( although she was never on!!) the RSC and national used to slag her off that as a Tv star, she had never even studied Shakespeare..

    THAT isthe kind of snobbery that you are up against- and no one cares that physicaly, mentally and vocally it much muchharder to do a muscial than a straight play eight times a week...

    Also, with celebrity casting in CHICAGO etc, the perception is that MT performers are amaturish hacks and not real actors.

    And with reality Tv casting and Xfactorchoosing winners whoare constantly flat, untrained and West End shows opening up to all and sundry, the industry becomes more cynical and prejudiced.. this is why theres such a dvision sadly--

    and I think its disgusting, as singing a LesM is, or Phantom, or dancing a Crazy for You or Chicago is VERY VERY hard, and MT performers get treated like second class people in that regard.

    • 17th Dec 2007
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  • User Deleted

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    You've given me loads to think about, Blake.

    You are one of the reasons that I love this site. People are honest, and many have lots of useful advice and experience.


    • 19th Dec 2007
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