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Opinion | Why we need small musical theatre productions


Imagine sitting in the audience of a new theatre production, your heart pounding with excitement and anticipation as the lights begin to dim and the curtain starts to rise. Hundreds of other people are feeling exactly the same, ready to marvel at the spectacle they are about to see.

Every year, millions of people flock to Broadway shows across the country, eager to see the stars and stories of popular theater come to life on stage. In fact, between June 2022 and May 2023, there were 12.3 million Broadway tickets, which is closer to the 2018-19 season’s record of 14.77 million since the pandemic hit.

A little over a week ago I attended one such Broadway show, while enjoying the New York City production of “The Great Gatsby.”

But it’s not just the big shows with famous names that are important.

There are several smaller scale theatre productions held each year which do a good job of keeping the industry alive and well, especially for those who don’t live near larger theatres.

Musical theatre itself is vitally important to the entertainment industry. Songs can make people feel and identify with the emotions of the characters on stage.

Even those who have no prior interest in the story of the show they are watching can often find a favorite song they enjoyed within the production.

Lyrics and musical scores are also cleverly written to convey specific emotions and amplify the feelings of certain characters. Musical theatre shows also have a fair amount of dialogue, so if the songs become difficult to follow, spoken lines can help bring the audience back on topic.

The power that music conveys is not limited to Broadway titles. Smaller theatres have exactly the same effect on audiences. In fact, because of the smaller scale of the production, the effect of an off-Broadway show can sometimes be even more intimate than that of a larger one.

However, it is not only the audience that benefits from smaller-scale theatre productions. The actors who take centre stage also benefit from them.

In New York alone, off-Broadway theatre organizations are responsible for 3,000 jobs and have several hundred locations.

There are many talented singers in the world and only a limited number of roles on Broadway. Performing on Broadway requires actors to dedicate most of their time to performing their role and also to traveling with their production if their show goes on tour.

For many people, participating in a smaller production satisfies that need for musical theatre while still allowing them time to do other things and participate in their dream with less intensity.

Several smaller theaters will also offer acting classes or voice lessons for people who have a passion for singing and acting and are just starting out.

Perhaps most importantly, smaller theatres keep the passion and interest in the performing arts alive. They offer roles and jobs to those on stage and to those willing to help by designing sets or joining the stage crew.

They also draw people through the doors by advertising and promoting them in the local community. Not everyone is going to like every show they see, but enough people will enjoy their experience and keep coming back to see future productions.

Not all productions are ultra-famous and feature popular actors in leading roles.

But every production is important.