Articles by Alan Ayckbourn

These notes by Alan Ayckbourn about creating and writing musicals were written in response to an enquiry about the subject.

Creating Musicals

There's no set way a musical is constructed.

The first thing, in my view, is the structure. The dramatist needs to put together a framework. This is the single most important step. Many musicals are based on existing works and this is probably the reason. It should be quite bold, simple and direct. A to B. Don't get bogged down with too many sub-plots!

There is usually then a joint decision based on this and made with the dramatist / lyricist (though they often aren't one and the same) and the composer - as to the music points in the narrative - or is it going to be through sung? These are often chosen where the narrative can best be told through song. Try and choose at least six numbers in both halves - and the usual reprises. Andrew Lloyd Webber loves reprises and insists major numbers get sung at least three times!

It is useful not to direct the piece from within, as it were, but to have an outside director - a third pair of eyes and ears as it were.

In every case where I've done musicals I have directed them so I do have more control than normal. But I wouldn't advise it as the norm. There's enough to worry about as it is...

In the end, it's down to personalities. There is no point in even starting unless the creators stand a chance of getting on together. Sondheim and I were introduced by Cameron Mackintosh some years ago and realised instantly that neither would give way to either! We parted amicably!

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