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Writing a Musical Revue or Concept Musical - The Beginning

Updated: May 21, 2019

I recently decided that my next project will be a Musical Revue - which is funny to me because I never liked revues, but the idea screamed out and said "make me a revue" so here we go.


Many people use Revue and Concept Musical interchangeably, but for our purposes, I will stick with Revue. A concept musical has a little more to it.


I think it will ultimately become a combination of revue and musical comedy. I will have one story line, but the numbers will be designed as separate acts loosely-related to it.


Whatever right? I'll figure it out as I go.


There isn't much information out there to show us how to write a revue, in fact, aside from a couple books and a website or two, there isn't anything.


So we'll do it here, what is a revue?


A REVUE:

  • Is a satirical entertainment featuring music, specialty acts and pretty girls

  • Is a fast and lively, non-book show with musical numbers, comedy, sketches and specialty routines

  • Is a single unifying source organizes the variety of elements into a cumulative sequence of ascending theatrical peaks designed to serve the concept of the show

  • Brings unity to the variety

  • Is comprised of numbers with layers of meaning and feeling that do not exist when detached

  • Does not constrain with plot and character progression

  • Does not have to deal with "timely" material

  • Is flexible - a song that doesn't work in Act I can be moved to Act II, as well as whole sequences can be updated as needed to keep the revue fresh, as an example, several touring revues added a number based on a local story as it toured the US

  • Are of modest means yet rich in charm, satire and performance energy

The golden era of revues seems to be 1920's to 1960's and then they stopped being of note with a few exceptions. Most notable revues include "Ziegfeld Follies", "The Grand Street Follies", "The Garrick Gaieties", "Pins and Needles" and the more recent "Working".


Furthermore, I've been able to distill the following from the books:


  • After an opening sequence, the revue is comprised of short, mostly comedic acts through its first Act.

  • If there is a second Act, the acts will be longer and have more poignant or serious tones.


Using the above two lists, I think this becomes our outline of dramatic structure (what little there is in a revue):


  • Opening sequence

  • End Act I

  • Opening Act II

  • The "Point" number

  • Finale


One final thing before I start outlining my musical revue...


Since mine will combine a single story line with the typical elements of a revue, I am going to modify the structure to accommodate what I am trying to accomplish:


  • Opening sequence/I Want Song

  • Preparing for the "point" number

  • End Act I

  • Opening Act II

  • The "Point" number

  • Main character loses everything

  • Finale


Although I plan on this being a comedy, all of my comedy writing always has a poignant thought behind it and thus for the addition of "wrapping" up the story line right before the finale.


Watch soon for Outlining A Musical Revue!


Alan Saunders, WRITEineer.com

Friends told me I was late to the game for writing musicals, even though I've been writing them almost my entire life. so this blog is my journey into writing professionally for the stage.



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