Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts



First Advisor

David S. Leong


MUSICAL THEATRE HANDBOOK FOR THE ACTOR By Maggie Elizabeth Marlin, MFA A Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Fine Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University. Virginia Commonwealth University, 2009 Major Director: David S. Leong Chairman, Department of Theatre Musical Theatre is a performance style deeply woven into the fabric of the American theatre. We live in time and social climate where over half of the productions open on Broadway right now are musicals. If actor training institutions profess a mission to prepare their students for a career in the entertainment industry, why are so many components of an actor’s skill set left to the side and considered peripheral? One can make the argument that their actor training program is exclusively for the theatre, and even more specifically for straight plays for the theatre. Of course, what your career preparation institution chooses to target is your prerogative and as long as that is clear to the incoming students who wish to specialize only in that one faction of the artist’s opportunities for work then my argument is moot. However, if you believe that actor training has a duty to prepare actors to work in an ever changing and transforming field and to be competitive in meeting the demands of various media, among many other areas of focus you should consider preparing your students to develop their craft for musical theatre as legitimately as you would for a classical or contemporary straight play. In this thesis I propose an approach to creating a role for musical theatre using as an example my character development technique for the role of Sally Bowles from a recent production of Cabaret. My desire is to illustrate a seamless continuation of the actor’s craft to meet the additional requirements of skills necessary to perform in a musical. Rather than signifying a separate style of acting for musical theatre which is identified as being altogether different and often dismissed as inferior to the craft of acting in a straight play, I hope to challenge the reader to consider a new perspective in which the foundation of musical theatre performance is built on the fundamentals of acting in a straight play.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2009