Your heart is just a beat box for the song of your life - Sandi Thom

Music has been an integral part of human life since time immemorial. In fact, the earliest of human civilizations had ideated stage shows and musicals as a form of entertainment and as a medium for storytelling. Music has been used to underscore the story’s events or bring to light a character’s motivations or thoughts.

Stage musicals would often revolve around a story, inspired by true events. The songs were an expression of the characters' emotions and feelings. Very much like the songs you see in Bollywood movies in India. The songs would be included as part of the script of the musical, along with the music and lyrics. All musicals, be it jukebox or revue musicals or films, follow a standard formula or plan of action- write the story, create the score, and finally act it out. 

Revue musicals are those that have a distinctive feature of acting out sketches, apart from the common elements of musicals. Not knowing this unique genre of theater and musical will be one of the many follies you commit in your lifetime. So, dive right in to find out what are revue musicals really.

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The Fascinating History of Revue Musicals

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Revue musicals emphasize more on the character sketch than on the vocals

Over the years, stage entertainment has been popular to all levels of society, whether you can afford it or not. You have the opera for the rich and elite, pop and rock musicals for the rest, and so on and so forth. The operetta, which tended to be more comical is meant more for those looking for light-hearted entertainment.

Revue musicals were originally very popular in Great Britain. They, however, underwent a sea of change when the Americans started taking interest in them. Whether in Europe or in North America, the revue as a form of entertainment became immensely popular. And at one point of time, people would shell out much more money for revue tickets than they did for cinema!

What are Revue Musicals?

If you want to define revue musicals, you can simply put it as a monologue or comedy sketch with characters and dancing girls repeating sequence one after the other.  Revue artists have more than just one skill of acting or dancing or singing. Revue musicals require a good sense of comedic timing and visual talent. The overarching theme of revue musicals is usually satire. Some of the big names in revue musicals include,

  • French revue performer, Yvette Guilbert
  • London Palace Theater performer, Maurice Chevalier
  • The famous revue juggler, W.C. Fields
  • The Marx Brothers

Revues are a total entertainer. Or at least they used to be before the rise of the cinema, radio, and television.

Where Can I Watch Revue Musicals in India?

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In India, online streaming platforms are the best source of revue musicals.

revue musical's performance depends on that of performers- individual artists or theatre group. Remember, a revue musical is not choreographed and does not really tell a story. This means that it does not require a playwright or choreographer.

Obviously, within those parameters, there is not much room for the typical activities and artistic guidance that any other musical demands: writer, choreographer, lyricist, set designer or a show master. 

This is the reason why you won't find a lot of popularity when it comes to revue musicals. You can, however, catch some of the most acclaimed shows on online streaming platforms like www.netflix.com. You can enjoy Broadway from home with this option. It is more convenient and cheaper as well. Of course, you won't be able to experience the extravagance that a live show offers, but you can always go for book musicals or pop musicals or concept musicals, that are more popular in India.

With little or no cost, you can gain access to media content from across the world. Imagine witnessing a Broadway show sitting right at home on your couch! So, go online and start searching for new revue musicals near me. 

Popular Broadway Shows to Catch Online

Do add these to your wish list of revues and other Broadway musicals:

  • Oklahoma- the quintessential American musical
  • Hello Again- based on the original Broadway musical
  • Into the Woods- a revue musical combining many fairy tales
  • Jekyll and Hyde- the musical take on the classic
  • Holiday Inn- the atypical romantic musical
  • Jesus Christ Superstar- the most famous of Andrew Llyod Webber's masterpieces

The New Era and Evolution of Revue Musicals

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Many new musicals on love and romance, are being adopted to the silver screen | Source: Freepik

The cinema has no boundary; it is a ribbon of dream - Orson Welles

With the coming of the era of cinema, musicals have taken a backseat. At least in India, for sure. It is very common to adopt a book to a movie rather than a musical. In fact, even musicals are being adapted to the silver screen and made into big-budget Bollywood movies. The type of image that musicals have come to assume is way different now than what it used to be even a decade ago.

Now is the era of mashups of songs, themes or genres. There is a trend and theme now to rearrange music for old and popular songs. Sometimes, composers even revise the lyrics to express (satirical views of) current events or of matters relating to student life. These shows, however, should not be mistaken for musicals. They are not even theatrical. They are solely meant for entertainment. And nothing else. They are popular among the young and old, nonetheless.

And that, my friend, is the new era of revue musicals for you. They are still great fun, even though sometimes the lyrics make no sense at all. And they are seldom heard beyond the stage they are performed on. The style of presentation is also way different from standard musicals. Definitely not the typical Broadway show or production that you know. 

Are Revue Musicals Lost?

Acting
Books are being adapted to cinema more than ever now, leading to the reduction in the number of musical productions | Source: Business Insider India

It is a sad truth that revue musicals in their original form are all but gone. Thanks to the emergence of cinema, and pop shows, and the OTT platforms, the craze for revue and other musicals has faded away. But the good news is some institutions or people still follow revue musicals as a tradition. For example, there is an age-old tradition for students of the medical, legal and veterinary professions to stage a revue.

For a musical theatre aficionado, it is a revue in the purest sense, complete with sketches, parodies and, of course, the usual song and dance. It is almost funny to think that a school of music can put up such musical comedies!! And these shows are so popular in places like London that they have five United Hospitals medical schools compete against each other every year, in an event called the UH Revue – sort of a monster, comedic face-off, with the most outrageous group taking the top prize.

And if you're not in London or anywhere close to the city, you can always fall back on OTT platforms like Amazon and Netflix to catch your favorite musical. Or you can catch a show at the Prithvi theatre in Mumbai. Just go online or go to the ticket counter to get early bird tickets.

If all fails, head to the nearest medical school. You are sure to find a bunch of doctors rehearsing for their next revue show right now!

You can use your connections from across the world to get you tickets to a revue musical. And request them to even fly you down for a live Broadway show. You will need a little luck for that though and have to have great friends or kind relatives who would want to offer you that type of a generous gift. But there is no harm in trying your luck. Who knows? Your Broadway dreams may just come alive sooner rather than later.

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Krishna