Musicals: Movie vs. The Stage

Hannah Ost

A Brief Introduction

Ah, the classic musical - a tradition that has been going since the composition of the first opera by the Italian composer Francesco Araja. Since then, there have been many new musicals, operas, operettas and more recently… the movie musical. Directors and filmmakers alike are eager to harness the great energy and atmosphere one receives in the theatre and portray it through the screen, into our living rooms. But, is this possible? Can you achieve the same intensity through a 2D screen as you can in a theatre? More importantly, if you can, does this signify the end for the theatre world as we know it?

The Answer

In short, no. Movie musicals are not going to take over our precious stage. There will always be folks, like you and I, who love the theatre experience and no amount of cinema magic will change that. There’s just something about the theatre that’s just so unbeatable - that rush of adrenaline upon entrance, staring up at a huge, historical ceiling that always seems so old and magical. The Front of House staff, keeping calm in a sea of manic theatre-goers, who can’t wait to have their faces as close as possible to Alexander Hamilton (Hamilton fans, you know what I’m talking about!) It’s hectic, sure - more hectic than your average DVD watching session, where your main dilemma is ‘Where’s the damn channel flicker thing?!’ But, you can’t beat the reality of being under the same roof as the actors and the musicians. Now, that’s one thing we do have on the movie musical.

But movies are cheaper!

Yes, it is cheaper to buy or rent a movie than it is to travel to Broadway or the West End and see the stars put on a show. It is easier to get to your sofa than New York City (unless you live on Broadway, in which case… awesome.) You even have a better view, since the high definition cameras are always focused on the main event. So, why do we keep going? ‘Les Misérables’ has a movie and a ‘Wicked’ movie is in the works. So, what’s our justification for going to see those shows anymore. Spending money on something you have on your shelf at home - what’s the point?

For me, it’s the fact that it’s live. It’s the reason I love to watch shows and it’s the reason I love to be in them. Anything can happen at any moment and each night, the story will be told in a different way. You can never be sure what to expect because, who knows? The barricade could fall down in the middle of the revolution, Elphaba might not fly, Matilda could forget her line, make something up and set a whole different tone to the scene! Anything is possible in the theatre, there are no second takes and everything you see on stage is being thought through by the very people in front of your very eyes.


As much as I love movie musicals and Disney films will always make me happy, nothing fills me with life more than live theatre. The theatre can never die, so long as there are people who still believe in its magic. So, tell me, why do you go to the theatre?