Originally published in The Stage, May 2016
It is sometimes said that musical theatre actors need to be triple threats – able to act, dance and sing – but these days they are equally likely to be asked to play the oboe or bassoon as well. The rise of the actor-musician has been one of the biggest developments of musical theatre in recent years.
On appearing in an actor-musician-led production of Sweeney Todd, the Broadway actress Patti LuPone commented in her autobiography: “You could see that with every cast member, the instrument became part of them. Many members of the company played more than one instrument. These actor-musicians blew me away.”
The union of actor, music and movement into one complete whole is surely the aim of musical theatre, and so to overtly create work that makes the actor and the musician one is both logical and when done well can be inspiring.