The Seven Ages of Musicals: Age One

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Choose from the suggestions below... or select your own example and tell us why you chose it.

In Musicals ...

The Opening Number: Celebrating the World of the Characters

The opening number defines the main character's motivation, kick-starts the plot, and communicates the spirit of the score and staging. It sets the tone for the whole show and starts the storytelling process by grabbing the audience’s attention.

  • "Magic to Do" from Pippin
  • "Not for the Life of Me" from Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • "Willkomen" from Cabaret
  • "Good Morning, Baltimore" from Hairspray
  • "Populism, Yea, Yea" from Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
  • "Rent" from Rent

Dig deeper...

Select your own example

Upload your own choice and tell us why you chose it.

Are you a composer or a writer? Post your own original song or monologue and tell us about it in the comments section.

In Plays ...

The Opening Monologue: An Introduction to Our World

The opening monologue of a play is the "set-up," a statement introducing us to the specifics of the plot, plus the tone of the story, and, shall we say, the Rules of the Evening. Of course, plays are pesky things being written about very special and interesting events, so we can expect these Rules of the Eveningto be broken fairly quickly.

  • Henry the Fifth by William Shakespeare - Chorus: “Oh, for a muse of Fire!”
  • The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogol, Act II, Scene One - Osip: “Damn it all, I’m hungry!” (You can trim this speech a little)
  • Fiddler on the Roof - Tevye: opening monologue (Merge together)
  • The Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov, Act I - Olga: “Father died just a year ago…”
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, Act I - Chorus: “Two households…”
  • The Road to Mecca (1985) by Athol Fugard, Act I - Elsa: “In the car driving up I was wondering….” (Cut interior line) “Say hello and see what happens. ‘Hello’!”



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Comment by Brittney Burgess on December 6, 2012 at 3:58pm

what do you do after uploading your video

Comment by Brittney Burgess on December 6, 2012 at 12:15am

Comment by Jonathon Hampton on November 29, 2012 at 10:19am

The pieces listed are recommendations. You're welcome to choose an opening number or monologue of your own. Here's are more options if you want to dig deeper.


To embed your video here so that it's playable right on the page, click the Share button where your video lives. Copy the embed code and paste it here after clicking the last button - HTML - or the 3rd button - Media - on the menu bar just above where you type your comments.

Comment by Brittney Burgess on November 28, 2012 at 9:40pm

do we  have to use a song in the choices listed?

Comment by Jonah Verdon on November 27, 2012 at 9:18pm

Hi @Leslie! Thank you so much for all your feedback!! I will work on these things and post again. PS I like your intro video with Roger :-) AND guess what, I found a monologue I think. I can't wait to see what everyone else posts too!! :-)

Comment by Leslie Stifelman on November 27, 2012 at 10:17am

@ Jonah!  Way to go being the OPENING song in our OPENING number.  I think this is a fantastic choice.  Very smart of you and cleverly done.  I like how you are setting your backgrounds too! See if you can find a youtube video of the show and see what they did for choreography during the opening measures so you look a little bit more in sync with the music.  Jonah (AND EVERYONE PARTICIPATING) remember this project is NOT a how to audition video so feel free to experiment a bit AND you should sing as much of the song as you can NOT just 16 bars.  Give it another shot!  Great to see you Jonah (and I love your vest)  Leslie

Comment by Jonah Verdon on November 26, 2012 at 4:16pm

OK so here is the first part of the opening number for a show I really like, "13". I recorded this one to get started but I also picked another song from Leslie's list to learn for something outside of my usual zone!! Roger I am not sure what kind of monologue would be a good one for me to learn, and how to find opening monologues. I will do some more looking for that!! And yay for the new project!!

Comment by Josie Rose Duncan on November 26, 2012 at 6:52am
This is so exciting!!
Comment by Esther Chung on November 23, 2012 at 10:53am

Hope I don't miss too much as I'm away tomorrow till Dec 1! Looks like fun!!

Comment by Jonah Verdon on November 22, 2012 at 1:13pm
So excited about this group and THANKFUL for the Musical Exchange!!
Comment by Emily Knight on November 21, 2012 at 10:41pm

Really looking forward to getting involved! I ended up not being as involved as I would have liked to have been in the last Musical Theatre project, but I'm hoping to turn that around this time! Also, I love the concept of this project!

Comment by Emma Dowdy on November 21, 2012 at 1:24pm
Can't wait!
Comment by Jade Marie Rogers on November 21, 2012 at 1:17pm

This is exciting... I'm going to try so hard to take part! It's just finding the time with all my uni work and other work! But I'm going to try! Regardless, I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else posts! I love learning from other people! :) x

Comment by Tony Ponella on November 20, 2012 at 5:54pm

I’m so excited for this year’s project! My thoughts on these first couple of challenges are as follows:


For an opening number that sets up the story, I would say that the “Act One Prologue” from Into the Woods is one of my favorites. Of course, it is extremely long and involves many characters. I don’t think that it would work for one person to sing it. I was thinking about what I might record to upload, and am leaning toward “Oh the Thinks You Can Think” from Seussical. It has a lot of characters, too, but they are talking about the same thing, rather than each individual telling their own story like Into the Woods. I think it will work. Are there any rules of thumb about when it is ok to merge duets-ensemble songs into a solo?


As for an opening monologue, Tevye’s opening monologue from Fiddler on the Roof that Roger mentioned is awesome. Although I’ve played Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof Jr., I think since I’m only 17 years old, it probably isn’t the best one for me to be working on. How important is it for the character you are playing to be close to your own age? I know when I’m singing something from the Great American Songbook for instance, the song can be something an adult sings, but if it can appropriately be interpreted for my age, I go ahead and sing it. In that case, I’m really taking the song out of the context of the show, and treating it as a unique character. Thoughts?


I can’t wait to see what everyone does. I will record ASAP and post soon…

Comment by Carnegie Hall on November 19, 2012 at 7:05pm

Do you want to dig deeper? Here are a few more suggestions from Leslie Stifelman for Opening Numbers that Celebrate the World of the Characters:

  • "All That Jazz" from Chicago
  • "Another Opening, Another Show" from Kiss Me Kate
  • "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast
  • "Comedy Tonight" from Forum
  • "Every Story Is a Love Story" from Aida
  • "It’s Today" from Mame
  • "Just Another Day" from Next to Normal
  • "Live In Living Color" from Catch Me If You Can
  • "My Three Best Friends" from Glory Days
  • "New York, New York" from On the Town
  • "Oh, The Thinks You Can Think" from Seussical
  • "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning" from Oklahoma
  • "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" from Sweeney Todd
  • "Too Much Exposition" (dialogue)/"Urinetown" from Urinetown
  • "Tradition" from Fiddler On The Roof
  • "Try to Remember" from The Fantastiks
  • "We Are What We Are" from La Cage Aux Folles

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