The Seven Ages of Musicals: Age One

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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 Alexa Politis on February 4, 2013 at 9:13pm

Jonah!!! I loved your monologue!!! Your inflection and British accent were great!

Comment by Jonah Verdon on January 31, 2013 at 8:26pm

@Morgan - THANK YOU!!!!! :-)

Comment by Morgan Snowden on January 27, 2013 at 2:07pm

@Jonah, Great job with both your monolouge and 13!!! amazing as always!! :)

Comment by Jonah Verdon on January 17, 2013 at 9:24pm

Hi Guys!!! I just got back home from LA and recorded this monologue. My first try at Shakespeare! 

Comment by Jonathon Hampton on January 4, 2013 at 12:49pm

Everyone is welcome to upload their videos directly to the community (needs to be under 100 MB) or embed through other sites, such as YouTube. To embed your video with your comments, just click the Media icon on the menu just above where you enter your comments, then paste in the code. For more help check out the Help tab on the main menu. Here's a topic about troubleshooting the upload of videos to the co...

Comment by Josie Rose Duncan on January 3, 2013 at 8:07pm

Trying to upload but it says file is too big, any  idea of how I could make it smaller? it is just a 2 minute video 

Comment by Josie Rose Duncan on January 2, 2013 at 12:55pm

I will post my monologue and song tomorrow! :D

Comment by Jonah Verdon on January 1, 2013 at 5:12pm

@Leslie, I will see if I can do it before I get back!! :-)

Comment by Leslie Stifelman on January 1, 2013 at 4:56pm

@ Jonah and everyone!  You can keep posting to all the AGES - there is no end date so we can keep learning from everyone who joins the group.  POST YOUR MONOLOGUE!!

Comment by Lizzie Smith on December 31, 2012 at 8:47pm

@Jonah That 13 was awesome! Really well done! I love watching your performances - they're so joyous and full of youth and vitality - congrats!

Comment by Lizzie Smith on December 31, 2012 at 8:43pm

@Leslie thankyou very much! Its funny with this song - its a bit like ABBA... it sounds really simple and easy to sing but its actually quite difficult because of where it lies in the voice. Because i am predominantly a classically trained singer, i have always found songs like this one that lie more in a chesty register a bit more challenging so i'm not surprised that the vocal isn't as good as i've done in the past. One particular moment where i find that it tends to veer off a bit is on the held note (think its an e) on "don't know how to go" - i don't know why - i'm perfectly comfortable on that vowel and on that note separately but when they're combined together, it just feels like there's a layer of film lying on top of the sound that i am trying to release. 

I've been seeing a vocal coach in the west end to try and sort out my chest register and i've been doing some exercises for him so it is improving but it still shows how the foundation in the chest area of my technique isn't as securely formed as other parts of my voice in songs that lie more in the chest register like this one.

Just makes me want to give further cudos to the likes of Lea Michele and all other actresses who have portrayed Wendla - the role's vocal part is secretly quite demanding, has low chest bits but in this number but then has to belt out an e on a "eh" vowel and hold it at the end of the next number - crazy stuff! 

I'll upload a monologue as soon as i get round to learning one. 

Thanks again!

Lizzie :)

Comment by Leslie Stifelman on December 31, 2012 at 12:21am

@ Jonah I'm just totally stunned by how great this is and we are all so proud of you.

This is a fantastic, epic performance.  You are navigating so many things well - just the registration alone is a mountain to climb.  Every register was perfect, in tune and with great color.  Your breath control (how bout the long note with nice vibrato and tone) your rhythm, your diction, your overall storytelling - you really captured the frenetic energy and essence of what the composer was looking for in describing someone on the cusp of turning 13.  I'm tempted to send this to JRB to see what he thinks!

Remember when we talked last year about how to find your audition song?  Well my young friend if you could come up with a great cut of this, you may have really found a big winner for your book.

I also so appreciate your diligence in finding just the right song for this part of the assignment that fits who you are as an artist to date and illuminates how the writers wanted to introduce the characters.  BRAVO.

PS We saw A CHRISTMAS STORY and thought of you.  It was one of the best shows I've seen in a long time.  Maybe you will catch it next year or be able to audition again - hopefully they will bring it back!

PPS Do a monologue for Roger!  Try it, you are a little young, but Shakespeare is for everyone and it is never too soon to learn Shakespeare!

HAPPY NEW YEAR JONAH.  I know it will be a great one for you!


Comment by Jonah Verdon on December 30, 2012 at 3:17pm's my Age 1 video, re-done with the whole song. :-)

Comment by Leslie Stifelman on December 30, 2012 at 1:09pm

@ Lizzie.  This is pretty thrilling that you put the whole thing together for us and added the critical piece of choreography by the great (and Tony Award-winning) BILL T. JONES to show how the song functions in the play.  Your analysis of the songs purpose is perfectly mirrored in the imagery that you provided vocally and physically. This song for me doesn’t have much impact out of the context of the play, although many girls like to sing it as a standalone.  Your vocal style and sensibility as a pianist are well blended into the contemporary styles that you have chosen to sing for us.  And that you have a song like WHITE NIGHT in your back pocket makes you a very versatile artist. 

One vocal note I would give you is the more you moved and focused on your staging the less precise you were in the pitch, articulation of the text and connection to your lower register – this song really gets low for girls. Spend a lot of your practice time figuring out exactly where you breath, what movement matches that breath, and then how to take a full breath while creating the choreography so you get your full sound.


Lastly I really would love to see you also post the Rome and Juliet or the Three Sisters Monologue for Roger!  You can find the text to the opening chorus for the Shakespeare here:


THANKS LIZZE for participating!  I'll look forward to exploring more music with you!

Comment by Lizzie Smith on December 30, 2012 at 10:26am

The reason i chose this song is that i think in general, it is a good introduction to the innocence of the kids in SA and how they are confused by what is happening to them emotionally and physically when they have ignorance forced upon them by the adults. The only things they are really told about are things in a religious context, they are sheltered from anything darwinian - like how their bodies are developing and also animal instinct. Therefore the lyrics in this song "some pray that one day christ will come a callin'" and "and some just lie there crying for him to come and find them but when he comes they don't know how to go" reflect the religious context of their upbringing and also show how all knowledge of life beyond religion and innocence is blocked to them because beyond that point, they "don't know how to go".

Thus this whole idea foreshadows the future events in the show, when the animal instinct takes over Melchior and Wendla and Wendla falls pregnant, unaware of what she was doing because she was never warned. 

I felt that it was important to include the choreography from the show because its very well designed in that it shows movements of a confused young girl observing how her body is changing in a mirror and feeling it, to try and gain some understanding of it. 

^hope all of that ramble about why i picked the song is coherant!

Comment by Lizzie Smith on December 30, 2012 at 9:43am

My Opening Number!! Mama who Bore Me from Spring Awakening - of course i went all out and did it on a chair with the choreographed gestures from the show... as you do... hope you enjoy :)

Comment by Jonah Verdon on December 29, 2012 at 11:08pm

Hi Guys!! @Sara Joanne HI and I like that song too! @Brittney I love the emotions in your Colors of the Wind! And @Tony it's always great to see you perform - your voice has such an awesome tone! :-)

Comment by Leslie Stifelman on December 28, 2012 at 11:09pm

@ Brittany!!  Wow I'm so excited to meet someone so gifted from the Forest Hills choir! You've already had so many fantastic experiences through Carnegie Hall - of course I was part of  the new works/Carmina project last year.   I'm glad that you are posting here.  I've listened to almost everything you've done and am so impressed with your range and color.  You also manage and express the text to your songs so beautifully.

If you wouldn't mind some suggestions from me!  Here are my thoughts just to start because I hope you post again soon!

1) Almost all the songs you have posted have karaoke tracks to them that you could sing to.  Some are better then others but I easily found a GREAT one to the Pocahontas song.  It may be in a slightly higher key then you performed but go to youtube and see if you can find something you can work with.  Also see our dear friend Tony Ponella's blog post about recording to tracks which is so, so helpful. 

2) I want to give folks alot of freedom to choose the repertoire they want to sing.  However, part of what we are looking at is the structure of a show and how composers, lyricists and writers organize the songs.  The song you chose from Pocahontas for this page may be familiar to you but comes much later in the story AND in our SEVEN AGES project will fit great into a later section which we will be calling THE PROBLEM SONG - more on that later.  Go back to my list AND the dig deeper section if you need to and record a selection that fits into an opening number.  Our second section - THE I WANT SONG - and see where your story telling ideas fit into those songs.

3) Try a monologue!  You are such a talented performer and if you are as good a dancer as you are a singer you SHOULD TRY to learn more about acting.  How great if you could develop into a genuine TRIPLE THREAT as we say in the business.


Happy New Year and good luck with the Golijov!

Leslie Stifelman

Comment by Lizzie Smith on December 28, 2012 at 6:39pm

@Tony definitely agree with you on the Into the Woods prologue! Wish there was a way we could do a collective video of it or something... or someone could do a "nick pitera" and sing all the parts! Funnily enough that prologue sort of fits age 2 aswell in a way.. the number of times the words "i wish" are sung...

Comment by Tony Ponella on December 7, 2012 at 5:08pm

Hey everybody!

Here is my opening number! I ended up picking "Oh the Thinks You Can Think" from Seussical the Musical.

The biggest challenge was try to find time to record it! But I really enjoyed doing it once I got the chance.

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