How Broadway Musicals Are Made

by John Kenrick

(Copyright 2000, Revised 2004)

42nd StreetRuby Keeler & Warner Baxter in 42nd Street. Click on this photo to see a full size image.

Musicals are not just written – they are collaborative creations that must be put together piece by piece. How does a stage musical go from first inspiration to opening night? And who does what to get it there?

These essays examine the birth process of a Broadway musical – as it happened in the past and as it happens today.

Elements of a Musical:

The Production Process:

There are several books that provide detailed looks at how great Broadway musicals develop:

Altman, Richard and Mervyn Kaufman. The Making of a Musical: Fiddler on the Roof. New York: Crown Publishers, 1971. A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the major stage and screen incarnations of a beloved classic.

Chapin, Ted. Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. An absorbing behind the scenes look at the development of a controversial masterwork. Beautifully written, frank but never mean spirited, this is an instant classic in the field of musical theatre history.

Dunn, Don. The Making of No, No, Nanette. Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1972. Although hard to find, this is the dishiest book ever on the madness involved in putting a Broadway musical together.

Wilk, Max. OK! The Story of Oklahoma! New York: Grove Press, 1993. A meticulously researched look back at the gestation of Rodgers and Hammerstein's landmark hit. Packed with anecdotes and great photos!

Back to: Reviews & Essays