The Analysis of a Musical Icon: Why They Continue to Inspire Us

November 3, 2023

In the performing arts world, musical theatre is timeless and classic. No wonder movie musical icons continue to inspire us! Movie musicals combine acting with singing and dancing to give life to a masterpiece. A good musical icon can withstand the test of time, regardless of the period the musical is encapsulating.

The Analysis of a Musical Icon

The same applies to the stars that play leading roles. Performers like Judy Garland are immortal in our cultural memory’s grand scheme. Plotlines needn’t be complex for a musical to be entertaining or successful. Performers get to show off all aspects of their talent, which makes them so inspiring!

musical icon
Cicely Tyson in “The Wiz”

Musical theatre icons inspire us with their fantastic performances. To become an icon, their musical theatre presence has to be so great it makes a lasting impression. All it takes is one strong performance to elevate to icon status in the public eye. Image via Turner Classic Movies.

How do icons become icons? Examples of Top Performers.

Musicals require multidimensional talent. Acting talent alone does not suffice in musical theatre or musical films. Performers must also be able to sing and dance in order to bring the musical to life. Being talented in one of these fields is enough to wow audiences. Excelling at all of them all at once is absolutely exceptional!

1. Ryan Gosling

However, a role doesn’t need to be outrageous to stand out. For example, Ryan Gosling is also a well-established actor but showed a new side as a jazz pianist in the award-winning La La Land. He also dazzled audiences in his performance as Ken in the Barbie movie, singing the now-famous “I’m Just Ken” song and even releasing a special version for Christmas.

2. Tim Curry

Tim Curry is another established actor who has played a lot of roles, yet most people remember him wearing a garter belt. Thanks to playing the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in Rocky Horror Picture Show, the most prominent image of him is a lipstick-toting transvestite from space.

3. Rita Moreno

Rita Moreno, renowned for her role in West Side Story, is one of the very few performers to have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award (EGOT), showcasing her multifaceted talent in the entertainment industry. The 2021 remake of the film featured actress, singer, dancer, and NYFA Musical Theatre alum Ilda Mason.

4. Beanie Feldstein

Beanie Feldstein is an accomplished actress known for her work in musical theatre and film. With her standout performances in productions like Hello, Dolly!, and Lady Bird, Feldstein has showcased her exceptional talent for both acting and singing, earning acclaim for her contributions to the world of musical theatre.

5. Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson, an iconic actress, made her mark in films like The Wiz (1978), a modern adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, where she portrayed Glinda the Good Witch. Her powerful performances, commitment to portraying complex and authentic characters, and contributions to breaking racial barriers have left an indelible mark on the landscape of American cinema and theater.

How can you build skills in musical theatre?

If you want to pursue skills in musical theatre and inspire others, a great way to get started is to gain hands-on experience. Performing in stage musicals, enhancing your natural skills and talent, and working with industry professionals can prepare you to fulfill your passion for the craft.

Building skills in musical theatre involves a combination of training, practice, and experience. Here are some effective ways to develop your musical theatre skills:

  1. Take Classes and Workshops: Enroll in formal classes or workshops led by experienced instructors. Look for programs that cover singing, acting, dancing, and overall performance techniques specific to musical theatre.
  2. Practice Regularly: Dedicate consistent time to practice singing, acting, and dancing. Regular practice helps improve technique, builds stamina, and enhances overall performance skills.
  3. Participate in Community Theatre: Join local theatre groups or community productions. Community theatre performance allows you to gain valuable stage experience, network with other theatre enthusiasts, and learn from seasoned actors and directors.
  4. Attend Performances: Watch live musical theatre performances to observe different styles, techniques, and approaches. Analyze and learn from experienced performers, both in professional productions and community theatres.
  5. Study the Craft: Read musical theatre books, articles, and resources to deepen your understanding of the history, styles, and techniques. Familiarize yourself with the works of renowned composers, lyricists, and performers.
  6. Record and Review Performances: Record yourself during rehearsals or performances and review the footage. This allows you to identify areas that need improvement, assess your stage presence, and refine your overall performance.
  7. Seek Feedback: Request constructive feedback from instructors, directors, or peers. Constructive criticism can help you identify areas for improvement and refine your skills.
  8. Stay Versatile: Develop versatility in singing, acting, and dancing. Musical theatre often requires a well-rounded skill set, so be open to exploring different styles and genres within the genre.

Remember that building skills in musical theatre is a continuous process, and each opportunity to perform or learn contributes to your growth as a performer. Stay dedicated, open-minded, and passionate about refining your craft.

Get Experience in Musical Theatre at NYFA

A school like NYFA trains students through exercises and projects. Students can audition for fully-produced movie musicals to showcase their talents and prepare them for the rigors of delivering a stellar performance both on stage and on screen. Learn more at New York Film Academy’s musical theatre school.