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Beyond the Stacks

Welcome to McHenry County College Library's virtual monthly display! We'll feature a monthly rotating theme with links to library resources, suggested keywords and terms for searching the catalog and library databases, and more.

This Month

July: Musical Theater



The Origins of Musical Theater

As early as the fifth century B.C.E., ancient Greek theater used music and dance in their stage performances. "In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, religious dramas taught the liturgy, set to church chants." (1) By the Renaissance, well-known stories were acted out on stage by clowns, a type of theater known as commedia dell'arte. By the 18th century, ballad operas and comic operas were popular across Europe. 

Fast-forward a few hundred years and we have contemporary musicals like Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, and even Spongebob Squarepants. How do musicals get made and why do we love them so much?


What is a Musical?

A musical is made up of three parts: the music, the lyrics, and the book (the plot). The music and lyrics combined is called the score. The finished musical would not be possible without a producer. The producer raises the money to cover the show (also called capitalization). Money comes from investors, sometimes called backers or angels. The capitalization must not only be enough to open the show, but also enough to "create a financial cushion for several weeks while the show catches on with audiences." (2)  If the show does "catch on," it can sometimes take years for it to turn a profit. (Walt Disney's The Lion King took four years to turn a profit.)

Social media and word of mouth can increase a show's popularity and help it catch on faster. Be More Chill first played off-Broadway in 2015 (3) and streamed its soundtrack on various channels. By 2017, the show gained a cult following, especially among young people, and it opened on Broadway in 2019. (4)


Why We Love Musicals

I love musicals because they are so layered - the music, how the actors engage with the music and make it come to life, how WE engage with the music, and how the songs infiltrate popular culture in new ways. For example, if you're a fan of Hamilton, you'll see the hashtag #InTheRoomWhereItHappens used on social media not just for the show, but also for business meetings, political inaugurations, and professional conferences.

I polled a few fellow musical lovers and asked why they enjoy this form of theater so much. Here are some comments:

Personally, music has a way of hitting my emotions like nothing else seems to. I have listened to a performance in a language I don't understand, and I've been moved to tears. I grew up singing along to vinyl records of musicals, and now I sing and rap along with Hamilton!

I love all theater, but musicals are magical. Beautiful melodies with lyrics that fit perfectly into them, sung by talented voices with such depth of emotion, and unbelievable choreography.

I love not only performing in musical theatre, but also watching it because of the energy. There's something almost inexplicable about the way your whole body feels, whether you're on stage or in the audience.

Everyone I asked agreed on one thing: musicals are magical. With the amount of work and money that goes into getting a musical from being just a melody floating around in someone's head to a sold-out performance on opening night, it sure does seem like a little magic must be involved.







Library Resources

The following are full-text eBooks available through the Library catalog.

You may be asked to enter your myMCC username and password for off-campus access.

The following eBooks and eAudiobooks are available from eReadIllinois

and can be checked out with your MCC library card.


Echo After Echo by Amy Rose Capetta

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-ullman

Javi Takes a Bow by Elizabeth Gordon

Short by Holly Goldberg-Sloan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan



Failing Up by Leslie Odom Jr.

Fosse by Sam Wasson

Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Unmasked by Andrew Lloyd Weber



Razzle Dazzle: The Battle for Broadway by Michael Riedel

Campus Resources

McHenry County College's Theater Department

"Explore the world of the theatre through courses on acting, character analysis, scene preparation, theatre design, scene construction, costuming and lighting! See descriptions of our theatre courses."


MCC's Black Box Theatre 

Room E212

Contact: Jay Geller,



Recent Performances

Spring Awakening (Fall 2019)

Mr. Burns (Spring 2019)

The Foreigner (Fall 2018)

August, Osage County (Summer 2018)

Searching the Databases: Helpful Keywords & Subject Terms

The following is a helpful list of keywords and Subject Terms for searching databases like Academic Search Complete.


Musicals Women in musical theater
Musical films Theater companies
Musical theater Stage adaptations
Musicals -- auditions Performing arts
Musicals -- production and direction Musical aesthetics
Musicals -- social aspects Broadway theatrical productions
Musicals -- writing and publishing Musical collaboration
Television musicals  
Musical theater -- soundtracks  
Acting in musical theater  


Library Staff - Our Favorite Musicals!

Cynthia Wolf -- Les Miserables, Grease

Ashley Mercuri -- Jersey Boys

Kim Tipton -- West Side Story

Melinda Aivaliotis -- The Phantom of the Opera


MCC Library

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