If you are making a theatrical production with music as its medium for storytelling, you are writing a musical. Musicals are flexible as these can be written with as many acts as you like. Musicals are also open to great variation when it comes to musical genre—you may derive the music from a single genre, pay homage to a famous musical act, or create a playful pastiche.
Operas are significantly different from musicals, though both are theatrical productions. The difference is that while narrative text is central to the musical, music is the primary element in an opera. If you notice, you can listen to the music of an opera and love it on its own; whereas in a musical, you need the entire experience of the theater to appreciate the music. In a musical, the music only plays a secondary function.
As mentioned earlier, musicals are very flexible when it comes to music. You may compose one in the tradition of Broadway or off-Broadway musicals. Music like that is loud, exciting, and whimsical. It is magical music that transports you into the world presented to you from the stage.
While music in the tradition of Broadway or off-Broadway musicals is a long-running trend, a musical can actually adopt modern popular music. Yes, you can write a musical with pop, rock, or even hip-hop and R&B music. Known musicals have borrowed music from existing popular musicians, notably rock bands and pop vocal groups. Some musicals are popular for having made consistent use of a single genre, like jazz, blues, or rock music.
Rock operas can be confusing because of its name. Essentially, rock operas are musicals that introduce rock music as a medium that is as powerful as conventional stage music. The name comes from a theory of rock music, claiming it is as an antithesis of “mainstream” show tunes or lofty classical music—that rock musicals are like operas. However, a rock opera is technically a musical—one important thing you need to know when learning how to write a musical.
When learning how to write musicals, it is important to remember literary conventions and theories in narrative fiction. You need a central plot where a cast of characters are drawn into conflicts they need to overcome. Whether they get a happy ending or an ambiguous one is up to you. However, you need to pay attention to pacing; the music can serve as your guide.
Writing musicals is an uplifting experience. Your creation comes to life in a solid stage. If you have a knack for music and storytelling, the theater is the place for you. For more information, please read: scaruffi.com/history/musical.html.