Tones of Growth

As musicals start to see incline in viewership, students take on positive mindset for school musical this year


check out this graphic outlining developments in broadway

As the theatre students recover from the hardships of COVID-19, they transition back to a fully in-person school year with many new faces and anticipation of performances.

Last year, the Carmel musical program did a performance of “Mamma Mia!” with a limited cast. This year, the program will perform “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” which is a musical comedy written by Tim Rice with the musical help of Andrew Lloyd Weber. Nonetheless, even with the anticipation of the musical industry returning to normal this year, it will be difficult to reach their viewership numbers back to normal. 

According to a survey by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 2002, 17.1% of the U.S. population regularly attended musicals. Last year, that number had slid to 8.3%.

Grace Fellabaum, member of the theatre program and senior, said, “The style of theatre musicals have definitely changed in recent years. A lot of recent musicals are more pop like and less like traditional musical theatre.” 

One musical which reflects this change is “Dear Evan Hansen,” a movie version of which releases on Sept. 24. Fellbaum said this musical is about a high school senior who faces challenges with social anxiety after the death of a fellow student. Many experts have said they consider the release of this new movie version of a musical may help the overall growth and repair of the musical industry.

Zoey Hornback, member of repertory theatre and sophomore, said she agreed the style of musicals is changing and offered insight as well.

 “The style of theatre has changed because there have been less straight plays and I feel like there’s also been more pop-rocky musicals and less of the golden-age, classic musical theatre type of musicals,” Hornback said. “I think musical viewership can increase by making it cheaper and more accessible with tickets and performers.” 

Hornback said she thinks musical viewership will revert to normal numbers. “Once Broadway is up at 100% again, I think it’ll go mostly back to normal because people have missed theater for so long,” she said.

Performing arts teacher Katherine Kouns, who helps run auditions and brainstorm ideas for musicals at this school, said not only attendance was affected during the last year of theater musicals, but  performers and actors were affected as well. She said she hopes that things will change.

“As people get more comfortable gathering indoors in groups, I am confident that audience numbers will increase again,” she said. “We also hope to have more community involvement with the show.” 

According to Kouns, because social distancing has been a large concern in the past year, it has been hard to get a large attendance for musicals having to put every watcher six feet away from each other. 

Still, she said, “As more people get vaccinated I think viewership of musicals will naturally increase.”