The triple threat of singing, dancing and acting may not be enough anymore, as more and more musicals require the fourth skill of playing a musical instrument as well.
Musical theater revolves around the triple threat theory in both production and education. On Broadway the shows “Once,” “Cabaret” and “Sweeney Todd” were recently cast with actors who could not only sing, dance and act but also play an instrument.
Jeff Whiting, a director on Broadway and BYU grad, said there are shows with that need.
“There are a number of shows here where the actors were also the instrumentalists,” Whiting said. “It is a different way of storytelling, and there are directors who choose that way.”
This new form of performance increases the dynamic feel of the show, said the BYU Music Dance Theatre Department Chair Gayle Lockwood, who has seen shows with the actors doubling as the band.
“I loved it. It’s very exciting and engaging,” Lockwood said. “It is entertaining, and it brings everything forward to the audience.”
Salt Lake City actorCJ Strong said he feels slightly threatened by those with these talents and is working personally to become a quadruple threat.
As exciting and crowd-pleasing as this type of performance is, it is expected to remain a rare occurrence.
“I feel like it will be around for a while, but I don’t think it will become a norm because there are not many actors that have those skills,” Lockwood said.
Strong agreed, saying, “It’s a lot of work to be a quadruple threat, so it will probably stay rare; but it really just depends on the education actors are getting.”
Lockwood explained that even with this new way of performance, BYU will probably not change its education sequence due to a lack of time.
“The problem is that the kids can’t get to BYU and then suddenly learn how to play an instrument well enough. These people who are playing are musicians who have been playing for a long time,” Lockwood said. “It’s not something we can teach, but we can certainly encourage.”
Whiting agreed, saying he didn’t think the current method of theater being performed with a separate orchestra will change very much.
“I think it will stay where it is. I think there will always be shows that have that need, but I don’t think it will become the new trend because there is such a small number of people with that ability. It will just be one of the choices,” Whiting said.
Lockwood hopes students that can play an musical instrument keep it up so they become one of the few who can provide that type of performance.
Whiting also said the actors with those skills will have an easier time making it big.
“Those quadruple threats out there will work more than anyone else, for sure,” Whiting said.