Songs sung by the characters to advance the plot or develop the film's characters or themes.
Singing in a movie isn’t what makes a musical – for it to be a musical, characters must be uninhibited and outwardly express emotion through song and dance
Rather than simply adding music to the soundtrack (non-diegetic), the characters within the film sing and dance to convey their thoughts and feelings (diegetic).
Characters sing and dance to the camera, for the benefit of the film viewer, rather than any ostensible audience within the film's story.
Musicals are always set in a fantasy world of some sort where music appears out of nowhere, where extras spontaneously act as back-up dancers, where everybody has a booming Broadway-style singing voice
Narrative and Themes
Overall, musicals tend to be utopic and happy where good rules over evil – or where the protagonist prevails
Whether the characters in musicals are feeling up or down, whether they are alone or in public, they are always able to fulfill their desire or to feel better by dancing or singing.
Music of Musicals
The musical accompaniment comes from "no where"—outside the world of the film—though the singing comes from within the world of the film, which is a violation of the rules of realism that govern almost all other genres/styles.
Songs are usually “Broadway” style requiring big, powerful voices
Singing originates from the mind and emotion of the characters – the songs are used to express inward thoughts and feelings outwardly
Musicals have been set in many different times and places and are embedded in many other genres.
Typically, there are big, lavish, colorful, over-the-top sets -- the scenery can often change from a realistic picture to something more dreamlike.
Often musicals look like they are set on a theatre stage – reminiscent of Broadway theatre musical productions
Male Lead: Protagonist, hero
Female Lead: Protagonist, often the love interest of the male lead
Villain: Usually an adult male, or often the conflict comes from the protagonist’s struggle against a life adversity (poverty, finding way home, unsympathetic family, forbidden love, desire for something unobtainable)
Sidekicks: Side/ancillary characters that round out the narrative and support/thwart the protagonists
Musicals in a variety of Genres/Styles
Western = Annie Get Your Gun, Oklahoma
Mystery = Drood
War = South Pacific, Hair
Science Fiction = Little Shop of Horrors, Chitty Bang Bang
Fantasy = Mary Poppins, Wizard of Oz
Documentary = This is It
Biography = Musical Biography of Quincy Jones
Horror = Sweeney Todd
Comedy = The Mask, Singin’ in the Rain
Action/Adventure = Labyrinth, The Great Race
Family Drama = The Sound of Music, Annie, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Newsies
Teen = Grease, Hairspray, High School Musical, Westside Story
Adult Drama = Dream Girls, Saturday Night Fever, Dancer in the Dark, Moulin Rouge!, Chicago
Children = Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty