3rd Edition

Acting in Musical Theatre A Comprehensive Course

By Joe Deer, Rocco Dal Vera Copyright 2021
    450 Pages 27 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    450 Pages 27 Color Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Acting in Musical Theatre remains the only complete course in approaching a role in a musical. It covers fundamental skills for novice actors, practical insights for professionals, and even tips to help veteran musical performers refine their craft. Educators will find the clear structure ideal for use with multiple courses and programs.

    Updates in this expanded and revised third edition include:

    • A comprehensive revision of the book’s companion website into a fully online "Resource Guide" that includes abundant teaching materials and syllabi for a range of short- and long-form courses, PowerPoint slide decks and printable handouts for every chapter.
    • Updated examples, illustrations, and exercises from more recent musical styles and productions such as Hamilton, Waitress, and Dear Evan Hansen.
    • Revision of rehearsal and performance guidelines to help students and teachers at all levels thrive.
    • Updated and expanded reading/listening/viewing lists for specific-subject areas, to guide readers through their own studies and enhance the classroom experience.
    • New notes in the "The Profession" chapters to reflect the latest trends in casting, self-promotion, and audition practice.

    Acting in Musical Theatre’s chapters divide into easy-to-reference units, each containing group and solo exercises, making it the definitive textbook for students and practitioners alike.

    Introduction  Part One: Fundamentals of Acting in Musical Theatre  1. Acting Basics – The Foundation  2. Acting Basics – Step-by-Step  3. Making It Matter  Part Two: Score and Libretto Analysis and Structure  4. Musical Analysis – Listening for Clues  5. Working with Words – The Language of the Lyric and Libretto  6. Elements of storytelling  7. Character Analysis  Part Three: The Journey of the Song  8. The Journey Begins  9. Working with Relationships  10. Intensifiers  Part Four: Making it a Performance  11. Discovering Your Phrasing  12. Staging Your Song  13. Rehearsal into Performance  Part Five: Style in Musical Theatre  14. What is style?  15. Style Tags  16. Style Overviews  Part Six: The Profession  17. Do You Have the Stuff?  18. Auditioning  19. A Winning Attitude


    Joe Deer is the Distinguished Professor of Musical Theatre at Wright State University, and an experienced director, choreographer, artistic director, and veteran Broadway actor, dancer, and stage manager. An internationally respected master teacher for over thirty years, he is a frequent contributor to theatre publications, including Teaching Theatre Journal and Dramatics Magazine.

    Rocco Dal Vera was Professor of Theatre at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music where he headed the Division for Musical Theatre, Acting, Opera, Dance, Arts Administration, Theatre Design and Production. He was the author and editor of six books, including Voice: Onstage and Off with Robert Barton.

    International Praise for Acting In Musical Theatre

    ACTING IN MUSICAL THEATER helps me to figure out many questions that have bothered me for years about performing and teaching. It gives me not only a better understanding of musical theater, but also insights guiding my own career. In China, I have recommended this must-read book to my students, colleagues and friends in this circle, believing that this comprehensive and enlightening book would give them great help too.

    HE Mijiang, Instructor - Communications University of China (Beijing)


    Deer and Dal Vera have put forth a process where every step is connected, making the student consistently understand the emotional journey of the character. The result is more truthful, coherent and powerful scenes. The most valuable moment in this process is when the actor gains their own autonomy by understanding the character in depth. Consequently, the result is acting where the actor’s soul overflows in the scene and the art, itself. Without soul, this artform says nothing to me.

    Reiner Tenente, director and founder - CEFTEM (Center for Studies and Training in Musical Theater), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


    You have in your hands an extraordinary tool for the vocational training of anyone, anywhere in the world, who wishes to approach American musical theatre in all its various styles. We have achieved incredible results by teaching the techniques and methods set out by Joe Deer and Rocco Dal Vera to young students of Opera, also.

    Marco Iacomelli, Artistic Director - Scuola del Teatro Musicale, Novara, Italy


    Joe Deer and Rocco Dal Vera’s Acting in Musical Theatre is a cornerstone of actor training in musical theatre, comprehensive in its scope, current in its examples, and practical at every turn. Unique among practitioner’ texts is the accessibility of the prose; both authors are great communicators, obviously joyful and caring about performance craft and artistic well-being.

    Dr. Zachary Dunbar - Faculty of Fine Arts and Music, The University of Melbourne (Australia)


    Joe Deer’s insight as a Broadway professional and his in-depth experience in higher education, alongside Rocco Dal Vera’s expertise make this a must-have book for

    anyone involved in musical theatre. The new edition updates content to the last five years and provides an invaluable resource for those wanting to know about how to

    approach musical theatre from the perspective of its place of birth.

    Paul Barker, composer and Professor of Music Theatre - University of London

    Royal Central School of Speech and Drama


    A highly informed work. A complete guide to musical theatre training that can be fully understood and appreciated by the foundation student at a basic level. But, for those with more experience, it could be viewed as a guide to the psychology that traces the journey of the actor.

    Gerry Tebbutt

    Head of Musical Theatre and Performance

    Guildford School of Acting

    Surrey, England


    Academic Praise for ACTING IN MUSICAL THEATRE: A Comprehensive Course

    I predict that this book will serve as the textbook for the next generation of students across the nation – perhaps as useful for the training of opera theatre students as it if for musical theatre students. The pedagogy is sound; the exercises are practical and the progression of learning systematic and no-nonsense.

    David Alt, DMA - Former Chairman

    Department of Vocal Performance

    Frost School of Music

    University of Miami, Florida USA

    This book successfully addresses one of the major needs in musical theatre training and is destined to be used by every serious training program in the country.

    Gregory Kunesh, Founding Chair and Regents’ Professor

    Weitzenhoffer Department of Musical Theatre

    University of Oklahoma, USA

    At last, a book that assists us in guiding our students to inhabit
characters in musicals organically! A major milestone in musical theatre pedagogy.

    Robert Barton, Professor Emeritus

    Former Head of Acting

    University of Oregon

    Author of Acting: Onstage and Off

    Acting in Musical Theatre covers it all - acting, musical terminology, style and auditions. It is a must-have resource for all teachers and students of performing in musical theatre.

    Mary Jo Lodge, Professor of Theatre

    Lafayette College, USA

    With clearly delineated chapters and units, Deer and Dal Vera break down the complex terrain of musical theatre into digestible bits. Whether you are a fledgling musical theatre artist or a seasoned professional, this book offers an array of insights, suggestions, guideposts and exercises which you will find invaluable.

    Michael Ellison, Head of Musical Theatre

    Bowling Green State University, USA

    A great handbook for the serious student. Relevant for all stages of development.

    Kathleen Savage, Performer's College, Essex, UK

    A lively, engaging read that, as a comprehensive guide to acting in musicals, fills a heretofor empty niche.

    Judith A. Sebesta, University of Missouri-Columbia, USA


    I have found it to be a source quite unlike any other, both in its comprehensive scope and its spot-on perspective.  I have no doubt that your methodology would greatly enhance the BFA training that we are doing at Missouri State.

    Michael Casey, Missouri State University, USA


    Indeed a terrific book!

    Mary Rawson, Point Park College, USA


    Professional Praise for ACTING IN MUSICAL THEATRE: A Comprehensive Course

    "This is the book we have all been waiting for!   This book makes the textured work involved in the technique of acting in a musical more of a game and exploration than a chore. Whether for the beginner or the experienced professional, the student or the teacher, the fan or the critic, this text is a must-have and a must-read."

    Victoria Clark, Tony Award-winning actress, The Light In The Piazza

    A comprehensive and thought-provoking guideline to the study of performing on the musical stage.  I found it fascinating and functional, and I am sure you will, as well.

    Tom Jones, Tony Award-winning author/lyricist of The Fantasticks, 110 In The Shade and I Do, I Do!

    I’m sure this book will be a valuable resource in nurturing the development of many actors.

    Lynn Ahrens, Tony & Olivier Award winning author/lyricist - Ragtime, Anastasia, Once On This Island

    Finally! THE method for acting in a musical has finally arrived! Beautifully articulate and no-nonsense. Deer and Dal Vera have de-mystified with articulate clarity a fully internalized, assimilated, and yet somehow flexible approach to the actual method of rehearsing, performing, and auditioning for the musical theatre. From the fundamentals of acting in musical theatre, through a sound unearthing of an easy-to-use analysis and structure for the score and libretto, all the way to how to maintain a "winning attitude" about oneself and their craft--Deer and Dal Vera have said it all (and then some) in this gift of a text for musical theatre. This book is a must have!

    Lara Teeter, Tony Award Nominee On Your Toes

    Head of Musical Theatre, Webster University, USA

    This book helps those of us who’ve been doing this SO long really have a comprehensive way of breaking down the ideas to share with students. In fact, it’s a wonderful tool for both the teacher and actor side of me. The numerous examples and exercises help support the ideas as they are presented, and the content is so thorough that it allows one to fully immerse themselves in our very special and complex art form.

    Kristy Cates, Broadway Actress – Wicked, Finding Neverland

    Creative Director - Professional Conservatory of Musical Theatre at NYFA (New York Film Academy), USA



    Critical Praise for ACTING IN MUSICAL THEATRE: A Comprehensive Course

    Deer and Dal Vera provide a thorough treatment of the nuts and bolts of being an actor in musical theater. The authors offer an amazing compilation of musical theater styles--from European operetta to rock musicals--including examples and research resources. … this is a great resource for musical theatre acting…

    E. C. Skiles,

    Choice Book Reviews


    . . . they guide the reader through their solid technique with a fun and witty approach. Any questions you may have about musical theatre--artistic or practical--are likely to be answered here.

    Evan Pappas

    American Theatre Magazine

    Presents innovative approaches that will inform the work of teachers and directors of musical theatre and are highly recommended for students and professional performers alike.

    Kate Arecchi

    Theatre Topics

    Deer and Dal Vera provide a very detailed, clearly structured programme of work, with a good range of contextual information to support the practical enterprise.

    Kate Napier

    Studies In Musical Theatre