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Analyzing a Movie Musical

The following exercise has a straightforward premise: watch a movie musical and analyze it! This written exercise helps students practice skills including analytical and critical thinking, observation, problem solving, and creative thinking.

Start by choosing a movie musical to analyze. You may select a movie for your students to view together in class, or let them each select one for approval and watch it at home. You may wish for all students to analyze the same movie musical, or have every student sign up for a different one. For this exercise, please ensure students select a live-action movie musical, rather than an animated film. Here are some suggestions: Mary Poppins, The Greatest Showman, Into the Woods, La La Land, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Across the Universe, Mamma Mia!, Moulin Rouge, Sweeney Todd, Dreamgirls, Grease, A Star is Born, The Sound of Music, White Christmas, The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes… there are lots of options!

Students will select five of the following ten questions to answer after watching the movie musical. Alternatively, you can make this an independent study project (ISP) and have students answer all ten questions. Students will answer in full sentences, and yes, grammar and spelling counts! 

Distance learning: This assignment can be adapted for distance learning by having students watch their selected movie musical at home, complete the questions, and submit them electronically via email, Google Drive, Dropbox, or a similar program/app.


1. Summarize the plot of the musical in one paragraph. Then, summarize the plot of the musical in one sentence.

2. What was your favourite song from the musical movie? 

  • What character(s) sang the song? 
  • What was the purpose of the song in the musical? 
  • If the song were a monologue, how would that affect the plot? 
  • If the song were omitted, how would that affect the plot?

3. Identify a scene from the musical that could only happen the way it did because it was done in a movie. Describe in your own words what happened in the scene. How might you adapt that scene for the stage?

4. List five advantages of doing a musical movie over doing a musical on the stage. (For example, you can do multiple takes if you make a mistake.)

5. List five advantages of doing a musical onstage over doing a musical movie. (For example, hearing the audience applaud a wonderful moment.)

6. Would you rather watch a musical movie or a live musical in a theatre? Why?

7. Choose five characters from the musical movie. Identify the actors who play those characters. Re-cast those characters with five different actors (current or past). Who did you select and why?

8. What year was the movie musical made?

  •  Is it based on a stage musical, or is it an original creation? 
  • Is it based on anything, or adapted from anything (such as a book or musical album)?
  • If it’s based on a stage musical, what year was the musical itself written? 
  • Has the musical been performed on Broadway, the West End, etc.? When? 
  • Are there any different film or stage versions or adaptations to your chosen movie musical? Are there any sequels or prequels?
  • What are they, and when were they made?

9. Critical Eye: Did you notice any mistakes, editing errors, or inconsistencies in the movie musical? Describe what happened. (If you didn’t notice any, skip this question.)

10. Why do you think people enjoy watching movie musicals?

Click here for a free evaluation rubric.
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