Writing Musical Theatre
professional, engaging online classes in writing music, book and lyrics.
how it works…
Each of the courses at Writing Musical Theatre (WMT) is broken down into multiple units.
Each unit contains videos, handouts, exercises, tests, and assignments.
Each assignment is personally evaluated by a live evaluator so you get personalized feedback on your progress every step of the way.
live personalized feedback on all assignments
At the end of each unit, after you have completed all the videos, tests, and exercises, you will be prompted to upload an assignment. Your personal evaluator will read your assignment and respond with an individualized audio feedback file.
watch informative videos
You will begin each unit by watching one or more videos packed with all kinds of information. You can re-watch the videos whenever you want during the course.
supplement the videos with handouts
Each unit will have one or more handout that you can print out as a handy reference for what you are learning in the unit.
reinforce your learning with exercises
For each unit, you can practice what you’ve learned with one or more optional exercises. (These exercises will not be graded.)
check out your learning through online tests
Each unit will have one or more online tests which will be automatically evaluated. The answers to the tests come with explanations to clarify the answers. You can take the tests as often as you want to improve your score.
start anytime and work at your own pace
All of the courses at Writing Musical Theatre are ready to start whenever you are, and you can proceed through the course at your own speed.
For musical theatre bookwriters, we offer the BOOK LAB and the OUTLINING LAB; designed and evaluated by staff member Elise Dewsberry.
Hands-on class packed with videos, exercises, tests, handouts, and assignments, The Lyric Lab guides you through essentials of writing musical theatre lyrics. The course is hosted by Emmy-nominated Scott Guy (Disney, NBC, PBS, Warner Brothers), with feedback from Larry Todd Cousineau (All That He Was, Flies! the Musical, 40 is the New 15).
For musical theatre composers, we offer the Music Lab, designed and evaluated by Chicago-area staff member Philip Seward.
For musical theatre collaborative teams, we offer the Musical Theatre Song Lab with Scott Guy), and the Master Class with the Masters with John Sparks.
try the demo…
Check out the video to hear details about the courses from the staff.
OR - to give you an idea of WMT’s technical interface, as well as some insight into the nature of the elements of our online courses, we have prepared a DEMO lab with excerpts and examples from actual courses.
Here are the details and fees for all of the labs currently offered by Writing Musical Theatre.
- The Book Lab is designed as an introduction to writing the book of a musical while also outlining the collaborative steps involved in creating a new musical with the whole team. The book of a musical is not just the spoken words, but encompasses the entire story of the musical. The bookwriter is officially responsible for the writing of the book, but the entire writing team needs to collaborate on the story.
- The collaborative process is explored through six units including: THE IDEA, THE OUTLINE, THE ROUGH DRAFT, ADDING SONGS, REVISIONS, and FINISHING TOUCHES. Along the way, other topics are incorporated including: Unwavering Want; Character Diction; Adaptation; Action Loops; Dialogue; Incorporating Songs; Conflict; Song Spotting; Dealing with Feedback; Story Structure; Language of an Outline; Collaboration Agreements; Character Worksheets; Project Pitches; Exposition; Public Domain Ideas; and much more.
- This course qualifies as the Book Lab element of the Academy for New Musical Theatre’s Core Curriculum.
Lyric Lab 1Fundamentals
- The Lyric Lab has been helping hundreds of lyricists for a decade. And now it’s been completely updated, drawing from examples from contemporary Broadway musicals like Hamilton, Evan Hansen, Hadestown, as well as classic musicals from Golden Age.
- In Lyric Lab I – Fundamentals, you’ll focus on key areas of craft, including musical theatre song structure, telling your story through lyrics, perfect rhyme and near rhyme, matching the accents of lyric to the music, how to decide which songs to write, and how to format your musical to get it ready to submit to theatres and producers.
- There are videos, exercises, tests, handouts, and assignments. Your assignments are evaluated by an instructor who gives you personal, individualized feedback on your assignment via mp3.
- The course was designed by multi-Emmy-nominated writer and producer Scott Guy (Disney, NBC, PBS, Warner Brothers), who delivers the lectures. Feedback is from award-winning lyricist Larry Todd Johnson (All That He Was, Flies! the Musical, 40 is the New 15).
- “The Lyric Lab videos are invaluable. I wish I had encountered them 10 years ago!” (BK Wells)
- Write and format your musical professionally. Videos, tests, exercises and interactive assignments on the craft of composing for musical theatre, from Columbia College Chicago professor Philip Seward. Topics include:
- Setting a Lyric; Creating a Piano Arrangement; Finding a Rhythm in a Lyric and Using it to Develop a Melody; Creating a Lead Sheet (Chord Symbols and Melody); Working with a Hook; Key Signatures & Accidentals; Driving Melodically Toward the Climax of the Song; Supporting the Melody with a Piano Accompaniment; When to Modulate; Composing Incidental Music; Composing for the Music Theatre Voice (Head Voice, Chest Voice, Belt, Legit, Timbre); Formatting a Score: Dynamics, Expressive Markings, Pedaling, Rehearsal Marks, etc.; Vamps; Safeties; Jump Cue; Out On; Formatting Voice Parts; Swing Notation; Integrating Script and Score
- This course qualifies as the Music Lab element of the Academy for New Musical Theatre’s Core Curriculum.
- In the Outlining Lab, you will be led step-by-step through the process of developing a musical idea from concept to working outline, with detailed constructive feedback along the way from your evaluator. By the end of this ten-unit course, you should have a well-developed and detailed outline that will solidly prepare you for the collaborative task of writing your new musical.
- Topics covered include: Six Steps to an Outline; Conflict; 3-Phrase Beginning/Middle/End; 20 Questions for your Outline; Premise; Language of an Outline; Swill & Rough Drafts; Dealing with Feedback; The Outline; Pitch and Synopsis; Revisions; One-Liner; and Logline
- An outline can be an invaluable writer’s tool for clarifying the structure and story arc of a musical idea. It can then serve as a blueprint for the rough draft that the collaborators will use to develop the new musical. Writers who skip this important step in the development process are likely to find themselves bogged down with a partially written new show that is riddled with logical inconsistencies, and does not compellingly deliver the intentions of the creative team. Don’t start writing until your outline is rock solid!
Lyric and Advanced Lyric Labs
- The Advanced Lyric Lab is for graduates of the Lyric Lab, and covers additional topics such as: Character Through Diction; Linear Prosody; Conversational Prosody; Additional Progressions; Metaphor; List Songs and Twist Songs; and culminates in Breaking the Rules!
- NOTE: We’re updating all the Lyric Labs. We’ve just finished Lyric Lab 1 – Fundamentals, and we’re working on Lyric Lab II and III before revising the Advanced Lyric Lab. While we work on the rest of the new Lyric Labs, you are welcome to continue to take this original Advanced Lyric Lab….but please understand the videos are a little out-of-date, and some topics are under-construction.
Musical Theatre Song Lab
- The Musical Theatre Song Lab provides an opportunity for composer/lyricist teams to create iconic musical theatre songs and receive critical feedback.
- The course contains six units: The Ballad, The Comedy Song, The Conflict Duet, The Ensemble, The Musical Scene, and the Disappointment Song. Each unit includes a definition of the type of song; a play to read; and an assignment to write a song based on the play. Your completed songs will be critiqued by WMT staff.
- Don’t have a collaborator? If you are a lyricist or a composer without a collaborator, you can get some practice with these song types by using our library of lyrics and music.
- If you are taking this lab as a composer or lyricist ONLY (and using our library as your collaborator) then the fee is $395.
A Master Class with the Masters
- ALPHA TEST. Study the art of writing for musical theatre with NMI Founding Director John Sparks (a survey course on the writing techniques used in successful musicals from Showboat to Hamilton).
- This is a course from which writers of each of the individual crafts involved (bookwriting, composition, and lyric writing) can profit, whether you’re working alone or taking the course with one or more collaborators. If yours is a single craft (i.e. book, music or lyric writing, for instance), there are assignments you can do without collaborators. If you are a hyphenate (music-lyrics, book-lyrics) or working with one or more collaborators, then you and your collaborator(s) can work together, turning in related assignments. Fees for the course are adjusted so you can enroll and receive critiques in one, two or all three of the crafts covered.
- Individuals may choose to enroll in a single craft: Bookwriter, Lyricist, or Composer. Individuals and teams may enroll in two crafts: Book & Lyrics or Music & Lyrics. Only teams of two or more persons may enroll in all three crafts simultaneously: Book & Music & Lyrics.
- Writing for the musical theatre is an art and not a science. Think of the assignments as tools to help writers more completely communicate with their audiences. Instruction is based on the study of over nearly 100 years of exciting musical theatre creation in the United States. This means that for every principle discussed, one can find brilliant exceptions. The points of craft under discussion are not rules. They are, rather, observations of how it has been done by the masters past and present, with occasional critical comments investigating why it has been done this way.
- The modern American musical owes a great deal to Oscar Hammerstein II. Although the styles of music have changed, and the topics of contemporary musicals often delve into areas of human psychology that would have astounded Julie Jordan (Carousel) or Mrs. Anna (The King and I), the means of communicating the plot and emotional drama of contemporary musicals rely on the same principles of craft to render the material readily accessible to the audience.
WritingMusicalTheatre.com is owned and operated by the top faculty at the Academy for New Musical Theatre (ANMT).
Between us and our staff, we have nurtured nearly 2000 musicals over the years, for writers all over the planet.
We work out of New Musicals Inc. in Los Angeles, developing musicals for producers, nurturing musical theatre writers and their careers, and running musical theatre festivals, workshops, seminars, and conferences.
Book Lab / Outlining Lab
Elise has been involved in the development of new works for over forty years: as an actor/singer, as a director, as a dramaturge, and as a writer. In Toronto, Elise served as the Assistant Artistic Director of the Muskoka Festival; the Co-ordinator of the festival’s annual Musical Theatre Writer’s Colony, the Associate Dramaturge of the Canadian Stage Company; the Resident Dramaturge of the Smile Theatre Company; and was the co-founder of Toronto’s Script Lab, and co-wrote Any Body Home? (with Carl Ritchie), which iis published by Dramatic Publishing. Elise joined ANMT as Associate Artistic Director in 2003; joined Founding Artistic Director John Sparks as Co-Artistic Director in 2010; and became Artistic Director of New Musicals Inc. in 2013. Elise also serves as a Los Angeles Ovation Award Voter.
Lyric Lab 1 Fundamentals, Lyric, & Advanced Lyric Labs / Musical Theatre Song Lab
Under Scott’s tenure as Executive Director, New Musicals Inc. has developed over 100 musicals for producers across the country and over 200 independent musicals by ANMT writers. Scott has produced several New Musicals Inc. (NMI) musical theatre festivals and multiple seasons of concert readings and concerts. Scott’s current and recent writing projects include: script consultant for the musical version of Pirates of the Caribbean for Disney; Unspoken for Deaf West Theatre; and Darby O’Gill and the Leprechaun Queen for McCoy-Rigby Productions; Soul of Darkness with Placido Domingo; and a two-year run in New York of Just So Stories. Six Emmy nominations and over 100 produced television scripts for Warner Bros, FOX-TV, Disney, Discovery Channel, PBS, etc. www.scottguy.biz
Larry Todd Cousineau
Lyric Lab Evaluator
Larry Todd Cousineau’s musical, 40 is the New 15 (with composer Cindy O’Connor), had a critically-acclaimed run at the NoHo Arts Center, receiving a Best New Musical award from StageSceneLA and a 2010 GLAAD Media Award Nomination for Outstanding Los Angeles Theatre, and was chosen by Stephen Schwartz for the ASCAP/Disney Musical Theatre Workshop. Now and Then a Hero (with composer Jake Anthony) was seen at the Montana Repertory Theatre as part of the Missoula Colony Festival, and his musical drama, All That He Was (with composer Cindy O’Connor) was seen at the Tisch School of the Arts in New York. For this same show, Larry also won the Kennedy Center National Playwright’s Award and the ACTF Musical Theater Award. His historical-fiction musical, The Last Princess, (with music by Allen Hong) was also featured in the Disney/ASCAP Musical Theatre Workshop.
Master Class with the Masters
John was the founder/co-director of the Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop, Inc. (1979-2002) and was the Artistic Director of ANMT/NMI from 2002 to 2013, and now holds the title of Founder of ANMT/NMI. He founded the Writers’ Workshop at Theatre Building Chicago (TBC) in 1987 and also served TBC as Artistic Director from 1999 to 2009. Between the two workshops, John has mentored the work of over 250 writers, including Mark Hollmann, composer/lyricist of Urinetown; George Gorham and Dan Sticco, A Change in the Heir; Susan DiLallo and Ken Stone (both Kleban Award winners); and several Richard Rodgers Award winners. Nearly 400 shows written by workshop members have been produced in theatres across the country. Musicals for which John wrote the music, lyrics or book have been produced in Los Angeles and Chicago, including Buddy’s Plane Is Down; Babes in Barns, Hans Brinker, On The Brink and Wanting Miss Julie.
Philip Seward lists among his operatic and musical works, Nimue (2007, Edinburgh); Downtown (2007, Stages Festival Chicago); Sincerely Yours (2003); Juan Peron’s Hand (2002, Northtown Arts Center); High Fidelity (1998, Chicago Humanities Festival and 1999, Merkin Hall, New York); Spreading The News (1998, North Park University); Hans Brinker (1994, Theatre Building Chicago, recipient of several Jeff Citations and an After Dark Award); youth operas African Stories (2007); A Noteworthy Tale (2002) and Stone Soup (2001), commissioned by Lyric Opera of Chicago; Blessing (2003, Lira Chamber Chorus); and Psalm 8 (1997) commissioned by the Lyric Opera Chapters. He is an Artist-in-Residence at Columbia College Chicago, co-conductor of the Lira Ensemble of Chicago, music director at St. James Presbyterian Church, and serves as a free-lance conductor and performer for many ensembles, musicals and operas.
“I’ve been a poet all my life, but I feel like – at long last – the lab is giving me the skills and understanding to go beyond the poetic gifts I was born with and to build on those gifts with insight and intention. And what a difference that’s going to make to my efforts! So thank, you, thank you, thank you!!”
“These courses are what all we writers desperately need.”
“Elise Dewsberry’s rare gift for analyzing plot and character is enormously helpful to writers. Her story sense is phenomenal.”
“Scott Guy has in-depth knowledge of forms, rhyme, and scansion in poetry and the knowledge of how to adapt this to create excellent prosody in writing lyrics for musicals. He also has a depth of practical experience in collaborating with musicians. I’ve benefited personally from his critiques.”