The idea of song in storytelling is a fundamental absurdity. That’s not intended as an insult, to be sure – a life without that sort of extravagant absurdity would be a life scarcely worth living – but it does point us toward a fundamental challenge of musical theater writing: making the absurd feel palpably true.
It helps that this is just the sort of deception that people dearly want to buy into. We want our feelings to have the grand sweep of a song, and that want can – under the right circumstances – persuade our knowledge to stand slightly aside for a while.
But how can we, as artists, deliberately induce this? Here, fortunately, we have an indispensable ally in the form of the theatre format. We can talk endlessly about how much more visceral and present live theatre feels, but maybe its greatest creative asset is precisely the distance it creates as its initial affordance.