Acting in Musical Theatre; A Comprehensive Course

Book Review

by Matthew Teague Miller

Acting in Musical Theatre; A Comprehensive Course is exceptional in its conception, execution and its 2016 revision for the second edition. With this textbook, Joe Deer and Rocco Dal Vera have created an essential guide to musical theatre acting, breaking down basic Stanislavski principals and applying them directly to performance, analyzing music theory and style through a musical theatre lens, and even introducing professional business practices and audition techniques. 

Author Joe Deer is Head of Musical Theatre at Wright State University and brings a wealth of professional experience in a variety of capacities, including being a Resident Artist of The Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton, Ohio. Deer is also a former president and co-founder of the Musical Theatre Educator’s Alliance. Co-author Rocco Dal Vera was a Professor of Drama and former Head of the Division for Musical Theatre, Acting, Opera, Dance, Arts Administration, Theatre Design and Production at University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music. Rocco Dal Vera passed away in September 2017.

Acting in Musical Theatre is structured as a complete course, allowing professors to guide students through a course of study sequentially or pick-and-choose the sections relevant to their needs. Additionally, the book can serve as a self-guided tour through Musical Theatre study for those who wish to learn outside of the classroom or laboratory. With assignments embedded throughout the text, the book can become as intense or as comfortable as the reader desires, depending upon their goals and drive. 

The book contains six sections:

  1. Fundamentals of Acting in Musical Theatre
  2. Score and Libretto Analysis and Structure
  3. The Journey of the Song
  4. Making it a Performance
  5. Style in Musical Theatre
  6. The Profession


The book engages the reader by using song lyrics ranging from musicals like Les Misérables and Children of Eden to American Idiot and Next to Normal

Perhaps the most valuable component is Section 3, The Journey of the Song. In this portion the authors take musical theatre acting to the next level by combining section one, Fundamentals of Acting in Musical Theatre, and section two, Score Analysis and Structure, diving deep into the process of acting a song. Well-defined breakdowns of the four different types of song journeys, examples of lyric sheet templates and the musical “clues” that can help inform the actor of tactical and beat changes, and illustrations of how to use relationships to fuel a character’s motivation to sing a particular section or phrase, equip the musical theatre actor with tools to tackle any song. 

The revised edition includes new digital content including a website and PowerPoint lecture slides to complement the learning experience. The book also contains new style overviews, and an expanded Section 6, The Profession. 

Acting in Musical Theatre; A Comprehensive Course (Second Edition), is a comprehensive textbook. This book should be a staple on the shelf of every musical theatre professor, instructor, and student as it is an invaluable resource.


Acting in Musical Theatre; A Comprehensive Course Second Edition by Joe Deer and Rocco Dal Vera. Routledge, 2016; pp. 396. $149.00 hardback, $58.95 paperback, $53.06 eBook.


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