Musicals and Musical Theatre


An introductory guide for writers and audience members who are curious about how different types of story can be told through the diverse genre of musical theatre and screen musicals.   

Aspiring writers will gain insights into key creative writing techniques;  musical lovers – or those wanting to be convinced of the credibility and joy of the genre! – will learn how to better appreciate and understand how a musical unfolds its story. 

From high kicking chorus lines dancing down an illuminated staircase, to the grim humour of Sweeny Todd’s bloody barber’s chair, there are key techniques that are used to take us into a world where emotion equals music and lyrics. There are key things to look for, and things an audience is asked to accept when they enter the world of stories told with song. 

We will look at different genres in music theatre and cinema, where and why songs are placed, how we transition from ‘natural’ dialogue to song and dance, and how the plot is developed and character revealed through lyrics. We will also look at the options of ‘book’ or ‘sung through’ script writing.  

Each essential skill that is used to shape the telling of stories in musical theatre will be exemplified by a script or video extract from a wide range of music theatre productions. Many of these will be from Broadway and West End productions, but lesser known, less conventional examples of musical theatre will also be presented. 

The day will be a mix of taught input, discussion of script and video extracts and discussion. No creative writing will be undertaken in class: but students will have a lot of information to take away for their own creative work, or to enhance their enjoyment of musicals from their seat in the stalls.

Please note: this event will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 17 January 2024.

Programme details


A brief history of musicals: origins and landmarks


Exploring classic musical theatre story types and characters; how and why they work


Extending the genre: Sondheim and others – challenges and opportunities for the genre


Screen musicals, new musical forms and the future

End of day


Description Costs
Course Fee (includes tea/coffee) £99.00
Baguette lunch £6.50


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Mr Shaun McCarthy

Shaun McCarthy has had over a dozen stage plays professionally produced and a range of radio dramas broadcast. His adaptations include JM Synge’s ‘The Aran Islands’ (BBC R4 Classic Serial), a stage version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ that was a critique of David Cameron’s ‘big society’ and had a happy, unexpected ending; and a re-set of Strindberg’s ‘Miss Julie’ to Oxford 1963. Shaun teaches a range of creative writing courses for OUDCE, runs Hooligan Theatre Productions to develop his new plays and co-runs the writing events and residential writers’ retreats company ‘Stage and Page' in the UK and Italy.


Please use the 'Book' button on this page. Alternatively, please contact us to obtain an application form.


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email for details of availability and discounted prices.