If you’re at all in the world of Musical Theater, you have likely heard the term ‘Triple Threat’ before. This status is bestowed upon those who have a great deal of talent for singing, acting and dancing — the three components of musical theater.
The ‘Triple Threat’ is a somewhat new notion
Historically, musical theater productions would cast a singer’s ensemble, a dancer’s ensemble and the principal actors. Back in the day, it was perfectly acceptable to be an expert in one (maybe two) of the musical theater components. Nowadays, ensembles are much smaller, with the same performers singing and dancing in the chorus. Therefore, at a Broadway audition, you are generally expected to be an equally solid dancer, actor and singer.
The idea of triple threat performers can be traced back to the first production of A Chorus Line. For those who are unfamiliar, A Chorus Line was a groundbreaking musical for many reasons. With music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and a book by James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante, and choreographed and directed by the famous Michael Bennett, this was a musical unlike any that came before it. Set on an empty stage of a Broadway theater, the story follows a group of dancers auditioning for spots in the ensemble of a Broadway show.
A Chorus Line was one of the first Broadway shows that used the same actors for singing, dancing and acting roles. It offers a beautiful glimpse into the lives of dancers and what one is willing to do for their craft. The performers cast in A Chorus Line, had to be incredible dancers, singers and actors, and it proved to the industry that finding performers with expertise in all three areas was possible.
This was a game changer in the industry and suddenly actors were taking dance class and dancers were taking voice lessons.
But… it has become more mainstream
The push to be a triple threat has become so mainstream and expected that there are college musical theater programs entirely devoted to churning out triple threat performers and shipping them off to Broadway. At Broadway auditions, you can almost always expect to go to a dance audition, vocal audition and acting audition before even getting a callback.
So, how does one achieve ‘Triple Threat’ status?
Practice, practice, practice! As a performer, I’m sure you have a certain level of confidence when it comes to different performance areas. Perhaps you consider yourself a singer first, or maybe you’ve been taking dance lessons your whole life but the idea of saying an entire monologue in the audition room scares you to pieces! This is normal. We all have areas we are more comfortable with.
The trick is to start being comfortable with not being comfortable. Performing on the stage is all about taking risks and going for it and the only way to become more comfortable is through practicing. I strongly encourage my students to explore areas outside of their comfort zones.
Can you make a career in musical theater without being a triple threat?
Of course! There are many musical theater performers who do not dance and have long and successful careers. The simple truth is that if you are proficient in all three areas, your chances of booking a job go up tremendously.
All in all, the idea of being a triple threat isn’t that complicated to achieve— all you have to do is work hard in all three areas of musical theater and do your very best to achieve excellence in all three areas.