In writing a musical I have 3 primary and 7 minor characters - some of whom can be also used in the ensemble. There are four scenes in the two act play in which an ensemble consisting of, at most at this point ,13 people, appears ( have already cut three) They are not a chorus..I have named the people in the ensemble and given them individual characteristics , although they are really townspeople and such. They create a tone for the scenes and the background of the pace and situation. I have been told by a playwright( of straight dramas) that this is far too many people unless I am aiming for Broadway...that no regional theatre will take it. Is this true? And should I take it into consideration? To lessen the number of people (and their individualities) would take away from the atmosphere and function of the scenes. Do I keep on track or lessen the impact and depth of the scenes by eliminating part of the ensemble?

  • 2
    In the production of a play, it's quite possible to have a single actor represent multiple people. (Even simultaneously.) It can require inventive staging and signalling to the audience, but the lack of a 1–1 correspondence between actors and scripted characters really shouldn't be used to argue against a certain number of characters in a script. I personally find the playwright's criticism to be, if not misguided, at least hasty. Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 20:06
  • For example, adding additional arms and heads to somebody, or a sign that pictures additional people, and billing them in the cast list as a crowd of many. In a musical, recorded music could be added to enhance their single voice. Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 20:08
  • 1
    Susan, to what else would you compare this, on film or stage or TV? 3 primary and 7 minor characters is one thing, but somehow they turned into 13 people…How many really matter to your story, please? I suggest if it's 13, you're in trouble. Many behavioural psychologists (ask your search engines) suggest most people can cope with about eight close friends… for which you might read 12 or so if, but only if, some of those "people" were actually couples always seen together. Thus you just might get away with 13-odd characters, if Tweedledee and Tweedledum are seen as one. Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 22:11
  • 1
    Based on your choice of words: "tone" and "background" I don't think you consider them essential, rather something of a reinforcement to the production. Since I haven't read the play, and I obviously know nothing about it this cannot be personal, but consider if you're holding on to them as a kind of luxury because you are a little insecure about whether the play stands on it's own… On the other hand, do they represent a larger demographic that's part of the plot/situation? Will they be more than set-dressing? Do they each get a good song? Make it worth the performers' time.
    – wetcircuit
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 3:26
  • Thank you so much for your comments---- It is very helpful. To clarify....The 13 people are the participants of a crowd scene.... and the " minor characters" are separate from the ensemble- yet they could be used as part of the crowd scene (actually in two crowd scenes they are represented by the minor characters they play). Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 19:33

2 Answers 2


It's a straight question of economics. Thirteen actors plus musicians (you don't say what sort of music) is expensive. Schools love huge casts, but that's because they don't pay them and they want many people involved.

It may be different in other countries, but in Britain regional theatres don't do many musicals other than pantomimes. Amateur groups put them on regularly. Otherwise, you usually have to go to a large city to see one because you need a large theatre to seat enough people to make it pay.


Thank you so much for your comments----This is very helpful. To clarify - The 13 people are the participants of a crowd scene.... and the "7 minor characters" are separate from the ensemble- yet because they appear only once or twice in the play they would be used as part of the crowd scenes (actually, in two crowd scenes four of the minor character appear as themselves).I know this sounds confusing. The opening crowd scene introduces the audience to the environment in which the main characters live..(as well as the main characters) and the same characters appear in an essential scene later in the play..I would like the audience to be familiar with them. Two other crowd scenes have different characters but , again, the same actors can be used in them. (and Robbie Goodwin, I think of the multitude of characters that appear in Sunday in the Park.. during George's scenes with the subjects he is painting... (the mother, the soldiers, the boatman-- etc... insofar as they are individuals -part of an ensemble but not a chorus--). I really do appreciate your comments-I want to make sure that what we are doing is viable....,

  • 1
    This needs to be edited into your question, not posted as an answer.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 22:20

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.