Musical Theatre BA (Hons)
BA Hons Musical Theatre
Musical theatre is one of the most popular forms of entertainment. For over a century, it’s helped us to understand how the world works, generating stories of hope and optimism while considering the challenging issues at the heart of being human.
Develop vital stagecraft skills in movement, voice, acting, and devising on our Musical Theatre degree course and explore contemporary approaches to music and theatre. You’ll immerse yourself in all forms of practice, create new musicals. stage a full production in your first and final year, and produce a professional showreel for use in the industry.
You'll also examine musical theatre's significance in popular culture and society, exploring themes such as the representation of race, gender and politics on the local and global stage, and gain vital transferable skills for all kinds of career opportunities after you graduate.
Along the way, you’ll use specialist facilities, collaborate with students on other creative courses, work with professional composers, writers, and directors, and perform in many fantastic locations – in Portsmouth and beyond.
Taught by a world-leading team of expert practitioners and scholars, Portsmouth's one of the most established musical theatre programmes in the UK, and through our new partnership with Laine Theatre Arts – whose graduates are regularly seen in the West End – we’re in an exciting phase of our history. Come and join us!
- Enhance your creative collaboration by working alongside peers and new writers to create shows
- Boost your professional profile by developing a showreel to perform in front of agents, producers, and casting directors as part of your final-year career preparations
- Develop career-enhancing skills in mixed- and multi-media arts, including live and virtual practices
- Gain valuable industry experience by taking an optional placement
- Take advantage of pioneering research by studying at the home of Studies in Musical Theatre – the UK’s only international academic journal dedicated to musical theatre
- Get current professional insight by attending guest lectures from leading actors, producers, and authors – past guests include actor Sheila Hancock, Randy Adams (Tony award-winning producer of Memphis the Musical), Lyn Darnley (former Head of Voice and Text, Royal Shakespeare Company), and Ken Cerniglia (Hadestown dramaturg and Disney Theatricals’ literary director)
90% Overall student satisfaction (NSS, 2021)
90% Graduates in work or further study (HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey conducted in 2019)
‘Joy’ is composed, performed and produced by Lizzie Hughes, our 2021 BA (Hons) Musical Theatre graduate. It formed part of her final year Major Academic Project, exploring the use of musical frequencies and harmonies to affect a listener’s emotional response to music and performance.
Lizzie is now seeking to build a career as a freelance singer-songwriter and recording artist.
Can you see me glowing gold?
In this moment I'll smile
Happiness comes in shimmering flecks
So I'll savour this moment a while
In my eyes lay specks of gold
And I'll be your hand to hold
It is warm in this house
Warm like a sunny day in winter
Pretty but rarer
Shimmering flecks, mystic moons
I'm walking on moonbeams, waiting for you
Tell me if you're coming home soon
Can you see me holding on
To all our memories?
I won't fly too close the Sun
If you let me swim in the sea
Give me reason to stay awhile
I'll stay as long you need
Just look at this smile to know
It is warm in this house
Warm like a summer breeze: can you feel it?
We're sisters climbing trees: can you feel it?
Glowing gold in the afternoon
Shimmering life from that mystic moon
Tell me if you're coming home soon
Tell me that you're coming home soon
BA (Hons) Musical Theatre
- A levels – BBB–BBC
- UCAS points – 112–120 points (calculate your UCAS points)
- BTECs (Extended Diplomas) – DDM–DMM
- International Baccalaureate – 25
Applicants will be invited to a workshop. Read our Musical Theatre workshop guide for preparation tips.
If you can't make the workshop, you'll need a video submission instead. For more information on how to put one together, read our Musical Theatre video submission guide.
English language requirements
- English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.0 with no component score below 5.5.
We also accept other standard English tests and qualifications, as long as they meet the minimum requirements of your course.
If you don't meet the English language requirements yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.
White Swan Building
Our drama and theatre hub was developed in partnership with Portsmouth’s esteemed New Theatre Royal. It has all the spaces and equipment you need for stage and performance productions: from rehearsal to final act.
New Theatre Royal
Established in 1854, New Theatre Royal is one of Portsmouth’s historic gems. Its recent upgrades include a fly tower and 15-piece orchestral pit for its main stage, a technical workshop with dressing and green rooms, and improved backstage facilities.
Careers and opportunities
After this course, you'll have skills in production, technical theatre, stage management, directing, choreography, and other creative fields that can be applied to a variety of careers within and outside the theatre industry.
You can also start your own company, pursue a postgraduate degree, and engage in research.
Past graduates have gone on to careers in areas including:
- theatre, arts and events management
- the media industry
- project and team management
Roles our graduates have taken on include:
- theatre manager
- arts administrator
My time here’s been so amazing and I wouldn't change any of it. The uni gives so much support and the lecturers go above and beyond. I’d do it all again if I could!
Ongoing careers support
Get experience while you study, with support to find part-time jobs, volunteering opportunities, and work experience. You can also venture into freelancing, or set up and run your own business with help from the University Startup Team.
Towards the end of your degree and for up to five years after graduation, you’ll receive one-to-one support from our Graduate Recruitment Consultancy to help you find your perfect role.
Placement year (optional)
Between your second and third year, you can complete an optional work placement to gain professional experience and enhance your skills. It's also a great incentive for employers once you graduate.
You can work for a company, organisation or agency, or you can go self-employed and start your own business with fellow students or by yourself.
Whatever you decide – or even if you just want some employability advice – our exclusive Creative Careers team can support you every step of the way.
Our in-faculty Creative Careers team has extensive recruitment experience and knows the creative sector well, making it easier for students to find placements within the creative industries.
They can guide you through every step of the application process, including:
- Searching for the ideal job through their database of vacancies
- Giving tips on how to write an interesting CV that will catch employers' attention, no matter the role
- Organising mock interviews, so you can hone your technique and familiarise yourself with the recruitment environment
- Writing your startup business proposal – if you're going down the self-employment route
The team will continue to give you support throughout your placement year.
Should I go on a placement year?
It is not only about making tea and coffee in an office: a placement can transform your career, personal, and study development. Our students who've been on placements say they were the best experiences of their lives.
Find out more about the benefits of doing a placement on our Creative Careers blog.
What you'll study
Each module on this course is worth a certain number of credits.
In each year, you need to study modules worth a total of 120 credits. For example, four modules worth 20 credits and one module worth 40 credits.
Year 1 core modules
In this module, you’ll be introduced to contemporary methods and techniques for creating your own devised music theatre project. Working together and under guidance from your tutors, you’ll learn from the work of other devised practitioner and explore how movement, text and music-making can be used to develop your own original work in response to a given theme or stimulus. You need not be a trained musician either; sometimes, the best work comes simply through playing, exploring and taking risks – all skills highly regarded by theatre directors and makers, but also much-valued across a range of sectors.
As its name implies, in this module, you’ll ‘make theatre’. Unlike Devised Project, though, this is an intensive two-week process during which you’ll work with guest creatives from industry (composers, writers and directors) to stage either a classic or contemporary work of musical theatre from first read-through to full performance in ten days. This module will help develop teamwork, collaboration, good timekeeping and resilience – all skills needed in the performing arts.
Developing stagecraft and performance skills includes knowing how to use your body – to move, to dance and to act. This module will introduce you to a range of movement and dance styles which you will then put to use in other practical modules during your degree. These styles might include jazz, acro, ballet, tap and contemporary and whether you are an experienced dancer or a total novice, this module will help develop your skills and discover new strengths in performance.
Developing stagecraft and performance skills includes knowing how to use your voice and engage with text. This module will introduce you to the key principles in understand how to deliver text and some strategies for “acting the song” – skills you will then put to use in other practical modules during your degree. You will explore solo work and monologue, ensemble work and duologues, building a performance repertoire across a range of styles. Whether you are an experienced singer or a total novice, this module will help develop your skill and technique in how to use your voice; skills as useful to the musical stage as they are to the company boardroom!
In order to enhance your skills in performance, this module will introduce you to some key ways of thinking about musical theatre and performance as part of culture more broadly. You’ll learn how to talk and reason critically on issues such as race and representation in performance, or how to understand the relationship between what an author or director intends when creating a production and what a journalist might report in their review. Along the way, your develop skills in different kinds of writing and gain confidence in ways to research and think critically about what you see, hear and perform. This module provides you with critical skills for success in your degree, but also skills much-needed in today’s job market.
Building on ‘Performance – Criticism and Analysis’, Performance and Society gives you the opportunity explore key works and themes in their social, cultural and artistic context. For example, why is musical theatre currently so obsessed with bio-musicals such as Jersey Boys or Tina: The Tina Turner Musical? What does it reveal about our current culture and societal trends that these kinds of tribute acts and imitations are so popular? Are they commercial, trading on what is familiar – or is there more to them? Working with students on Drama & Performance, you’ll be asked to engage with these ideas in seminars and then explore one or two themes through practical workshops as well.
Year 2 core modules
Building from ‘Voice and the Actor’ and ‘Movement for Performance’, this module will introduce you to a range of specialist skills in musical theatre production and performance, including as an actor, director, producer, designer, choreographer and musical director. Learning about these through skills-based workshops, you will work in groups to develop a ‘project pitch’ for the staging of a production, where you will choose a particular role or specialism.
Following the ‘project pitches’ in ‘Musical Theatre Skills’, this module sees you put your newly-developed skills into action as you work in small groups – and together, in one larger theatre company – to stage a classic musical in a new, exciting or contemporary way. For example, previous work has included a multi-media production of Sweeney Todd and a modern-day interpretation of Annie, set in a migrant camp. As the next generation of creatives and performers, this module gives you the chance to practise your skills while also exploring how musical theatre can remain current and develop in the future. After all, no production should ever simply be a museum piece. How do you want to reinvent the form?
As its name suggests, ‘Musical Theatre Laboratory’ is a place where ideas are tested and risks are taken. Building on ‘Devised Project’ and ‘Performance and Society’ from your first year, this module will equip you skills to explore a specific topic through applied research – working in groups to become expert in an area and then demonstrating this through presentation and performance. The specific subject focus might change from year to year, but previous groups have explored the politics of representing real-life on the musical stage (such as the ideological politics in The Sound of Music and Come From Away) along with the way our voice is used as a medium of performance in popular culture (such as the presence of mute characters in musical theatre or the use of imitation in bio-musicals). This module is a foundation for your final year Major Academic Project module, and will provide you with skills in synthesis theory and practice – a key skill at University and beyond.
Like a reliable brand of masonry paint, this module does what it says on the tin. In order to imagine the future of performance, we need to understand the historical contexts, cultures and practices that have led to the work we know, love and even loathe, today. This module will sharpen your research and writing skills, and building on ‘Performance and Society’, will help you be experts in your subject as a broad part of popular culture – rather than just fans of your favourite shows.
Alongside ‘Performance Histories’, this module builds further from ‘Performance – Criticism and Analysis’ and through research, reading, debate and writing, you will become experts in asking the difficult questions that continue to arise from, and are created by, theatre and performance. Considering race theory and postcolonial ideas, how ‘progressive’ is Hamilton’s depiction of race? If gender is a societal construct, should personal and fictional identities always match when casting actors? What can historical avant-garde and contemporary live art practitioners tell us about ways to think through questions of politics, capitalism, immigration, nationhood and other big topics – and how might what philosophers, scholars and critics say about these say be useful in understanding Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella, or Wicked; Fun Home or Cabaret?
Year 2 optional modules
This practical module will introduce you to the relationship between musical theatre practice and jazz as a musical style. Through the development of vocal repertoire, you’ll learn about jazz styles and technique – from the Great American Songbook of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald, to contemporary interpretations by Lady Gaga or Jamie Cullum. This module invites you to learn about history and style through practical workshops – and create a cabaret performance of jazz standards.
We often talk about the ‘Broadway musical’, but this module will explore the unsung legacy of the British musical. In fact, musical theatre as we know it was first produced in London in 1891. Through reading, seminar discussion and research, you’ll explore how the musical stage in Britain – and its global exports through the twentieth-century and beyond – helps us understand how British culture sees itself and, importantly, how it sees other cultures within and beyond its borders through song and dance.
In this module, you’ll work in groups to create a museum exhibition focusing on an aspect of British musical theatre – improving your project management, collaborative skills, and critical judgement about presenting complex information to a broad audience. These skills will be crucial as you move into your final year and are equally applicable to life beyond university.
Year 3 core modules
This module ‘does what it says on the tin’. Currently the largest of the modules in your course, you will have the opportunity to form your own theatre company, collaborating with colleagues through taking responsibility for defined roles (producer, artistic director, designer, finance and budgets, marketing etc.) to produce a business plan and outward-facing theatre company – some of which have been maintained by students following graduation, and which are now successful regional events companies.
As a complement to Forming A Company, ‘Major Academic Project’ is all about you. It is an individual assessment which offers three discrete routes which you can self-select. You can, for instance, produce a piece of mid-length academic writing about a subject you are interested in; you can produce a showcase performance and industry-portfolio; you can creative your own piece of practice; or present research work in an undergraduate symposium. This module is what you want to make it, and you will be guided by one-to-one supervision within our team based on specialism. Students from this module have progressed to obtaining agent representation for performance, have succeeded in applying for research-based postgraduate study, or otherwise honed their skills in public presentation to pursue a career such as teaching.
This module introduces students on both musical theatre and drama & performance to alternative understandings of performance and theatre. It might ask you to consider whether silence can be musical? How repeating the same movement or sound multiple times can create something entirely new, or examine what happens when we take well-known or high-cultural works of art and entirely reduce or recreate them. Drawing on lineages of historical avant-garde and performance art practices, this is an exciting and challenging core module which pushes boundaries and definitions.
In this module, you will engage with various forms of storytelling for young audiences. This might include digital storytelling for young children, or live in-person performances in schools. Using song, dance, storytelling and spectacle, this module offers students the opportunity to gain vital experience in the kind of work that might support your early freelance career as performers but, crucially, it means that by the time you graduate, you may have had the privilege of being among the first performers children will have seen live. Sharing your love of performance and theatre with the next generation is a real-world benefit of this module.
Year 3 optional modules
As the name suggests, this module is an option in which musical theatre students study a specific topic in detail. This topic is likely to be one not currently covered in the core curriculum, and as such, is likely to be something drawn from a lecturer’s current research or practical work. You will benefit from learning first-hand about the cutting-edge research in the department beyond the curriculum, and have the opportunity to contribute, develop, and help shape current research in their field. As such, this module is of great benefit to student wanting to progress to postgraduate study. Topics have previously included an evaluation of the legacy and value of the work of Andrew Lloyd Webber – a figure often dismissed by the academy, but foundational to the existence of the current musical theatre industry. You may select this module or Applied Theatre: Workshop Skills
As a follow-on from ‘Applied Theatre for Young Audiences’, this optional applied module offers you the opportunity to gain workshop and facilitation skills, so as to enable them to work with disparate community or scholarly groups, delivering things such as drama games and forum theatre. This module equips students with a strong grounding if they wish, for example, to consider drama therapy as a career. You may select this module or Musical Theatre: Special Topic.
We use the best and most current research and professional practice alongside feedback from our students to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.
Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional modules may not run every year. If a module doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative module.
My confidence has ... improved because I’ve been performing on stage more and met so many new people. I’ve constantly been encouraged to try new things that had never crossed my mind before, such as tap dancing and writing for theatre.
How you're assessed
You’ll be assessed through:
- practical performance
- dramatic writing
- video productions
- group presentations
You’ll be able to test your skills and knowledge informally before you do assessments that count towards your final mark.
You can get feedback on all practice and formal assessments so you can improve in the future.
The way you’re assessed will depend on the modules you select throughout your course. Here's an example from a previous year of how students on this course were typically assessed:
- Year 1 students: 8% by written exams, 48% by practical exams and 44% by coursework
- Year 2 students: 57% by practical exams and 43% by coursework
- Year 3 students: 37% by practical exams and 63% by coursework
Teaching methods on this course include:
- one-to-one tutorials
- work placement
As well as learning the academic side of musical theatre, there's a strong focus on the practical side of performance. You'll have many opportunities to perform or put on shows both at and outside the University.
This course was the right path for me because not only does it teach me the theoretical element of musical theatre but it also gives me the opportunity to explore the practical side.
How you'll spend your time
One of the main differences between school or college and university is how much control you have over your learning.
We're planning for most of your learning to be supported by timetabled face-to-face teaching with some elements of online provision. Please be aware, the balance between face-to-face teaching and online provision may change depending on Government restrictions. You'll also do lots of independent study with support from staff and our virtual learning environment, Moodle. Find out more about how our teaching has transformed to best support your learning.
A typical week
We recommend you spend at least 35 hours a week studying for your musical theatre degree. In your first year, you’ll be in timetabled teaching activities such as acting lessons for 4 hours per week and lectures and seminars for 4-6 hours per week. The rest of the time you’ll do independent study such as research, reading, coursework and project work, alone or in a group with others from your course. You'll probably do more independent study and have less scheduled teaching in years 2 and 3, but this depends on which modules you choose.
Most timetabled teaching takes place during the day, Monday to Friday. You may occasionally need to go to University and course events in the evenings and at weekends. There’s usually no teaching on Wednesday afternoons.
The academic year runs from September to June. There are breaks at Christmas and Easter.
Supporting your learning
The amount of timetabled teaching you'll get on your degree might be less than what you're used to at school or college, but you'll also get support via video, phone and face-to-face from teaching and support staff when you need it. These include the following people and services:
Types of support
Your personal tutor helps you make the transition to independent study and gives you academic and personal support throughout your time at university.
You'll have regular contact with your personal tutor in learning activities or scheduled meetings. You can also make an appointment with them if you need extra support.
In addition to the support you get from your personal tutor, you’ll also have access to a Faculty student support advisor. They can give you confidential, impartial advice on anything to do with your studies and personal wellbeing and refer you to specialist support services.
You'll have help from a team of faculty academic skills tutors. They can help you improve and develop your academic skills and support you in any area of your study.
They can help with:
- improving your academic writing (for example, essays, reports, dissertations)
- delivering presentations (including observing and filming presentations)
- understanding and using assignment feedback
- managing your time and workload
- revision and exam techniques
If you need support with software and equipment or you want to learn additional skills (including skills not covered on your course), our creative skills tutors provide free workshops, activities and one-on-one tutorials. Skills you can learn include life drawing, film camera operation and video production.
Computing support staff are always available to give technical support in the Faculty's computer suites during normal working hours. There's also some support available from 5pm to midnight at busy times of the year.
As well as support from faculty staff and your personal tutor, you can use the University’s Academic Skills Unit (ASK).
ASK provides one-to-one support in areas such as:
- academic writing
- note taking
- time management
- critical thinking
- presentation skills
- working in groups
- revision, memory and exam techniques
If you require extra support because of a disability or additional learning need our specialist team can help you.
They'll help you to:
- discuss and agree on reasonable adjustments
- liaise with other University services and facilities, such as the library
- access specialist study skills and strategies tutors, and assistive technology tutors, on a 1-to-1 basis or in groups
- liaise with external services
Library staff are available in person or by email, phone or online chat to help you make the most of the University’s library resources. You can also request one-to-one appointments and get support from a librarian who specialises in your subject area.
The library is open 24 hours a day, every day, in term time.
Course costs and funding
Tuition fees (2022 start)
- UK/Channel Islands and Isle of Man students – £9,250 per year (may be subject to annual increase)
- EU students – £9,250 a year (including Transition Scholarship – may be subject to annual increase)
- International students – £16,200 per year (subject to annual increase)
Funding your studies
Applying from outside the UK? Find out about funding options for international students.
Additional course costs
These course-related costs aren’t included in the tuition fees. So you’ll need to budget for them when you plan your spending.
Our accommodation section shows your accommodation options and highlights how much it costs to live in Portsmouth.
You’ll study up to 6 modules a year. You may have to read several recommended books or textbooks for each module.
You can borrow most of these from the Library. If you buy these, they may cost up to £60 each.
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.
If your final year includes a major project, there could be cost for transport or accommodation related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose.
You may need to buy items such as DVDs and MiniDV tapes to use on practical units, which cost approximately £20–£30.
You’ll also need to cover:
- the material costs for individual project work, which usually costs £50–£100
- the costs for performance work and other practice based units, which are normally in the region of £50–£100
How to apply
To start this course in 2022, apply through UCAS. You'll need:
- the UCAS course code – 2B69
- our institution code – P80
If you'd prefer to apply directly, use our online application form.
You can also sign up to an Open Day to:
- Tour our campus, facilities and halls of residence
- Speak with lecturers and chat with our students
- Get information about where to live, how to fund your studies and which clubs and societies to join
If you're new to the application process, read our guide on applying for an undergraduate course.
How to apply from outside the UK
See the 'How to apply' section above for details of how to apply. You can also get an agent to help with your application. Check your country page for details of agents in your region.
To find out what to include in your application, head to the how to apply page of our international students section.
If you don't meet the English language requirements for this course yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.
Admissions terms and conditions
When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to abide by our Student Contract (which includes the University's relevant policies, rules and regulations). You should read and consider these before you apply.
BA (Hons) Musical Theatre