Formatting An Integrated Script & Piano-Vocal Score

09-21-22 01:26 PM By Kevin Lynch

When rehearsing for a musical, music directors receive 1 script and 1 piano-vocal score. Separate rehearsal materials like this, however, can be impossible to navigate and cumbersome when dialogue is to be said under the music between sung phrases or when a dialogue cue needs to be spoken for the music to start, stop, or continue. So more emphasis is placed on creating an integrated score in musical theatre today.

An integrated score takes both the script and the music contents and combines them into one document, so the music director doesn’t need to flip back and forth between script and score or guess what the dialogue is.

In order to integrate these documents into one, you’ll need to use sheet music notation software like Finale, Sibelius, or Dorico. Here are some conventions we suggest when formatting and presenting the script in the score yourself.

1. Placement

Place dialogue and script information above the staff and out of the way of notes, articulations, and music. Allowing the music room to breathe and avoid notation and text collisions. 


2. Character names

Use ALL CAPS and make the font style bold. This draws the eye to who is speaking and stands out among the music notation elements and lyrics. 

Character Name

3. Dialogue

Dialogue starts after a colon ":” and sometimes uses two lines if the dialogue is too long to fit on the page. Including entire blocks of a scene is unnecessary unless the scene is underscored. For long monologues, include the first sentence followed by "(dialogue cont.)” in italics and then include the last sentence of the monologue. You can use this for long scenes between sections of music, too.

4. Stage Directions

Use (parentheses) and make the font style italic. Not all stage directions are important to include. We like to include them if they inform the music and are a necessary cue to continue, stop, or start the music. For example, if a magic wand is being waved under music with no dialogue, you’ll want to include that information above or near where this occurs in the music.

Stage Directions

5. Cues

Vocal cues are very important as they inform when to start, stop, or continue the music. For specific words that inform the music, we suggest underlining that one word followed by the action of [GO] or [GO ON] in bold letters. You can also use the line tool to point to where that word is to be said or to where it’s timed to a specific measure or spot in the music. For visual and audio sound effect cues, include them with (parentheses) and make them italic like with stage directions. If the cue is tricky or happens fast, you can add eye glasses to bring the pianist/music director's attention to that specific moment. 

Cue words

6. Update the script and score
When you update the script or make changes, be sure to include all of those in the score. Writers often ignore this step, which causes a disconnect between the actors and the music director when the script/libretto doesn’t match the score the music director is playing from. 

These conventions are important for your pianist, music director, performers, choreographer, and stage manager(s). Integrating the script and score into one document makes rehearsals easier, eliminates questions, and saves time.