Theatre Score - Cues & Dialogue


Let me start by saying I have just made the transition from Sib to Dorico for my first large-scale theatre project and have found it to be fantastic - particularly at the workshop stage where music changes occur by the hour. After initially setting up my layouts I feel confident that I can hit print without having to re-check all the engraving again & have a clear, precise score. It speeds the process up 100%!

My only struggle at the moment is, being theatre, almost all my scores require cues/dialogue included for timing & cues - but only visible in specific parts. At the moment I’m putting these in as System Text (and have a paragraph style set up for them) - nice and quick. This works fine for now, whilst I am working with just vocals and piano in workshops, as it always gets placed at the top of the system and both these parts find this information useful.

However, once I get into orchestration and adding new instruments I am stuck with System text relevant only to the MD/Singer/Rehearsal Piano being visible on all parts. I could place this individually on the MD/Piano & Vocal parts but then it would show up twice in a Piano/Vocal score and wouldn’t snap to the top of the full score when instruments were added above vocals.

I’m aware of the option to hide text by changing the opacity, but in this scenario it’s likely for on-stage cues to be changed, added & removed regularly (as things progress in rehearsals) and they will be numerous throughout the score so it would be far too time-consuming to hide every cue in every part.

I guess what would be helpful is a type of System text with which you could select the parts it appears on…

Or does anyone have a solution I have overlooked?

Does this information appear at the start of each flow, or throughout flows?

I’ve done this with text only flows, so you can select which layouts it appears in.

Maybe create a player just for dialog cues, enter them as staff text, then use cues to show them to whatever parts need to see them? There’s an option to show text within cues either globally or cue-by-cue, if I’m remembering right.

I have the same issues as @mikeymuso.
In an - for me - ideal world there would be an option in Layout Options to select wich of the SystemTexts (maybe only the custom ones?) should be shown in each layout. We could have then a special paragraph style “Cues” to place in the beginning, in vamps, etc.
One simple - but not yet possible - workaround would be to be able to select and hide all Text items of a certain type in Engrave Mode.

@pianoleo Those cues also appear in the middle of a flow. For getting out of Vamps for example. But also as guiding text over underscore music.

@steveparker This would be before the Flow-Header then and consume too much space

Here’s an example of a typical theater vocal score with cue texts:

The drummer then doesn’t care about the first 3 cues, maybe the last one only.

Is this on the development schedule?

@tubagooba I couldn’t easily get this to work - it also wouldn’t solve the need for the text to snap to the top of the system whichever staves are in the Piano/Vocal score. For instance, there may be some underscoring mid-flow which has no vocals so I would hide these staves or maybe not all the vocal staves are in use so I would hide unnecessary ones.

In these instances it would require me to move the ‘cue’ manually to whichever is the uppermost stave.

Ones like this I’ve done with shift-X attached to whichever I need in a horrible looking score, then used a duplicate file at the end to make the score look nice. There’s no doubt a better way…

…No doubt - it’s just that with the speed and frequency of changes in the rehearsal period I literally need to write/edit something and hit print so we can have new scores ready within seconds to hand out & rehearse.

Producers might get upset about sitting around while I have to work away making my score look nice before we can move on.

Was there legs in the lyrics attached to cue idea? IME there’s always a trade-off between nicely laid out and speed of changes. For speed, I’d do these in shift-alt-X text and parts that don’t need can ignore it. I always have a ‘pencil’ cut-off point after which changes get made on paper (unless it really is better to redo).

I think we’re slightly drifting off topic here.

I think conclusively we agree there’s not a useful solution to this at the moment and returning to my OP, having a System Text that can be ‘switched off’ in certain parts would solve this problem and hopefully still be a useful tool in other situations (i.e. not so niche it will never be introduced)

I would use that all the time. Have you tried tubagooba’s idea to have a player for dialog and use cues? That would only appear where you want and would be easily updatable.

I did have a quick try - but couldn’t get text to show up without any notation. I didn’t exhaust this so that might be down to something I was doing wrong.

UPDATE: Managed to create a cue which shows the text from a ‘cues’ instrument however can’t get rid of the bars rest which shows up as well.I guess I’d have to make that 0% opacity, etc. etc. etc - you see where this is going again…

I have been experimenting with video markers for this lately. Of course, the only way to move them is by changing their time-code, but they don’t split multirests and can be excluded from any layout. They also must be preferably short as there is no word-wrap. So… still not perfect, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

That’s an interesting approach - I’ll experiment with that later on. Thanks

I’d really love to see an update on this. Even if it’s only the possibility to hide a system text manually (like we can hide a Chord Symbol - which is the only thing we can hide til now if I’m not wrong).

Yes, I’d concur about all of this. Dialogue and dialogue cues for Musical Theater do not quite have a great solution in Dorico yet.

In Finale this can be done with “Score Lists” and customized expression categories if you know how to set that up correctly. Although even doing it that way this is about a 95% solution as there are always oddities about doing it this way.

I was discussing this on a Facebook thread earlier today and thought I came up with something of an idea. I’ll just copy and paste that below…

The challenge with dialogue is that it kind of HAS to be attached to specific bars of music so text frames may not be the best way to do dialogue for that reason. When music gets cut, added, changed etc. that dialogue needs to stay with the music not its place on the page. The other thing that would be handy for dialogue is that it generally has an end point too. Sometimes you have to fit a bunch of dialogue over a four bar vamp, other times you have to fit several words in a single bar. Or a bunch of dialogue in a G.P. Bar or something. Often times when doing piano/vocal scores with lots of dialogue, formatting bars to fit on certain systems or making some bars wider than normal has to happen just to accommodate dialogue.

I have no idea if there is a catch-all solution to this for Dorico, but I might imagine some sort of new tool like a “Dialogue Frame” where it could attach to certain bars with both beginning and end points. As you type in (or paste) your dialogue it would format to the width of that dialogue frame. And of course as music changed those beginning and end points would lock that dialogue in its correct place (until you need to change it). Of course system breaks would be an interesting problem to solve for something like this. Perhaps the option to allow a dialogue frame to flow across systems OR force the music under a dialogue frame to exist on one system could be possible.
And of course these dialogue frames might have to be system texts of sorts where you have the ability to place them in certain scores and parts like Full Score and P/V and P/C. I have occasionally put dialogue in drum parts too so some flexibility in that regard would be helpful too.

This idea of a dialogue frame with fixed start/end points that the music layout takes account of would be useful for quite a few things including theatre dialogue.

This does not solve the OP question about hiding or showing cues or dialogs for specific parts but at least it can help to create dialogs.

  1. it is possible to add lyrics with or without any note
  2. lyrics are bounded to a rhythmic position within a bar, it means that you can move each lyric at any place you need without to be bounded to a note
  3. you can write multi-syllabic lyrics
  4. using lyric line numbers you can use several lines for a multi syllabic text
  5. Lyrics can easily be made italic with the properties menu

I have to engrave musical theatre scores therefore I have to write a lot of dialogs within the songs.
Of course I would appreciate some dedicated functions for dialogs but I must say that at the moment I find it quite easy to add dialogs in a score with these 5 functions only.

A question for theater arrangers: do you put your vocal lines at the top of the score of follow the concert practice of putting vocalists above the string section? If at the top of the score, writing cues/dialog there should be a helpful start, although a more customized solution would certainly be welcome.