By analysing performance in Hollywood musicals across three decades, it is evident that despite initial connotations, screen performance is an intuitive art. Gene Kelly’s performance in Singin’ in the Rain and Gene Wilder’s performance in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory demonstrate a presentational style of performance in two different settings; theatrical and imaginative. Johnny Depp’s performance in Sweeney Todd appears to combine presentational and representational elements as he allows the audience to see the inner motives of Todd’s character. With his fine performing skills, Depp manages to avoid the risk of being typecast. While the additional elements of costuming, visual design and camera technologies can give a director more creative control, it is the combination of these elements and the role of the performer that continue to make Hollywood musicals thrive in the mass entertainment industry.

Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly in 'Singin' in the Rain' (1952)

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