‘The Production’ or the ‘The Show’ is a feature of most music teachers’ lives.
I love musicals! I love being involved at school and enjoy the special relationships that develop between adults and children, adults with other adults and children with other children.
I also regularly visit the West End when in the UK, regional theatre and local theatre in the UK and Thailand. Flying visits to Hong Kong and Singapore have been known to feature musicals too…
At my school we put on a Y5-6 musical production every other year and we are currently preparing for the performances on 20-21 November of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr. This show is an extra-curricular activity and the participants are there by choice.
Different schools approach putting on a musical differently and may have rehearsals as part of the curriculum or after school, all children involved or just some, a teacher made musical or a published musical, fully staged or not etc etc. One important thing is to always work with with a team. Musicals are usually not the kind of thing one person can reasonably lead on their own. There are so many aspects to them such as costumes, choreography, acting, props, tech,
There are many choices for musicals and several companies that offer ‘packs’. These packs usually comprise script, libretto, piano score, backing tracks, sometimes model vocal tracks, sometimes choreography ideas and sometimes promotional materials/logos.
My friend, Dan Guerrard, has even composed a wonderful musical “The Rainbow Fish” which is available free for download here .
For the last 10 years, my school has chosen musicals from the MTI Junior range for our 9-11 year olds. We have done Beauty and the Beast Jr., Aladdin Jr. (twice!), Mulan Jr., Shrek Jr., Seussical Jr., and Alice in Wonderland Jr. The materials (especially the backing tracks) are incredibly professional but it can be pricey.
Here are my top ways for music teachers to make a musical successful and some pitfalls for them to avoid.
- Analyse the libretto for solos, duets, one-line parts and chorus parts. Work out a list of who is doing what and where. This makes it easier for covering all the parts through the rehearsals. (It would be great if musical packs included this analysis- right?)
- Before a song is blocked or choreographed it needs to be learned to be sung. So learn the chorus songs early in the rehearsal process.
- Drip feed the solo songs and solo lines to main cast characters. They sometimes have a huge amount to learn.
- Establish who the main chorus groups are within the script and which numbers they will perform separately and which ones together. This should be done with the director before rehearsals start.
- Work closely with the choreographer and establish which parts of a song can have more movement and which need less in order to be able to sing effectively and enhance the flow of the song.
- If possible, have the children listen to (good) vocal recordings in order to learn the songs more deeply. Poor quality recordings will not help.
- Consider using some really good singers judiciously miked up with minimized choreography. They can really support your chorus singing.
- Same with dancers – consider featuring your best dancers with extra choreography. This can work really well in big numbers where at selected parts of the song, featured singers can break out for a section or two.
- Allow plenty of time in the later stages for adjusting to mics – it always takes longer than you think – especially with Primary students.
Best wishes with your musical journey – what are your top tips to add to this?