Helpful Advice for School Musicals
There are very talented directors who can mount a show with little assistance... they're just that good! You're probably one of those. And while there's nothing wrong with that, you and your students will have a lot more fun if you can get as much help as possible. Following is advice to help you get the most out of your next production, and still have time to enjoy yourself!
- Administrative: Delegate! Don't try to be the onstage director, musical director, producer, chief bottle washer, etc. Find as many different people within your school as possible students, staff or volunteer parents to fill these roles. The people you could use include:
- Music Director
- Stage Manager
- Props & Scenery Coordinator
- Lighting & Sound Director
- Costume Coordinator
- Publicity Coordinator
- Know your venue. Do not plan a musical without knowing where you will be performing it.
- Be good to your students when they come in for their audition. Remember that many students are doing the first audition of their lives and are probably terrified. Set them at ease by being lighthearted and friendly, not austere and demanding.
- Encourage students to sing out with a full voice at the audition.
- Congratulate them after auditioning, and always find something positive to say to them about how they performed.
- Begin rehearsing chorus early in the process. There is a need to get the main characters' part of the show worked out early of course, but you will benefit from the excitement generated by rehearsing chorus early. Chorus numbers tend to be energetic and exciting, and much momentum can be lost by ignoring chorus at the beginning of the rehearsal run. Chorus members are very important. They are your "townspeople," your various unnamed characters that give vital atmosphere to a show. Tell chorus members to invent a character name and to develop a short one or two paragraph biography. This will help to eliminate that "onstage furniture" look that so many high school students have.
- All singers should sing in their character's voice. If the character speaks with a southern drawl, he/she should sing with a southern drawl.
- Chorus should sing with eyebrows raised and backs straight.
- A musical theatre voice is a big voice with distinctive character, not a choir voice. Invite a singing professional to a rehearsal to teach young singers how to safely project their voice.
- Miscellaneous onstage/backstage:
- Teach students to never touch props or scenery unless specifically instructed to do so. This applies even to props that are used by that character. Unless it is show time or rehearsal time, props should be placed and moved only by backstage crew.
- Onstage characters must be taught to be mindful and respectful of backstage crew. Backstage crew have an important job to do during runs of a show. The precise timing of scene changes requires actors to stay out of the way.
- Actors must never appear in house in costume or makeup. During the show's intermission, no actors should be meeting public, family or friends.
- Backstage during a show must be very quiet. Actors waiting in wings to make an entrance must stay well off to the side to prevent being seen until entering the stage.
- Be sure to tell students to thank any professionals you have invited to perform in your pit orchestra, or who are involved in other aspects of the show. Point out to the students how lucky they are to have people donating their time and efforts to their show.
A musical will provide lifelong memories for you and your students. And it will provide a unique opportunity to bring together various aspects of the fine arts in your school. You will also find that musicals will engage people in an artistic endeavor who might not normally involve themselves in the arts.
Enjoy the experience!