How To Prepare For A Show-Stopping Primary School Musical
When it comes to staging musicals for children, there really are hundreds, no, thousands, of questions to answer: how long do we need for rehearsals, what music shall we use for auditions, who’s taken the CD player, which afternoons will clash with football/netball/choir/jujitsu? The poor director could be forgiven for wanting to run screaming for the hills, yet inevitably they put on a brave face, stick their shoulders back, grab yet another cup of coffee and dive right on in. And, more often than not, their efforts are rewarded in wonderful primary school musicals which leave cast and audience beaming.
There are, of course, numerous tried and tested tricks to increase the likelihood of your musical being an absolute show-stopper.
Working From Home
When children know what they are meant to be saying, rehearsals become a million times easier; dialogue flows, blocking is simpler, scenes are faster and the sense of having made progress makes it all seem worthwhile. The same goes for the learning of songs; the earlier that children can learn the tunes and their lyrics, the more chance that primary school musicals have of gaining a professional finish.
But how do you encourage children to learn lines before things have even got going? Well, for starters you need to be super-organised and send home a named script, ideally with lines already highlighted, along with a cover-letter to parents seeking their support and asking that all lines have been learned by a set date.
Then there’s the CD! Generally speaking, rehearsal CDs are available for purchase (at The School Musicals Company, it’s £20 for a pack of 5), or you could choose the digital download option (an additional £9.95) and burn copies yourself. Either way, if children have the songs in advance – along with copies of the lyrics – then they stand every chance of picking up the tunes a whole lot quicker. They might even come up with ideas to help with the staging!
Get It Together
Not a reference to the state of mind of the director (whose gin consumption may have trebled since the beginning of rehearsals), but an approach which sees children divided into numbered – or named – groups early in the rehearsal process. This is particularly useful when you need to get lots of children on/off stage quickly for ensemble numbers or crowd scenes, especially if you also create numbered – or named – entrance/exit points. It will also give you the option of rehearsing songs by group, adding in a competitive edge to proceedings.
See our blog Stress-free Suggestions For Staging Successful School Musicals for further guidance on specific staging ideas.
Avoiding The Void
There are some musicals for children which place a single child at the centre of the action, leaving much of the cast sat in the Green Room or a nearby classroom for most of the show. Thankfully these are few and far between (it is certainly not the case with musicals by The School Musicals Company), with most adopting a far more inclusive approach and ensuring that all children get plenty of stage time. To this end, why not keep children on or around the stage, even if they are seemingly not crucial to the scene being performed. Upstage tableaux, freezes, mimes and improvisation add visual interest and keep the whole cast invested through the production.
Read our blog on School Musicals Can Be More Inclusive for more top tips.
Take A Deep Breath
More than anything else, primary school musicals often fall a touch short for one simple reason. Nerves. When children are nervous, they tend to speak quickly, quietly or with poor enunciation. Vocal warm ups, breathing exercises, visualisation techniques and plenty of on-stage practice can make a huge difference in this key area. Learning to control and channel the inevitable nerves is vital if you want to ensure your production is a real show-stopping musical. So give it plenty of time and consideration during rehearsals.
Our blog Drama Workshop Ideas For Primary School Kids provides many suggestions for how to make creative and effective use of rehearsal time.
Last But By No Means Least …
MAKE THE WHOLE THING FUN! From the first auditions to the final bow, if it isn’t fun – for you or for the pupils – then what was the point in the first place! And if, for whatever reason, it doesn’t end up being fun … well, there’s always more gin.