If you have been successfully directing musicals for years you really have no need to read this article. But if you suddenly find yourself about to plan and direct the school musical and have little or no experience, these thoughts and ideas may help you.
As publishers of school musicals we are often sent DVDs of musicals staged by hopefuls, wanting their musicals published. Often, although the musical has potential, the production is abysmal – static placings with no action, bored and lifeless rendering of lines… If you would be bored watching the musical yourself, how do you expect audiences to react? Sorry to say, you as the director will be responsible for bringing the script and music to life, even if you have very able people to work with you
Here’s a few points to consider:
- How can I bring the musical to life, produce some magic moments and send the audience away happy, having fascinated them for a couple of hours?!
- Study the script and highlight points you want to bring out or emphasize.
- Make notes of anything that strikes you – ideas for staging a particular point, emphasis of words, inner meanings, ideas for setting.
- Are there humorous bits that need special treatment? Any gestures or words to emphasize, particular tone of voice needed, that strike you? Any effects that would add to the excitement, poignancy of the scene?
- When you have studied the script, take a look at the music and imagine how it will fit into the script and how you will lead into these songs.
- Having acquired a good sense of the musical, audition the main parts, keeping in mind the important characteristics, voice-type and suitability for each part. Fine tuning these character tracts can be worked on later.
- As you rehearse with the soloists you should firm up your ideas regarding staging and presentation. Work out how each line is best said, taking into account each child and their own input to the part. Encourage characterization at a deep level.
- Staging: As you start walking through the musical, staging becomes critical – every action should be serving the intention of the play. But static productions should be avoided at all costs! Make actions natural but larger than life, as the audience must notice every action and be able to empathize with each character. Directions should be followed wherever possible, but do not be limited by the stage directions.
- Songs: Solos and choruses need to be carefully prepared to make good sense of the words. What actions should the singers do while singing? How about the dances? Work carefully with the choreographer.
- BEAR IN MIND: at times of extreme emotions we sing/shout/squeal. Therefore singing is a natural extension of emotion. In order to sound natural, songs should be approached with a certain heightening of intensity or quickening of pace. This leads into song and maybe dance.
- Add the finishing touches that can make all the difference, sound effects (often included in the backing tracks) and the magic of appropriate lighting.
The successful musical is not just about picking an appealing musical, but about how your imagination can bring it to life! To produce a musical of depth the successful musical has many layers added with love and concern bit by bit until you have achieved a satisfying whole.