Many teachers worry about adapting musicals, either because they are concerned about copyright or because they are not sure how to go about it. This is a pity as they look at many, many musicals seeking for the perfect musical to suit their school when a little artistic licence would lead to a great production every time.
At Mad Hatter Musicals we have a perusal scheme in place so that if you live in Australia or New Zealand you are able to look at up to three musicals for three weeks before deciding. This can be a great help, but instead of searching for the perfect musical, judge each on the important basics and then consider how it might be adapted.
Let’s say right at the start that it IS against copyright to make sweeping changes so that the musical bears little resemblance to the original. Changes to the script or score need to be checked and permission obtained by the publisher. Usually this is not a problem if changes are not large.
6 basics to look for:
1. Is the subject matter right?
2. Does the script and the score have a good feel, not too light not too heavy.
3. Will I enjoy working with this for a year, and will the school community enjoy it. If the musical is appealing with a good story, everything else will be much easier.
4. Consider whether the style will suit your community – Jazz, rock, traditional?
5. It the balance of humour right for us?
6. Is it the right length?
If these seem right it is time to think how it could be fine-tuned for your school. Often musicals are written to suit a cast of thousands but this needn’t put you off if you are a small school. Likewise if you are a girls’ school and there are male parts, or the balance of parts is wrong, characters can be changed to suit. Don’t forget changes must be made throughout.
So here are some ways to adapt:
- Fine tune the length – this can be difficult to fully assess until the full run-through as one performance differs from another. Songs can be repeated, or cut out to adapt here, but any major changes must be OK-ed with the publisher.
- Musicals are often written to allow for differing numbers of performers. The chorus often takes up the slack where large numbers are concerned. And musicals may have a lot of one-line parts to allow many children to be involved. If there seem too many parts for you, have a good look at the minor parts. You may be able to omit some, any essential lines given to other characters.
- If your chosen musical has not enough parts you may be able to duplicate a type of character and have the lines shared.
- Narrator parts can be read by one child or many.
- Teachers can always be the narrator if there is no child suitable.
- Gender swapping is often done if it suits the musical and seems appropriate. So don’t despair if you have a brilliant soprano and the main part is for a male lead. Try to keep the name similar eg. Oliver could become Olivia.
- Like a musical but wondering if your young children will cope? Why not recruit a few older children for main parts? They are often delighted to be asked.
- Too many scenes, or scenes are too complex? Simplify the settings or simplify the scenery. Simple props may be enough.
- I don’t have any strong singers! Why not have a small side-choir support the singing of soloists with weak voices. In extreme cases perhaps one character could become a trio of characters who always sing together?
Hope this gives you a few ideas to be going on with. Take a hard look at musicals before you decide they are not right for your school. See how you can adapt it. If you have any worries check with the publisher before going ahead.
Visit http://madhattermusicals.com for great musical choices