How to put on a school musical

SPONSORED: Sing Up asks The School Musicals Company for their advice on putting on a successful school musical

We’re now at the halfway point of the school year. Before exam season really kicks in, this is a good moment to plan ahead to your end of year musical.

The thought of all the multitasking required – singing, acting, costumes, sets, props, lighting, sound, and so on – can be daunting for teachers. We asked our partners The School Musicals Company for their advice on surviving this year’s musical. They summed up the best tactic in one word: organisation.

Organisation is the one thing that will keep you feeling in control no matter what, and the one thing that will make the whole process much more enjoyable.

We’ve compiled the following advice to help you focus your efforts and make the end of year production a success.

The production schedule

A good production schedule is a document, arranged chronologically, which contains all the practical elements you are going to need to consider to ensure the show is a success. It helps to work backwards from the last thing you will have to do (e.g. striking the set, returning the costumes) to the first thing you will have to do (e.g. designing an audition poster or writing to parents about the play).

Other key considerations will include a technical rehearsal, dress rehearsal, room bookings, stage construction, ticketing process, programme printing and dozens of others. And that’s before you even begin to think about the actual rehearsal process.

The rehearsal schedule

Similar in format to the production schedule, your rehearsal schedule should be the definitive guide to how you and your cast are going to get through the play. Most school musicals are already divided up into ‘acts’ and ‘scenes’ and provide you with very clear information about which characters appear in which scene (like the ones from The School Musicals Company).

Then it’s just a case of providing this information clearly to all the cast, their parents and all relevant staff. Have a mechanism in place to issue regular reminders of the schedule.

Organisation is the one thing that will keep you feeling in control no matter what, and the one thing that will make the whole process much more enjoyable

Sing, sing, sing

Great songs generally lead to great musicals. When practising, move quickly from one song to another, rather than asking children to sing the same song over and over again until it’s perfect.

Better to keep them all interested by being flexible and enthusiastic and tackling a new song, then returning to the original a little later in rehearsal. It’s important to have confident singers that everyone can hear, so to begin with encourage them to join in where they can and practise the rest later.

Try different techniques for teaching songs that pupils are struggling with. Have them internalise the beat through tapping their feet or body percussion. Or try going through a difficult phrase slowly while using gestures to help pupils visualise the phrasing.

Projection and clarity

The learning of lines will come with time (and reinforcement at home) so don’t waste rehearsals on this. Where school musicals actually suffer is in the projection and clarity of what is being said or sung. To remedy this, build vocal warm-ups, breathing exercises and scales into each rehearsal. Have a look at Sing Up’s top 10 warm-ups to get started.

Energy and enthusiasm

Audiences tend to forget, and certainly forgive, when lines are missed, when characters are late arriving on stage or when props are noticeably absent. What they tend to remember is the energy and enthusiasm of the performers, the gusto with which songs are sung and characters played. More than anything else, try to inspire this during rehearsals. You’ll see great returns on embedding even a little confidence. Check out Sing Up’s top tips for engaging pupils to get the best result.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Remember, people know how difficult it is to direct and produce a school musical. Rally the troops, get the other staff involved, don’t go it alone. The more meaningful support that you can have around you, the more likely the whole enterprise will succeed.

Plan early which tasks can and should be outsourced, who and how many people you will need back-stage or front-of-house, who will take full responsibility for the technical demands of the show etc. It’s always worth meeting with the headteacher before things proceed to outline how best the production can be served by the school community.

The same goes for generating and maintaining the interest of all the children involved.

Blog: School musicals CAN be all inclusive

Quick tips

  • Choose carefully: It all starts with this. If you choose a school musical that is too ambitious, too long and too challenging, you set the children, and yourself, up to fail. Too short, too simple, too boring, and you will have the headteacher questioning all the time and effort that went into it.
  • The master copy of the script: At the very beginning of the process, start by placing a fresh, well-spaced, single-sided copy of the script into a big folder marked clearly with your name. Have it with you at every rehearsal, adding as many notes about direction, blocking, things to work on, lines which have been removed or added, where different people enter and exit.
  • Let the scenes flow: Don’t seek perfection every time because, especially with children, this doesn’t happen. The important thing is to keep the scene going, get to the end, then evaluate together.
  • Scene transitions: Spend some rehearsal time ensuring the transition from one scene to the next is as smooth and quick as possible. This ‘dead time’ can be intrusive to the story and distracting for the audience.

Last but not least, an end-of-year school production is something that everyone should enjoy and feel proud of. Keep proceedings good-humoured and don’t lose perspective. With a little organising now, you can have a great time in the summer.

Tweet @musicalsco and @SingUpTweets to continue the conversation.

Sing Up Membership is flexible and well-loved by teachers across the world. Joining will enable you to cultivate strong communities and happy, confident individuals.

Membership includes access to all the repertoire you’ll need, and our teaching resources are designed to help you with cross-curricular classroom learning and as a foundation for musical learning across the school. Click here to find out more.

The School Musicals Company feels passionately that all children should be given engaging resources that will help them to grow and learn – and have a huge amount of fun along the way. They help teachers nurture a love of drama, singing and musical theatre that will last a lifetime. Click here to explore their primary and leavers musicals.

You might also like: The state of the arts – moving from STEM to STEAM


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