Producing a Musical

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There are many elements that go into producing a musical. Following is an outline of what you should need to do. Some shows will require more, some less.

Before Casting

Pre Planning
Before you even think about what musical to produce you will need to answer these question:

 

  • Venue 
  1. Does your school have a theatre or hall with a stage?
  2. If not is there one in a nearby school that could be hired?
  3. Is the school in a position to look at semi professional venues?
  4. What is the capacity of the venue?
  5. How many cast will fit on the stage?
  6. How many musicians will fit in the pit?
  7. Does the venue have wing space? (space on the side of the stage to store sets not in use)
  • Dates
  1. What dates are available in the venue?
  2. What dates will work with the rest of your school calendar?
  3. How will rehearsals and the final rehearsal schedule be affected by other school events?
  • Budget
  1. How much is your school prepared to outlay for the production?
  2. Can you use a combination of music and drama budgets to fund the show?
  3. Do you have other ways to add to your budget?
  • Cast 
  1. Do you have Girls or Boys or Both in the school population?
  2. Can you bring in students from another school?
  3. Do you have a large contingent of students wanting to be involved?
  4. Do you plan on just casting from year 10 & 11 students or are you open to all in High School
  5. Do you want to include some students from your feeder Primary School? (Only for shows needing children such as "Annie" and "Oliver")
  • Production Team & Personnel
  1. Do you have the time personally to produce and fill one of the major roles of production team?
  2. Is there a staff member with enough experience to successfully Choreograph?
  3. Do any of the music staff have the time or passion to Musical Direct?
  4. Do any of the drama or english staff have the time or experience to Direct?
  5. Do you need to fill any gaps with the team from Proscenium Music?
  6. Are the industrial arts staff willing to help build sets?
  7. Are the art staff willing to help with painting sets?
  8. Is there a staff member who can look after costumes?
  9. Are there people in the school community skilled enough to help with make up?
  10. Is there someone who looks after technical equipment (Sound & Lights)?
  11. Can a staff member come on as Stage Manager and find a team of students to be the Crew?
  12. Is there a staff member competent enough to produce posters and programs?
  13. Is the office able to cope with ticketing?
  14. Is there a staff member who can organise students to run Front of House?
  15. Is there a staff member or extraordinary student capable of being Rehearsal Pianist?
  16. Is the music instrumental program strong enough to provide students to play in the Orchestra? (remember that playing in the theatre is an entirely different skill than concert band)
  17. Do you need Proscenium Music to fill any of the gaps?

 

Planning 

Once all of the above questions have been answered you will be able to start looking at which show you would like to produce.

  • Choose a Show
  1. Develop a list of shows that work for your circumstances from the above research
  2. Have a meeting with the rest of the core production team (Director, Musical Director, Choreographer)
  3. Be prepared to negotiate shows and open to new ideas
  4. Select the musical you want to present and a backup or 2 in case there is an issue securing the rights.
  • Get The Rights

When you produce a musical the rights and rehearsal material MUST be secured and hired from the appropriate agent. Some of these are:

 

  1. Hal Leonards
  2. Origin Theatrical
  3. Tams Witmark
  4. Dominie Drama
  5. David Spicer Productions
Contact the appropriate agent and secure the rights with deposits and all paperwork required by each. As a general rule the agreement will include 3 months of rehearsal material rental and 1 month for the orchestral parts. This uses the closing performance as the end of the time. If you are using student musicians in the orchestra you will need to get the orchestral material for as long as the rest of the materials. 

 

  • Confirm details
  1. Make sure the venue is booked for both performance dates and final rehearsals
  2. Make sure the correct performance dates are in your school calendar
  3. Contact brother or sister schools to check their willingness to let their students participate
  4. Confirm what you need Proscenium Music to help with
  5. Book & Confirm any technical equipment and techies that you will need
  6. Confirm any students you want in your orchestra or any professional musicians that you need. Proscenium Music can provide as many musicians as you need
  • Publicise Auditions
  1. Develop a poster to advertise auditions
  2. Announce audition date at assemblies
  3. Send posters to other schools you hope to be involved
  4. Think about running an audition workshop. Proscenium Music can help with this.

 


Auditions

The way in which auditions run is very different in each school. This is the most time efficient way to do it:

 

  • It is a good idea to have each student fill in a form with
  1. Name
  2. Class/Year
  3. School/Name of Head Music/Drama teacher - if the student is from another school
  4. Parent & Student Contact Details - Phone & Email
  5. Any Prior Stage Experience
  6. Singing Lesson? (include teacher name)
  7. Dance Lessons? (Include studio name)
  8. Acting Lessons? (Include name of drama school)
  9. Allow students to indicate if they want a part or ensemble
  • A head shot of each student auditioning would be good to attach to their form, as long as this doesn't cross any child protection boundaries, as all of the students auditioning will not be known by everyone in the production team. 
  • Musical Director teaches a song and listen to small groups of students singing together and walks along the line to hear each individual. Make sure to do individual range checks, going up and down a scale, so you know which part they should be singing in. This is also a good way to see who can find pitch quickly.
  • Choreographer teaches a short dance routine to each group and marks down where each individuals dance level is.
  • Director gives each group a short section of dialogue from the musical to see how well they can act and to find who would be suitable for each character.
  • Quite often there will be a handful of students who desperately want to audition for a particular part. It is a good idea to offer solo auditions that should have the full production team involved to witness all 3 elements. At this they should be prepared to sing a song from the music theatre genre (It is hard to see how someone sings if they are singing along to a top 40 song) with accompanist (preferably a teacher who can sight read really well). 
  • Casting

Make sure that the full production team have time after auditions to make the final decisions. Be aware this can take many hours of deliberation.

 

  1. Remember the size of the venue. As much as you would like to cast everyone some times this is just not possible.
  2. Remember that there are other roles for those students who don't have the necessary skills to perform on stage. They can be used in the technical crew, stage crew, make up or anywhere else around the show. (see production team & personnel)
  3. Start at the most important characters in the musical. Ask yourselves these questions:
  • Does this part have to sing solo or in harmony with another character?
  • What is the actual vocal range of the character?
  • Are there any important notes (usually at the top of the vocal range)?
  • Does the student fulfil the physical characteristics required for the part?
  • Do too many of your potential leads look vaguely the same from a distance?
  • Will the group of leads play well together?
  • Is there a requirement for the character to be a strong dancer?
  • Does the combination of students look right together?
  • Do the students in question have other commitments, like sport, that could clash with rehearsals

Then gradually work down the character list filling each by asking the above questions. Remember that sometimes one student could potentially play a few parts so it may be a matter of negotiation to find the right combination. remember that some roles will need a dancer, let the choreographer have a larger say over this piece of casting than a part that spends the show in a wheelchair. The same goes for the Musical director and singing roles against non-singing roles.

 

  •  Finalise the Cast 

 

  1. Post a cast list on the notice board
  2. Send cast list to the head music/drama teacher at any other schools to be posted on their noticeboard
  3. Email both students and parents of successful applicants to let them know when and where all rehearsals and performances will be
  4. Email the unsuccessful students something encouraging and offer them the opportunity to help out in other areas.

 

 

Rehearsals to Post Show Blues

  • Before Rehearsals Start
  1. Make sure you have enough copies of rehearsal material for everyone (handing out individual copies of music is very time consuming. It is quicker to have it all done and bound in one rehearsal book)
  2. Write up a Rehearsal Schedule
  3. Remember to schedule your staff as well as the students (it won't work to have the Musical Director teaching a principle song at the same time as the chorus are learning a song and the orchestra students rehearsing at the same time)
  4. It is a good idea to have a rehearsal pianist even if your Musical Director is able to play the score. Teaching the music takes far more concentration than other accompaniment work. Proscenium Music can provide a pianist if there is not one in your school.
  • Run rehearsals  
  1. Be organised.
  2. Remind students that they are there because they want to be, not because they have to be.
  3. Remember to have breaks.
  4. Start with a big chorus number that will sound awesome and excite the students and production team.
  5. Try to work through the show as close to in order as possible.
  6. Run the entire 1st act as soon as each of the sections has been taught and blocked.
  7. Do the same with the 2nd act.
  8. Then the whole show.
  9. Remember to revise as often as possible.
  10. Don't just teach the music, movements and lines.
  11. Theatre is about a characters journey through the show. This should be present in all aspects of a musical.
  12. Don't be scared to ask for outside help. Proscenium Music can send in someone to help casts and production teams find those journeys.
  13. Remember most of all to HAVE FUN!
  • Run The Final Rehearsals
  1. Technical Crews and stage will need time to bump in. Usually a weekend.
  2. Final orchestra rehearsal... Or 1st orchestra rehearsal if only using professional musicians provided by Proscenium Music.
  3. Sitzprobe. This is an orchestral rehearsal where the cast sing with them for the 1st time.
  4. Technical Run. This is a start/stop rehearsal that can feel tedious, but necessary, to make sure all of the lights are hitting the right spots, sound know their cues and stage crew are able to make the set changes quickly & cleanly. The orchestra are not necessary for this rehearsal, though it would be worth giving students in the orchestra more time to run their parts.
  5. Dress Rehearsal. This is a rehearsal with all of the elements together and trying not to have to stop unless there is a major catastrophe.
  6. Final Dress Rehearsal. By this stage everything should be running smoothly and it is a last chance to run the show without any stops before you have an audience.
  • Performances
  1. From here till the end the Stage Manager is in charge.
  2. Make sure someone is in charge of the house lights and is in contact with the stage manager for the beginning and end of each act.
  3. All of the hard work is done so sit back and encourage the students to perform their best.
  4. Be aware that traditional drama relaxation exercises can have the potential to rob a cast of the nervous energy that can mean the difference between a high energy performance and a slightly dull sing along.
  • Closing
  1. Make sure you have people to bump out be it helpful parents & teachers, an exhausted cast or next weeks detention students.
  2. Finalise the ticket sales
  3. Finalise report with the rights licensing company
  4. Erase all markings in the original scores and scripts (year 7 are usually good for this, or get the cast to erase before returning the material)
  5. Return all hired materials and equipment.
  6. Send a congratulatory letter to the cast and enabling staff from other schools that helped.
  7. Take a breath then start planning for next year.