Teaching a musical

Discussion in 'Music Teachers' started by ninabway, Jan 13, 2013.

  1. ninabway

    ninabway New Member

    Jan 4, 2013
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    Jan 13, 2013

    Well, the baton has fallen to me to teach the school musical this year. The play we are doing is Mulan. I've directed one other play before, but I feel like I'm in WAY over my head right now. Has anyone directed this play? Can anyone give me any advice as to how I should break up rehearsals? I'm drowning!
  3. FarFromHome

    FarFromHome Connoisseur

    Jul 9, 2007
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    Jan 13, 2013

    I just directed a musical for the first time last semester. Mike will probably come on here with a lot of good tips-he has a lot more experience.

    I did music rehearsals first, then choreography, and blocking last. My group met twice a week for 45 minutes (for about 3 months), but I had to add in a third day a week and some longer rehearsals as it got closer. Luckily I had someone to choreograph for me, but I did everything else by myself. It was a TON of work and stress. I would definitely see if you can find anyone else to help out.

    If you received a kit, it should have a sample rehearsal schedule. I used that to help guide me.
  4. HeartDrama

    HeartDrama Connoisseur

    Dec 5, 2011
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    Jan 14, 2013

    How fun!
    I've never seen the musical, does it follow the movie pretty closely? Will you have to have all the kids at the same time for all rehearsals, or can you have calls for certain kids on different days?Are you working alone or with another teacher? I'd do a read through from beginning to end first, but FarFromHome is right, definitely start with the teaching the music. I wouldn't teach blocking last though. It just helps some people learn their lines, being able to match them with a movement. If you only have two days a week, you could focus one day on music and the other day or blocking. Once they've learned it all you'll start to put it together.

    If you don't have a kit, be sure to divide the script up into segments and indicate which scene/song you'll be working on each day. You can rehears scenes out of sequence and partially because you'll want to schedule them based on who's in them. Also, see if you can recruit an organized student to assist you with stage management. You'll be busy directing during rehearsal and won't be able to write down everything you'll need to remember (ie., changes to blocking or choreography), you can just tell that student what notes to take.

    Keep costumes simple and easy. When I did Oliver in middle school, we had to get our own costumes which were easily found at Goodwill.

    Recruit parents to do your marketing materials (posters and programs) if that hasn't already been arranged.

    You'll do great! Feel free to PM me if you need more specific help.
  5. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Fanatic

    Jul 27, 2009
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    Jan 14, 2013

    I always start by finding out when my materials are expected to ship. Then I figure out how many rehearsals I get between then and the show date. I divide rehearsals accordingly. This year, we are rehearsing every day after school until at least 5:30 starting next week until the performance in April. I can't imagine only rehearsing twice a week. I do not call everyone everyday, only the people who are in the scenes we rehearse then. I try to mix up what kind of rehearsal is when, as it keeps the kids more interested. I'm lucky in that I teach high school, so I let students do much of the choreography. I make promotional materials on Vistaprint, since it's super easy. Also, cast early. Every year, about a month after casting decisions are made, 2-3 roles need to be recast because kids find out about vacations, etc.

    What are these kits you guys mentioned? We always get the scripts, the score, maybe a guide for discussion, and a few piano/vocal books. When we did South Pacific it came with very detailed staging notes and diagrams. I've never gotten a kit with rehearsal notes.

    I'm not familiar with the show, but based on the MTI website, it's a Broadway, Jr. version, which should make it easier. It looks like you do get a director's guide, a choreography DVD, and even parent notes already done. That will make it much easier. I've never done a "Jr." version of a show, but I know with the Disney shows they make it really simple.
  6. MikeTeachesMath

    MikeTeachesMath Devotee

    Nov 5, 2011
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    Jan 14, 2013

    Here's how it works for me:

    The musical is announced two weeks in advance and an audition notice is released with audition dates, times, and character information (character name, short description, vocal range, and major songs). We ask students to do a 60-second monologue related to the show we're doing (i.e. we just did The Producers so I asked for a contemporary comedic monologue. For Titanic I asked for a contemporary dramatic or seriocomic monologue). I also ask for 16 to 32 bars of a musical theatre song. And then there's a dance call that I lead. We do basic routines and I have an assistant watch the students and make note of their abilities as we go through. It usually lasts around an hour.

    Then I cast the show and understudies.

    Rehearsals 1 - 8 we meet in the chorus room and run lines and learn the music. Students know they are responsible for learning lines and music OUTSIDE of rehearsal time so we can move quickly.

    Depending on the show, I'll either mix choreography with blocking, or do them separately. For The Producers, they were separate. Dance rehearsals are AFTER blocking rehearsals, so dancers stay for about an extra two hours every day dance rehearsals happen. For huge ensemble dance numbers (i.e. Springtime For Hitler), I'll do the dance rehearsal during blocking.

    We go through the script chronologically and piece everything together as we go.

    We met every day M-F for 3 weeks for 3 hours a day (not including dance rehearsals). Then the 4th week, we meet for 5 hours every day. Then tech week, we met until we were done with what I wanted to accomplish. We're never out before 8PM, and we were even there until midnight one day.

    For costumes, Good Will is your best friend for little things. We have a HUGE costume room with costumes from YEARS ago, so we can improv pretty well. Also consider contacting schools who have done the same show to see if you can rent their costumes.

    I have a team who do all the scene design work. I give them a general idea of what I want and they run with it. I just ask them to have everything done by tech week.

    I have a coworker who does all the lighting and sound work.

    MAKE A PLAN. Organize yourself. Plot out rehearsals in Excel and write down EXACTLY what you want to accomplish (scene numbers, songs, specific blocking, etc.). If it's not done, get it done the NEXT day, FIRST thing. Don't fall behind and DO NOT let the kids go at their own pace.

    I'll be blunt: time is going to FAST and you're going to lose your mind and feel like nothing is happening. That's okay. Just focus yourself, keep your young actors focused, and it will come together.

    Good luck!!!
  7. Babblu

    Babblu New Member

    Mar 17, 2015
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    Mar 17, 2015

    Does anyone know some good rhythm stick CDs. I have "rhythm sticks rock" which is very good but want some more.


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