Category Archives: School Productions

Producing a School Production – Top Tips

Following a recent post about choosing productions to put on in my school I began reflecting on what I’ve learnt over the years of producing, directing, choreographing, etc numerous shows, musicals, plays and concerts.

Here are my tips for putting on a successful production and, hopefully, staying sane at the same time.

  1. Get help. You need costumes, props, dance routines, lighting, sound and staging, not to mention singing and acting practice. This should not be attempted individually by anybody, let alone a full time teacher. Ask for help. I was fortunate enough to have a student teacher with a dancing background one year and this was a great help. I’ve also been lucky enough to make the most of some talented staff members who are both artistically creative and generous with their time. This may not always be the case and should not be taken for granted, but given enough time and a clear role, most people who work in schools will like to help if they can. Failing that, get your Head to ‘assign’ help.
  2. Plan ahead. Get to know the script well before casting. This will avoid giving the confident but tone deaf child a solo you hadn’t spotted. Make some kind of rehearsal schedule so you know what scenes you’ll be working on during each session and who you will need. Identify the big scenes with most of the cast members in to rehearse at Drama Club or such like, it is easier to snatch moments with key cast members to rehearse smaller scenes as the performance date approaches.
  3. Learn the songs. Obviously. But learn them as far in advance of the production as possible so the children can dance and act freely without worrying too much about the lyrics. This also means the whole ensemble will sing loudly, confidently and hopefully tunefully come the big night.
  4. Keep it simple. Well, as simple as you can. No-one watching is expecting a Tony Award winning production. Most parents just want to see their kids say a line or 3 and they are hoping the show isn’t too long! If it’s actually quite funny as well then that’s great. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to deliver something that is perfect because that is impossible. It’s really, really hard work to put on any production, it’s more important that as many children as possible feel they are part of it, have contributed and most important of all, that they have fun doing it. Speaking of which…
  5. Have fun. This is one of the precious few times in school where your children get a chance to perform. For some, it might be the only thing at school that they feel any good at. It can often be the thing they remember most about school in the years to come, so make sure they have a positive experience.

Producing a School Production – Moving to Musicline

When I joined my current school they had a growing reputation for fantastic, memorable and somewhat lavish productions. Famous shows, big, outdoor staging, expensive costumes and hired sound equipment including radio mics for leading cast members. ┬áIt all meant for fantastic and enduring performances for the children involved and the audiences alike. I was very impressed with what I saw, and was part of, in my first year we put on ‘The Lion King’ and in my second year it was ‘Footloose’. Doing shows the children had heard of meant there was a buzz about the productions long before any performances.

However, as staff changed, budgets tightened and I became responsible for the Summer Productions, I felt the burden of responsibility to produce a quality performance, just, with less lofty ambitions. Searching for a show to put on I came across www.musiclinedirect.com. A company who write shows specifically for primary schools. Although their stories are often well known, they do not have the famous named productions that we had used in the past, but that means the rights to put them on are considerably cheaper (like hundreds of pounds cheaper). Conscious that cheaper shows may mean poorer quality I was keen to sample the script and music, these are readily available on their website. The scripts are funny (actually funny to grown ups and everything) and the music is good, not ‘Mercury Prize winning good’, but ‘catchy pop song good’ and the songs are largely easy to sing and learn. This a massive bonus.

So we went for ‘Shakespeare Rocks‘ (well it was Shakespeare’s anniversary that year wasn’t it?). The script and music didn’t disappoint. With speaking roles for over 40 children it was a real ensemble piece. This meant more children had more lines and felt more involved than in previous years. While the songs weren’t previously known to the children, they certainly had a familiar sound to them and some were incredibly catchy.

The following year we went for ‘Robin and the Sherwood Hoodies’ and again the show was fantastic. This year I also invested in the dance routines. These are very simple, but it was just one less thing I had to worry about. We had different groups of children in at lunch times and could just play the clip for their dance and crack on. Simple but effective. All of the moves are well within the children’s capabilities which enables them to focus on doing the simple things well which is important in making a coherent production with a bit of quality.

With both shows we have done the humour shines through. Many jokes the children understood and enjoyed sharing with the audience and more than a few were just for the parents. If you enjoy a cheesy pun, then you’ll love a Musicline production.

One gripe is that Musicline could do something about having more female leading characters. Logistically it would help as I have many more girls than boys auditioning for parts. But more importantly I think it sends the wrong message to our children that males are the heroes of all these stories. To be fair, this is a problem in theatre on the whole, as it is in films, literature and other art forms.

Having found, enjoyed and grown to trust Musicline musicals I look forward to exploring more of their catelogue of productions and seeing what they come up with in the future.