Deirdre Moore | April 2016

Coordinating the Singing, Dancing and Acting in a Musical Production

I promised I would keep you informed on our process of producing our very first musical production, Disney’s The Jungle Book Kids, at our elementary school so you can learn from our process.  Here is the fourth installment in that series:

It is nearing the middle of April and we are gearing up for our final trimester at our year round calendar school.  The directors of the musical production (the head director, the musical director and the choreographer) and I (acting as producer) sat down over this vacation to start getting down to the nitty gritty.

Before we created our initial rehearsal schedule back in February, the directors and I sat down and actually did a read/sing through of the show just to acquaint ourselves more deeply with the show.  Then we created the rehearsal schedule just for the month of March.  Because we are not all at the school on the same days, the initial rehearsals were split into music, dance and acting rehearsals.  During that first month of rehearsals the cast members were busy learning the songs, learning the big dance numbers and getting into character and practicing speaking their lines.

Prior to our latest meeting, the director and the choreographer sat down and read through the show to determine what parts of the show just needed blocking and/or pedestrian movements and which parts needed specific dance choreography.  In retrospect, that meeting should have included all three directors and it too should have happened before the first month of rehearsals were conducted rather than during that month.

Due to the fact that we have 3 different teachers taking on 3 different roles and the fact that they cannot all be there for all the rehearsals it would have been much smoother and more efficient if they had all met a few more times to iron out some details to be sure they were on the same page.  This is definitely something I would change if I had it to do again.

Also prior to this latest meeting, I sat down with the head director and mapped out the show into “scenes” since this musical production is not organized that way.  It proved to be very helpful in creating the subsequent rehearsal schedules.  During our latest meeting, we discussed our intentions and objectives for doing this project with the students (see last week’s article!) and then let that be our guide for the rest of the meeting.

Then we took that scene map and went through the scenes to be sure we agreed what constituted a scene, who would be on stage, who would be singing what (the musical production director has discovered she needed to add more voices to certain parts for volume), where characters would be exiting, etc.  Again, it would have been wise for us to have done this before beginning the process with the kids and then meeting again to revisit those decisions but it was very helpful for setting up the final rehearsal schedule.  This meeting alone took 5 hours so I’m not sure how we could have done all of this prior to the start of rehearsals but that would have been the most efficient and effective way to approach the project.

Finally, we created the rehearsal schedule from now until the show.  With all the directors on the same page, we were able to decide how many more discrete music, dance and acting rehearsals they each needed and then when they could start running scene rehearsals that integrated the singing, dancing and acting and ultimately start doing run-though rehearsals of the show.

There is no substitute for time and there is no substitute for preparation.  Anyone involved with producing the show needs to know the script well and all adults need to be on the same page.  Starting off dissecting the show alone and then together and then following that up with regular check-ins is the best way I can see to avoid wasting time and to maximize the rehearsal time you do have with the students.  As we head into the home stretch I will keep you posted on our progress!

About the Author

Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.