If the onset of musical season brings mixed feelings of excitement and nerves, you’re no the only one! It’s time to embark on a thrilling journey of selecting, directing, and showcasing your musical production, and sometimes that can feel overwhelming. But it’s important to remember that while musicals present unique challenges, they also offer fresh opportunities to flex those creative muscles. To help you succeed, On The Stage has got your back with some wise words of advice to help you curate a successful and amazing performance.

Start off on the right foot.

 As the leader of your production, you need to have a clear vision for how you want your musical to look, sound, and play out. Be organized and prepared for push-back on your creative choices, from both students and others on your leadership team. Perhaps a few people aren’t happy with the musical choice or the lead picks – c’est la vie. Stick to your guns, but be open to collaboration. (More on that later.)

A great way to start off strong is to establish ground rules and backstage etiquette from rehearsal one. Making and sticking to strong habits right out of the gate means a steady rehearsal schedule that sets you up for success.

 Value your chorus.

 Your chorus is the backbone of your musical production, no doubt about it. Ensure you’re making those members of your team feel valued from day one, from lead roles to ensemble members. Begin rehearsing the chorus early in the process – they are often the people that need to learn the most song and dance numbers. 

Without a unified, sharp, and on-pitch chorus, your musical will suffer greatly. Don’t discount the importance of the big numbers just because you have stellar leads to draw attention.

  • Pro tip: Tell your chorus members to invent character names and backstories. By letting them create personas, motivation will be easier to find and manifest.

Use song and dance to enhance the story, not as window dressing.

 Your musical and dance numbers, along with being the flash and pizzazz that keep audiences engaged, should also be driving your narrative. See the music and choreography as extensions of your narrative action.

When a character transitions from speaking to singing, remember that their voice is an engine of the ongoing story, and discuss those motivations accordingly.

Ensure your cast – both leads and chorus – understand the full story and the impact the music has on it. Have the cast explore the lyrics, glean meaning from them, and fully embrace the narrative. This will lead to a more dynamic performance, guaranteed.  

Communicate effectively with your cast and crew.

Communicating effectively is a key aspect of successful musical directing, and it involves two main components: communication within your cast and crew, and communication with your audience through marketing.

This open line is essential to ensuring that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal. This means being clear and direct in your instructions and feedback, and encouraging your team to communicate openly and honestly with you. By fostering a culture of open communication, you can help to build trust and collaboration within your team, which can lead to a more cohesive and successful production.

Effective communication within your team also means being proactive in addressing any issues or concerns that arise. This could involve having regular check-ins with individual team members, or scheduling team meetings to discuss progress and challenges. By being proactive in addressing issues and concerns, you can help to maximize the benefits of rehearsal time and keep everyone on track.

Don’t be afraid to collaborate.

 Directing a musical requires a lot of work and seemingly endless creative decisions; don’t be afraid to ask for help. Work side-by-side with your other staffers, including choreographers and musical directors, and build out the entire musical together. Understand the importance of the combination of the written word, music, and dance.

Additionally, don’t be afraid to delegate. You cannot do every single task under the sun and still direct a killer musical. Ensure you’re equipping your support staff with the tools they need to succeed – whether that’s the stage manager, costume coordinator or light and sound technicians. Bottom line: Collaborating leads to cohesion. Cohesion leads to a great show.

Dedicate entire rehearsals to song or dance.

 Prepare for some trepidation when it comes to singing and dancing, especially if your cast is relatively green. Actors will often be nervous to just “go for it” – so be sure to dedicate plenty of time to letting your cast get comfortable singing and moving their bodies – and doing both at the same time. 

Vocal warmups, improv games, impromptu dance parties, and karaoke nights are just a few ways to help your actors loosen up – and lose some of that self-consciousness.

Anticipate needing a bigger budget.

 More than likely, your musical will require more money than your plays have in the past. A few items to consider in your expanded budget include:

  • Acquiring the rights to produce the musical: You’ll need to nab scripts, scores, and rehearsal tracks.
  • Amping up your sound system: You’ll likely need an exceptional sound system, or at least some technology upgrades, to ensure your cast can be heard.
  • Adding on staff: Unlike a play, the dynamics of a musical require extra help in the form of choreographers, band members and musical directors.
  • Adding on cast: Unless you’re going with a minimalist musical, you’ll likely need a bigger cast to round out your show. A bigger cast means more costumes, more props, more snacks, and more general wear-and-tear to your set. 

Pssst: On The Stage can help you fundraise!

Understand that tech and dress rehearsals will be messy.

 Musicals are incredibly physical – and the first time you put together all the moving parts, it will inevitably get a little choppy. Sure, singing a chorus part is a piece of cake, and so is the choreography, right? But putting them together will likely cause some stress. You’ll need to focus on breath work, stamina, and emoting whilst singing and dancing. 

Remember to keep morale high and prepare your cast to run into some hurdles. Reassure them that they’ll get to a performance ready stage – all they need is some hard work and a positive attitude! 

We know it’s cheesy… but seriously, have fun!

We hope that this advice on musical directing has been helpful in preparing you for the upcoming season. Remember, the key to success is to stay organized, communicate effectively with your team, and have fun! Directing a musical can be hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun. Encourage your team to enjoy the process and to have fun along the way. Celebrate the small victories and take pride in your accomplishments. When everyone is having fun, it shows in the final product!

If you’re looking for more support this season, On The Stage’s cohesive, all-in-one platform makes ticketing, fundraising, marketing, reporting, and merchandise a breeze. If you’re looking to be backed by industry experts and performing arts professionals, book a personalized demo with our team today!

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