A suggested ten-week rehearsal schedule for school musicals
This suggested plan is based on a ten week lead-in time, including:
- Three after school rehearsals of at least two hours
- Three weekly lunchtime rehearsals (weekly)
- One Sunday rehearsal.
Prior to rehearsals commencing
Have a meeting with those involved in the production a few weeks prior to the start of rehearsals. If it is at all possible, find yourself a:
- musical director
- rehearsal pianist
- set designer (who will oversee the set-making)
- stage manager
- costume designer (who will undertake to supervise costume making)
- lighting technician
- front of house person who will accept the responsibility of advertising, programs, seating arrangements and ticket sales
It is important that at this initial meeting you appear to know what you are doing, to inspire confidence in the rest! You should have prepared some ideas for costume and set-design and have ready the scripts and music. It is very important that you have drawn up a tentative rehearsal schedule as now is the time to work out the time and commitment that everyone present is prepared to give. Adjust the schedule accordingly, giving everyone a deadline for their contribution. This timetable should now be strictly adhered to. You are now a team!
1 week before rehearsals start: auditions
Do not take longer than a week over auditions; probably lunchtimes or after school. You do not need to read the whole play – tell them the basic story-line and select relevant pieces. Whilst you are auditioning for speaking parts, it will save time if, at the same time, the musical director takes the people who have already read and auditions them for their singing voices. Then you can compare final notes with him/her before casting. Do not be tempted to use a wonderful singer if he/she is too wooden to act, whereas an actor can quite often “sell” a song, even if he/she is not a great singer. When you offer roles, make sure that the student can make the rehearsal schedule. Do not think that because a student seems so right for a part that the student does not need as much rehearsal!
Week 1 & 2: the music
Familiarise the students with the music. Teach all the numbers so that the students know who is in each one. They do not have to know them by this stage. Teaching the music early will bond the cast together, particularly if you start with a rousing chorus number, as this will give a sense of excitement!
Week 3: blocking
Spend a week blocking each act, so that everyone knows exactly what part they are in and when they are needed. The chorus walk on and know where their songs are placed. If they know their songs, let them sing them so that they don’t feel like appendages! (They are the ones that get bored; keep the pot boiling for them.) Let them know that a musical stands or falls on the chorus.
Rehearsal pianist is needed for this stage.
Weeks 4 & 5: the hard yakka…
These are the weeks representing the hard work. Go over and over the play, always, where possible, working sequentially. Continually encourage the line-learning and the mastering of cues. Make sure that the musical director has plenty of access to those needed for the musical numbers. (Weekend rehearsals if possible.)
Choreographer should be working on routines at this time.
Week 6 & 7: polish & finesse Act One
Rehearse, tighten and polish Act One. Use a mock set so that the actors are familiar with furniture and placing. Use mock props if required and if microphones are to be used, bring in your technical staff to set them up and start work on levels and the students should include microphone techniques and procedure in their rehearsals.
All books down!
Week 8 & 9: polish & finesse Act Two
Rehearse, tighten and polish Act Two.
All books down. Final fitting for costumes and alterations completed. Set should be ready. Set up lights.
Week 10: production week!
- Have set ready, backstage crew ready.
- Lighting crew make minor adjustments to lighting plot.
- Rehearse solidly this day. If something is not right, you still have a day or two up your sleeve.
- EVERYONE is required – cast, crew and musicians.
- Full lights and sound
- Full dress rehearsal.
- Music, lights, sound – the whole enchilada
- Take a Yoga Class
- Have a massage
- Forget the show for today as there’s really not much you can do at this stage except suffer needlessly!
It is advisable not to have your dress rehearsal the night before performance. If you have it two nights before, the students will not be so tired for performance and you still have a day left to put right any emergencies. Now – break a leg/ sink-a-ship/ chookas!
Some handy hints…
- Get your rehearsal schedule out early and stick to it.
- Make sure that every student is given a rehearsal schedule right at the start. Get them to bring in a signed note from a parent saying that they know about the rehearsals and will make sure that the student attends.
- Do not have people sitting around at rehearsals with nothing to do or they may become disruptive (particularly a large chorus). Only call for the people that you’re going to use. If it includes the chorus, bring them in later than the others. Examples, Principals 6-8, Chorus 7-8.
- Be tough about people missing rehearsals. Poorly attended rehearsals demoralise people who are there.
- Cover what you’ve planned to do and don’t be side-tracked. This is not the time to discuss lighting, set etc.
- Every minute counts at rehearsals so use them wisely. Don’t be lulled into a feeling of security because production is seemingly ages away. It never is.
- Give yourself long enough rehearsal periods. Half an hour or less usually accomplishes nothing (allowing for everyone dragging their heels getting there) unless it is a special rehearsal to polish a small segment. Out of school rehearsals should be at least two to three hours long.
- If you do not have a rehearsal pianist, use the rehearsal tracks provided. In any case, it is a good idea for your choreographer to have a copy and for use in rehearsals, and for your students to have a copy of the rehearsal tracks for at-home practice.
- Do not attempt to do it all yourself (people are usually willing to help). Delegate, delegate, delegate!