Organizing a High School Musical
So you're school has decided to do a musical. Musicals can be
very exciting and rewarding experiences for both staff and
student alike. It's a great way to teach the arts to students,
and to bring together visual arts, music, drama and dance in a
The success of a high school musical will depend mainly on your
good planning of the event. You need to start early. The
following is a musical timeline for putting a typical high
school musical together:
(Months/Weeks/Days Before Show):
12 Months: -Create production team (producer, stage manager
musical director) -Contact rental company. -Estimate of price.
-Hire a director; negotiate price. -Meet with school admin.
-Obtain performance venue.
6 Months: -Production meeting - Chose the show. -Contact rental
company, obtain rights. -Arrange to obtain piano/vocal score
right away. -Reserve performance venue.
5 Months: -Announce auditions. -Hire rehearsal pianist for
auditions and rehearsals. -Choose audition music and make
4 and a Half Months: -Hold auditions/call-backs. -Choose main
characters. -Post cast list. -Advertise within school for
backstage crew (building sets, paining scenery, assembling
4 Months: -Read through script with entire cast. -Props crew:
Begin constructing sets. -Begin onstage and music (singing)
3 Months: -Form the following committees: Constume/Make up,
Publicity/Ticket sales, Lighting/Sound. -Contact extra musicians
9 Weeks: -Hold pit orchestra auditions.
8 Weeks: -Begin advertising campaign. -Cast should now have
costumes. -Post pit orchestra member list.
7 Weeks: -Begin pit rehearsals -Optional production meeting
(communication between production team and all committees)
4 Weeks: -Production meeting - Plan final week of rehearsals,
stage use by various teams. -Acquire necessary permission to
excuse students from class for any schedule conflicts. -Invite
area schools to preview show.
2 Weeks: -Rehearsal with pit and cast (Sing through). -Pit
rehearsal(s) of dance music with dancers. -Run-thru of show with
onstage cast/ piano.
1 Week: -Props and scenery complete and ready for use. -Run of
scene changes with stage crew. -Complete run of show with pit
orchestra and cast.
5 Days: -Final pit rehearsal to iron out problem spots.
-Cue-to-cue: work out lighting cues.
4 Days: -Technical run of show with sound, all props, light
cues, scene changes.
3 Days: -Complete run of show with orchestra. Give notes after
2 Days (or day before show): -DRESS REHEARSAL
(Give one day before public run as a day off, to rest the cast.)
General Advice for Doing Good School Musicals:
Administrative: 1) Delegate! Don't try to be the onstage
director, musical director, producer, chief bottle-washer, etc.
Find as many different people within your school as possible to
fill these roles. The people you will need, at a minimum:
Director Music Director Producer Stage Manager Props & Scenery
Coordinator Choreographer Lighting & Sound Director Costume
Coordinator Publicity Coordinator
2) Know your venue. Do not plan a musical without knowing where
you will be performing it.
3) Auditions: -Be good to your students when they come in for
their audition. Remember that many students are doing the first
audition of their lives, and are probably terrified. Set them at
ease - be lighthearted and friendly, not austere and demanding.
-Encourage students to sing out with a full voice at the
-Congratulate them after auditioning, and always find something
positive to say to them about how they performed.
4) Onstage: -Begin rehearsing chorus early in the process.
There is a need to get the main characters' part of the show
worked out early of course, but you will benefit from the
excitement generated by rehearsing chorus early. Chorus numbers
tend to be energetic and exciting, and much momentum can be lost
by ignoring chorus at the beginning of the rehearsal run. Chorus
members are very important. They are your "townspeople", your
various unnamed characters that give vital atmosphere to a show.
Tell chorus members to invent a character name, and to develop a
short one or two-paragraph biography. This will help to
eliminate that "onstage furniture" look that so many high school
-All singers should sing in their character's voice. If the
character speaks with a southern drawl, he/she should sing with
a southern drawl.
-Chorus should sing with eyebrows raised and backs straight.
-A musical theatre voice is a big voice with distinctive
character, not a choir voice. Invite a singing professional to a
rehearsal to teach young singers how to safely project their
5) Miscellaneous Onstage/backstage -Teach students to never
touch props or scenery unless specifically instructed to do so.
This applies even to props that are used by that character.
Unless it is show time or rehearsal time, props should be placed
and moved only by backstage crew.
-Onstage characters must be taught to be mindful and respectful
of backstage crew. Backstage crew have an important job to do
during runs of a show. The precise timing of scene changes
requires actors to stay out of the way.
-Actors must never appear in house in costume or make-up.
During the show's intermission, no actors should be meeting
public, family or friends.
-Backstage during a show must be very quiet. Actors waiting in
wings to make an entrance must stay well off to the side to
prevent being seen until entering the stage.
-Be sure to tell students to thank any professionals you have
invited to perform in your pit orchestra, or who are involved in
other aspects of the show. Point out to the students how lucky
they are to have people donating their time and efforts to their
A musical will provide lifelong memories for you and your
students. And it will provide a unique opportunity to bring
together various aspects of the fine arts in your school. You
will also find that musicals will engage people in an artistic
endeavor who might not normally involve themselves in the arts.
Enjoy the experience! -Gary Ewer The Essential Secrets
of Songwriting, Gary Ewer's Easy Music