Musical recommendation - elementary

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May 10, 2013
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Good morning, everyone.After a successful first-time school production of Disney's The Jungle Book KIDS, I am considering directing another musical next year. I want to share my joy of music and the theater to the children. Since I am volunteering my time and our school doesn't have a budget for the program, I want to keep it simple without sacrificing quality. This year, I directed the musical by myself with some teachers designing the set, as well as parents making their child's own costumes. I am leaning towards choosing Annie KIDS but am also thinking about Sleeping Beauty KIDS. My concern with both of these choices is that I am afraid I might scare off some boys because they might perceive them as "too girly." Since, prior to this year, the school has not had a play or musical, I want to build up interest and encourage the broadest base of participation possible. (The license does not appear to be available in Europe for other musicals I considered: Aladdin KIDS, 101 Dalmatians KIDS or Willy Wonka KIDS.) There are also some JR selections that are interesting to me--for example, Alice in Wonderland, Honk!, and the upcoming Peter Pan--but I am concerned that since they are twice as long that they might be too much for me to take on. I appreciate anyone's thoughts or suggestions.
2 answers

May 11, 2013
I've posted this before (and probably will again :o) ), but don't overlook "Dear Edwina: Junior". A sleeper surprise. We (I) had glossed over the title many times thinking it "too girly", but we stumbled on the Cast recording one day and took a listen. We were hooked. As the plot revolves around a group of kids putting on their own "talk show", it means that any rough edges on set/costume design will fit right in (as would any "rougher" performances). The music is upbeat, contemporary, and highly memorable. Each scene can be viewed as a "letter to Edwina", and the "response song from the cast". Plenty of opportunities for individuals to shine, and just as many chances to create small chorus teams to perform "backup" for each of the response songs. (Highly recommend that you order the perusal and check it out). (Obligatory self-promotion slide show from our production) We have also performed HONK! JR, and it too is a fantastic production (on my short list to be repeated). (Obligatory self-promotion slide show from this production too) Creative costuming for both of those shows helped to keep things under a (VERY!) tight budget. As you can see for HONK! Jr. we made extensive use of T-shirt sales from Michaels. Now, as to the question of "KIDS vs Junior", this is all going to depend on the maturity of your cast. We started with a KIDS show here (Dalmations), and immediately followed up with HONK! Jr. a year later. We aren't a school, but a youth group run as part of the local amateur theatre company. This meant a smaller cast size (initially 12 but 20 by the time we did Dalmations, and capped at 36), and dealing with a fairly broad age range (7-12 at the time, and as they aged: 7-17). My perception is that I would have quickly lost the interest of the older youth, had I stuck with the KIDS shows. There is no question that the Junior shows are more challenging, but there is also a huge reward for the cast when it comes together. Hope this helped, but I suspect it hasn't made the choice any easier for you. Andrew

May 11, 2013
Hi Andrew, Thank you for taking the time to write such as thoughtful response. I also enjoyed your video clips from "Honk! JR" and "Dear Edwina JR." I can enjoy a challenge, such as being creative with limited materials, and this year, I was fortunate to have teachers and students help with the set design. I think that the jungle setting lended itself naturally to a variety of fun ideas for the set (e.g., rope hanging vines, tissue paper exotic flowers, etc.). In my previous school, I co-directed Disney's "Aladdin JR" and "Beauty and the Beast JR." However, I had the help of two other teachers, both experienced directors and choreographers, as well as a budget from the school and very active parent volunteers. As for the age and maturity level of my student actors, if anything, I was considering inviting lower grades to join. (This year, I held auditions only for grades 3-5). It's kind of a puzzle for me, because I also don't want to lose the soon-to-be 6th graders, but there is already a drama program in place for middle school. I'll have a think about all of this, but you have helped give me other ideas to consider. Thank you again, --Matthew