The Making Of a School Musical

by Bojana Urbanc

If a teacher wants to work with students on a completely different level, there is one thing they need to do, and that is to set up a school theatre club. For the past decade, I had been an active member of a Musical theatre club at School Centre Velenje; and this is my experience.

How To Start A Theatre Club

First of all, you need to find some people who share the same inspiration and passion as you. And I did. Together with four of my co-workers, we decided we wanted our students to show their talents, and all we knew was that we were interested in the same thing, to make a musical. One of my colleagues was a musician, and that was good since he was later responsible for the music. The other two of them were dancers. The last one shared the same interest as me, and that was a theatre play. Besides, there was one more thing we had in common. The passion for beginning and working. A perfect situation.

SCHOOL MUSICAL

Picture 1: “Do you see this app on my mobile phone? It can help us!”

The Beginnings

We used to meet at the cafés, during the breaks in school, chatting, discussing our idea, but we couldn’t get far. Our arrangements were often disturbed by one of us going to a class to teach, and we had to wait till the next free lesson, which was barely at sight. Therefore, we decided to spend a weekend together, away from our school and families, and talk and discuss the idea. We chose a spa and booked a night in one of its holiday cottages. It sounded like a good idea, we started with some brainstorming activities, had plenty of suggestions, but neither of them worked fine for all of us. We decided to relax, so we had lunch in a fancy restaurant, took a swim in the pool nearby and all the time we spent together discussing one thing only – how to carry out our idea. Our goal was to teach students something about the history of music and to make a performance, which would attract the audience. Then all of a sudden, I got a call from my child, who got ill so I had to leave. It was awful since we had nothing yet, and we thought we would end our weekend session with a script. However, on my ride home, I decided to connect all the dots and thought about everything my colleagues had told me, and there it was a script right in my mind. I took care of my child when the situation got better, and I put down my thoughts about a script. I sent it to my colleagues, and they were thrilled. It worked for them, too. They chose the music and the songs to go with the script, and it was official. We were producing a musical from scratch.  

SCHOOL MUSICAL

Picture 2: So, this is your project? Really?

Musical Jukebox.app

The story of the musical was quite simple. It included several periods of music history, from the folk song Black Betty, the era of Charleston, the notorious times of Elvis Presley and the Beatles, to the time of disco dancing way up to the modern era with the music by Amy Winehouse, Pink, and Rihanna. In the story, a group of students was sent to detention due to some stupid pranks they did during the lessons and were ordered by their teacher (in which I played the role), to write something about the history of music. Accidently, one of them came across an app in his mobile phone, which looked precisely like a jukebox, and by pressing buttons on the app, they were sent back to the time of the mentioned performers, learning about the period, the genre and experiencing a style of dancing. The whole situation was enriched by humour and exquisite dance and musical performance.

SCHOOL MUSICAL

Picture 3: The period in history with music supporting the silent movie (A re-enactment of Charlie Chaplin movie)

Auditions

After presenting the idea to the management of the school, we were free to start the project. We began with the auditions, we were looking for some inspiring actors, singers and dancers, hoping to get a triple threat and we managed to find a few students who could perform, act, dance and even sing at the same time. One of my colleagues, who was also a musician, offered his band to play the music since we couldn’t find the proper school band, and besides, we wanted the sound to be excellent.

Students were thrilled and excited something was going on at the School Centre and were ready to join in, to help in any way, acting, dancing, singing, helping with the props, preparing the stage, make-up, with the costumes … The musical was on.

SCHOOL MUSICAL

Picture 4: Christina Aguilera’s Candyman

Rehearsals

The rehearsals were done in individual groups. The musicians (band, singers, and the choir) started learning the lyrics separately from the dancers and the actors. We all enjoyed the whole process of preparation for the final act to come. It took us several months of working with the students who were eager to perform, which meant a lot of extracurricular time after school, in the afternoons, and during the weekends. However, we all managed our work. The students were able to do their best at schoolwork and in the musical, and the mentors succeeded in doing their jobs as teachers and mentors of the project we were about to show to the public on the national stage in our town.

Preparations For The Big Night

SCHOOL MUSICAL

Picture 5: It’s disco time with ABBA

Throughout the process of making the musical called »Jukebox.app« we ran into some obstacles, dealing with money, time, the management of the school.  When you work with people, you need to take into consideration that there might be some tensions among individuals in a 50-member ensemble. The management of the School centre guaranteed a part of the money, and some money was donated by us. All the costumes and props were made by one of the mentors and her students. We successfully solved all the time issues and tensions soon we were heading towards the premiere night, which was a huge success. We were thrilled how well it all worked out and had many performances that year, encouraging us to continue what we started, so we were capable of producing ten other musicals in the years to come.

All photos are a legacy of the Theatre club Jukebox.app, School Centre Velenje.