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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Hollands

What goes into putting on a show?

Updated: Mar 28





Ever wanted to know what it takes to put on a dance show? Well in this blog we thought we would give you a little insider info into what its like!

 

Putting on a show is a major undertaking to say the least and the reason we only do it every 2 years!  But it is the highlight of our calendar and something we look forward to immensely.


So what does it take to put on a show?


Well first there is deciding the theme, musical, storyline and whether it will suit all our styles of dance, actors and singers and age groups.  Is the material appropriate, fun and engaging?  Can the students grow and learn from what they are doing, is it challenging them?

 

THE FUN PART

We have done Disney productions the last 2 shows and these have been extremely expensive, with the sets and cost of licences but you are given everything you need to put on the show, with music and scripts, even templates for sound and lighting cues.  The kids know the stories and are excited to audition for parts.


But this year we decided to go down a completely different style of show that will showcase more of, not only each of our classes talent, but more opportunities for individuals and small groups, rather than one cast.


So on deciding that and the theme, then there is the very difficult task of naming the show!!  This is probably the hardest part and we are still not sure about it, but it kind of tells you what it is, sort of…..


Next, its picking the songs and acting pieces and who we want to what, getting it into a logical order, making sure a student isn’t in 2 pieces back to back (and with so many doing multiple classes that was a huge challenge!)


It is exciting seeing the body of a show take form and knowing that what we are about to embark upon is going to fully realise the talents of all the students, whether they are once a weekers or those that might as well live in the studio! 


All this, so far, has taken from the Summer of 2023 to Christmas.  Don't forget we have had, during this time, exams, Children in Need Week, Halloween party and a Winter Showcase and Party.....phew!

 

So what is next?


THE HARD PARTS


Costs.  How much is it going to cost to put on a show.  Things we have to consider:

Theatre Hire (thousands of pounds)

Tech Costs

Insurances

Licences

Videographer

Photographer

Costumes

Props/Set

Recording Studio Hire

Programmes

Rehearsal Costs

This list is not exhaustive!


From this we work out, the cost per student to participate and ticket prices and what we can absorb and pay for.


Consent and Commitment. From all you parents and yes this does need to be done super early.  I think we sent out the first email in September! 


To plan a show we need to know who is going to be in it. The number of students, the age groups and the disciplines, this all dictates the form of the show.  It might seem annoying that we need to know so far in advance, but if we don’t your child may not get a costume (or a part)!


Now things get really technical and boring.  Now it’s the endless spreadsheets, the legislation and policy paperwork that needs to be produced and filed with the right professional bodies, the chaperone requirements - which I will go into more detail later about in another post.  Every child needs an exemption licence to perform through the council and the council needs to be satisfied with our safeguarding policies.


Spreadsheets, Spreadsheets everywhere!


We have spreadsheets for:

Costumes

Chaperones

Student Licences

Student Signing In and Out sheets for every rehearsal and show

Dressing room lists

Running orders

Sound Cues

Lighting Cue

Mic Lists

Photograph lists

Music lists

….again this is not exhaustive!


We have a Trello board that maps out the whole show (oh and a big sheet of paper that we roll out and manually move students around on haha!) and another one that maps out the planning aspects and when we have to complete every stage by.  It is absolutely a military operation.

 





Costumes

So this may sound fun and to start with it is! It’s it is exciting to plan what they are all going to wear and we have many a grand idea of what they will all look like. 


The reality of sourcing over 200 costumes – yes that is right, this year we are at 210 costumes – is somewhat different. 


We hire most, but each site uses different size guidelines and they may not be available for the dates we want, so then onto the next costume site and the next.  Those we can’t hire we have to buy and this most defiantly are not £15 each, but normally considerably more.  


But when they start arriving and we get the students to start trying them on that is when the hard work pays off.


Choreography/scripts and songs

All must be prepared in advance. 


Going into show term, we must know each routine, song and acting piece and how we want them to look on stage (this is on top of preparing normal lessons and also some last minute examinations!)  So we ask the students to also come in prepared, we will give out any songs and scripts prior to Easter so they can learn and familiarise themselves before we come back to block and choreograph.


Lighting / Sound / Mics

All this needs to be plotted well in advance.  We design all our own backdrops that will go on the projector on the stage and source and format/cut all the backing tracks and this year we have 27 songs!  We need to know who will be using what mic – we have use of 12 head mics and 4 handheld mics and these will be in constant use and being swapped over continuously backstage.


Lighting, Sound and Mic cues are all required for the Tech team at the theatre so they know what we want and when we want it.  There is an initial tech planning meeting in advance of the show where it is all programmed into the computers at the theatre and each change is given its own special number. These numbers run the show and on the day, the smooth operation is made possible by Miss Becky shouting into a headset back stage, barking orders at every member of the team!

 

Recording Studio

Every show so far we have taken all our Musical Theatre and Singing students into a recording studio to record their show songs.  This is for 2 reasons, first it’s a wonderful experience.  For a singer, it is such a great opportunity to learn a new skill and who doesn’t love the idea of going into a studio and recording their very own version of a song!  And second it is a fail safe, the sound is richer and fuller on stage and if anyone loses their voice on the Show Weekend, it doesn't matter - they just mime to their own voice! It is a fab day and we always have a lot of fun.

 
Costume Week

The best (and scariest) week.  Every child tries on their costume.  Normally only the week before, so we have to hope and pray no-one has grown and the hire company has sent all the correct costumes and sizes!





We love this week, it is a huge task, as when the costumes arrive they need to be named and put into bags – 210 of them!! Not actually sure where we are going to store them yet!

But seeing the student’s faces when they get to see their costumes for the first time is just so special and knowing the next time they get to put them on will be show weekend.

 

Show Weekend

Everything we have been working up to!


Miss Beck and Miss Zoe and our team of Backstage crew arrive at the theatre at 8am and get in. 


This means lists in changing rooms, build the stage set, get the props side of stage.  Risk assessments, health and safety briefs with the team, running order and last minute changes, checking of headsets and mics.


Then the students arrive, chaperones signing them in and taking them to their dressing rooms to put on their make-up and costumes ready for their dress rehearsal.  We practice everything and most importantly those quick changes! Yes you soon learn that 15 secs is long enough to do a complete costume change!


Excited chatter in the changing rooms, nervous laughter and camaraderie.  All the best sounds to be heard.


Mic and sounds checks.  Then dress/tech rehearsals begins, the first opportunity to run the whole show before an audience arrives, can be a little start stoppy when ironing out issues, but that is what it is all about.


Then lunch and a breather before doing it all for real!





Time to let go and have fun, enjoy the moments and reap the rewards of all the hard work, love and commitment that has been poured into the show.


Back again tomorrow for show 2.


As the curtain goes down, Miss Zoe and Miss Becky start planning the next one. (Not before we have torn down the set and packed up and taken everything back to the studio to be sorted of course!)

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