ELIMINATE HASSLES: Directing Children's Musicals

by Susan Ledsome

1. Children have diverse interests. Therefore, choose a musical with different styles and rhythms. Boys and girls learn what they like at a faster pace. You will also have fewer discipline problems if the children are interested in what they are learning.

2. If you cannot find an appropriate musical, write your own words to familiar tunes. This actually makes memorization easier because the children already know the tune. For example, the following could be sung to the tune of Jingle Bells for a Christmas program:


Dashing through the glow
Of Bethlehem's bright star.
O'er the field we go
Traveling from afar.
We three Wise Men bring
Gifts to the new king.
The Son of God we want to see
And praises to Him sing.

Frankincense, gold and myrrh
Are the gifts we bring.
Herod was beside himself
When we talked about the King.
Frankincense, gold and myrrh
From our native land.
We'll return a different way
And save from Herod's hand.

Copyrighted by Susan Ledsome
(Permission granted to reproduce for local church use only.)

3. Get to know the boys and girls before casting so matching up parts will be easier.

4. When learning new songs:

a. Play them over and over while the children are playing or working on projects.

b. Say a few phrases at a time and have the children echo the words back to you.

c. Use rhythm instruments.

5. Explain the meaning of the songs. Understanding what the words mean can aid in retention and have a lasting impact on the children.

6. Be sure the children understand what your directives mean.

7. When working with children on their speaking parts, read the lines using expression. This gives the boys and girls an idea of how the parts should be played. Have then imitate you.

8. The key to memorization is repetition. Go over and over the songs.

9. If the song range is too high, lower the whole song or change a few notes.

10. Plan exits and entrances for the younger children. Sometimes a performance is too long for their attention span. Make sure movement flows with what is happening. Bring everyone back on stage for the last song.

11. Costumes can be handmade or purchased from yard sales, catalogs or after-Halloween sales. Sweatsuits can be inexpensively purchased and easily decorated to represent animals.

12. At the first practice on stage, work with the sound technician to ensure microphones are placed where maximum benefit can be reached.

13. Bulletins enable the audience to follow the program's progression and become a memento for parents and children. Include the songs, soloists, and every child's name.