How to Put on a Musical

Why Put on a Show?

by John Kenrick

(Copyright 2003)

This page is aimed at amateur producers, directors and musical directors – we have some thoughts for actors elsewhere.

So, you want to put on an amateur musical? Why? Have you lost your mind?

I'm not trying to talk you out of this project. However, I want you to consider what you are getting into. Producing an amateur musical can be very rewarding. It can also be exhausting, time-consuming, and overwhelming, especially for first timers. There will be days, even weeks when it may seem as if your life is no longer your own. And once you get things rolling, it is almost impossible to back out. So you had better clarify your motivations for launching this juggernaught.

No Heroes Allowed

If you are doing this to prove what a wonderful person you are, don't. Putting on a show is not about you – it is about everyone involved. Musicals are collaborative efforts. Unless you are determined to have a nervous breakdown, it is vital to have as many people sharing the burden, as well as the sense of accomplishment. Everyone has to operate as part of a team, including you.

The process of putting on a show can re-energize a school, even an entire community. There are places where the annual musical is one of the defining events of the year. How often do people band together to bring a little joy into the world? So putting on this show is not about polishing your halo -- its about unveiling the unseen constellation of talents that surround you.

Group Spirit

A musical production can become a defining moment for the community you are working with. Audiences will remember a good school or amateur production for years to come, and those memories grow more golden with the passage of time. My college classmates and I recall darn few lectures from our four years, but we carry detailed, vivid memories of the musicals we worked on.

Raising Money

With decent planning, an amateur musical can be a major money maker. Set a sensible budget, stick to it, sell enough tickets, and your group can wind up with a nice pile of change. If your group does not have the money to produce a show, there are ways to either raise the funds or make-do without them. We'll discuss all this in the pages ahead.

Academic Value

Musicals are not just about having a good time. They can be a great addition to the academic program. Almost every musical has potential tie-ins to classroom subjects, and the more faculty and students you get involved in your show, the better off you'll be. Even if your group is not affiliated with a school, your program and lobby displays can expand on the historic or cultural background of your show. These can be prepared by interested volunteers, or you might consider asking a local authority or educator to lend a hand -- a great way to add such a person to your team.

Changing Lives

Whether your cast and crew are adults, teens, children or all three, involvement in an amateur musical production can change their lives. The process of auditioning, rehearsing and performing builds confidence. After someone has stood on a stage and taken risks in front of an audience, things like job interviews or business presentations seem far less intimidating.

Will you discover exciting new talent? It can happen. Many professionals get their first taste of show business in amateur productions. But your show will be meaningful for those who may never taste stardom again. The plays done in school auditoriums and church halls give those involved memories they will cherish for a lifetime. While working on a musical, the people on your team will accomplish things they otherwise might never have reached for. The same will be true for you.

So much for the rational arguments. Now let's move on to . . .

The Only Reason That Matters

In the words of Shakespeare, "Oh reason not the need! There is only one bona fide reason to put on an amateur musical production – you do it because your soul demands it. You must approach this project with passion. Everyone else's commitment will hinge on yours, so if you don't believe in this project, don't get into it.

Lets look at some of your options. If funds are tight or almost nonexistent, there are ways for the show to go on.

Next: Low Budget Options