There seem to be quite a few shows that are always done in high schools. Have you ever thought about why? Let's explore. The first 3 are considered "The Most Popular High School Musicals" from Dramatics magazine for high school teachers. The last one is my pick---you've probably also been in that.
1. The Addams Family
Ah, the beloved TV show from the 1960s made into a musical! Can you believe I actually haven't seen this show? With songs like "Pulled" and "When You're an Addams" there's something for everyone. Since its Broadway debut in 2010, we've been toe-tapping to this wonderful score by Andrew Lippa. Since the song styles match each character's personality there's a wide range of style in the show: jazz to flamenco! There are, of course, many main characters as this is about a whole family....but there are also plenty of ensemble opportunities as well. Quite a bit of the music involves a chorus of ancestors! There are more leads than in most shows and there's plenty of ensemble singing--that's a win for high school productions!
2. Mamma Mia!
Ok...who doesn't love this show? You love it. Your parents love it. Your grandparents even love it. This is a real crowd pleaser for both performers and the audience. Since this is an ABBA jukebox musical, most people will know at least a couple of songs. This is another great ensemble show: 5 main female leads, 4 main male leads. Can't go wrong there! This is also a great show to highlight dancing ability, and the costumes are incredibly fun!
3. The Little Mermaid
As we know, everything Disney touches becomes gold! If you're in high school, you probably watched the movie version as a child. Who doesn't remember Sebastian chasing after Ariel and Flounder trying to be brave. There are so many characters in this show, and audiences LOVE the music. This is a super kid-friendly show, opening the door to families of all ages. Also, this show can be done with very elaborate sets and lighting effects, or barely any at all. It doesn't require a fancy set, but the visual is amazing if a school is equipped with a nice lighting/sound system and a tech crew.
4. My pick: Guys & Dolls
We did this show at my high school, I've music-directed it, and have since had students star in it. It's an old gem that's been around a while. It debuted on Broadway in 1950 and practically everyone has seen the 1955 movie version with Marlon Brando & Frank Sinatra. Why this show, you ask? Well, the style of music is easily accessible for most people. It's a little jazzy, but also has sweeping ballads which showcase both belters and legit voices. The pit musicians also have a wonderful score to play. This show can carry a large ensemble and features many dancing moments. It's a great show if you have strong dancers...think Hot Box Girls, the Crap Game, the Havana scene, etc. It's a classic feel-good show where everyone goes home happy.
Ultimately, schools pick shows based on the talent they are aware of, amount of money a show requires: set, costumes, score rentals, etc., and ensemble opportunities. At the high school level, shows tend to be more inclusive as you have to cast experienced actors and first timers together.
What I'd like to see on a high school stage: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder! It's a hilarious ensemble show with a fantastic musical score. Check out why it won 4 Tony's!
First thing's first...I am not a parent. However, I can offer observations from a third party who has witnessed many parent-child interactions before, during, and after voice lessons.
In my experience, students often have a strong preference: they'd either like their parent to wait upstairs or in the car, OR they don't mind having their parent sit in on lessons. I can't tell you how many times I've consoled a parent who was a little offended when their child looked at them and said, "Ok, you can go now." It's very normal!
Sometimes students want the privacy of a one-on-one lesson to make mistakes without hearing about them later at home. Sometimes they open up more when it's just the two of us. Sometimes they actually want to surprise their parents with a song. You name it, i've heard it!
Some students ask that their parents stay with them. I do recommend this for younger students! Sometimes they are very shy, and parents can help by offering more information.
My best advice is to ask your student if they would like you to stay or go. It is their lesson, and they should be able to choose what is most comfortable for them. If you ask instead of assume, they will feel like they have a little more independence in making a choice. Students don't always get the chance to choose things for themselves. Much of their day is planned for them with everyone else telling them what to do and how to do it. Wouldn't it be nice to give them a choice?
If you do stay:
Voice lessons are incredibly personal and the singer always feels vulnerable whether it's your first lesson or lesson # 876,5373. Their preference for you to stay or wait outside may change week to week. Please don't be offended if they ask you to leave, and please be as encouraging as possible if you do stay.
When I was in grade school, my mom or dad stayed in the room for the first couple of lessons until I felt comfortable. Then, they waited in the car until my lesson was complete or until I could drive myself. I cherished my one-on-one time with my voice teacher; it was always the highlight of my week. An adult that wasn't my parent took so much interest in me for a bit of time, and that was a huge confidence booster.
At home, please encourage practicing 3x a week. Singers are often afraid to practice if parents are home (remember, we are making and exploring new sounds that may not be so beautiful to start). Please don't assume that if you haven't heard them singing they are not practicing. There are many ways to practice: listening to their songs, thinking through acting choices, translating the lyrics into English, etc.
If you truly believe they are not practicing, please let me know! I often already know if a student hasn't practiced by their level of preparation for lessons :)
Thank you for allowing me to teach your student and for allowing an open dialogue about their progress!
Maria Palombo is the founder of Finely Tuned Voice Lessons, a private voice studio. Her studio is open to all regardless of age or ability.