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Imaginary: A New Musical

  • 1.  Imaginary: A New Musical

    Posted 04-14-2019 13:06
    Hi All. Just wanted to encourage you to take a look at Imaginary. We just closed our production last night and everyone loved working on it. Commissioned by the National Youth Musical Theatre in London in 2017, one reviewer called it "the natural successor to Matilda." I discovered it in the fall with only a couple weeks to go before I had to decide and liked it enough to set aside our other choices and go for it, with no regrets. The show ticks a lot of boxes. The songs are great, with a good range of feel good big dance numbers and a few that are quite challenging for your more advanced singers. Great opportunities for a couple of couple of strong younger kids (even middle schoolers if your situation includes them), a great role for a diva with a big Aretha Franklin voice, and the central villain is a perfect role for strong, dashing tenor able to belt, along with four other wonderful Roald Dahl-esque villains. And a nice mid-show surprise leading to a whole fantasy-laced second half.

    The show offers the full sweep emotionally, from heartwarming Pixar-style Randy Newman feeling crowd-pleasers to a great fast vocal jazz piece that will kick your advanced singers' asses, to some more edgey and clever tunes, to boogie woogie and other dance tunes. For audiences, kids absolutely loved it, but not at the expense of it being a show adults and teens wouldn't like. Really, everyone enjoyed it a lot. Also, a really playground for costume and set design. There have only been a handful of production worldwide, so there aren't many references out there...which is great if you like the challenge of working out your own solutions instead of using lots of references. (If you look at the original production photos, I didn't love the costume design of the imaginary world and characters, and ours were really varied, creating an intentionally less unified and more surreal sensibility. We even had our primary kids do an imaginary friend drawing contest and as a prize, we created several of them as real characters. Check it out and if you get interested, I can share our production photos with you.)

    Anyway, I highly recommend it. The show really brought so much to the table and I hope more and more schools will do it. It is well worth your consideration.


    Steven Slaughter
    Rosslyn Academy
    Nairobi, Kenya

    "Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts." - W Berry

  • 2.  RE: Imaginary: A New Musical

    Posted 04-15-2019 12:25
    Do you know who licenses this musical and where I might find a perusal?
    Thank you!


  • 3.  RE: Imaginary: A New Musical

    Posted 04-15-2019 12:35
    Theatrical Rights Worldwide. Contact @Jim Hoare, he's super helpful!​

    Cassy Maxton-Whitacre
    Theatre Department Coordinator
    Fishersville VA

  • 4.  RE: Imaginary: A New Musical

    Posted 04-15-2019 12:50
    Excellent! Thank you!!


  • 5.  RE: Imaginary: A New Musical

    Posted 04-15-2019 19:49
    Thanks for posting this, Steven!  It's a show I am really interested in, so it is great to hear from a school that has done it.

    For the other middle school teachers out there:  I contacted TRW about a month ago, to find out whether there was a Young@Part version of Imaginary in the cards.  I'm sure they will be fine with me sharing their response here:

    Hi Kristin,
    Thanks for your email – and for being a fan of IMAGINARY.
    I agree that this show is crying out for a Y@P adaptation. But that may be a while coming because it needs some good old-fashioned exposure and branding!
    In the meantime, joining the current 4 Y@P (junior) and 3 Yer@P (kids) titles we have in each collection, I can tell you that WE WILL ROCK YOU Y@P will be announced this summer for productions in the beginning in the Fall, and that WIND IN THE WILLOWS Y@P will follow --- either in the late Fall '19 or early Spring of '20.
    Thanks for your support!
    Michael McDonough
           Asst VP Amateur Licensing

    So, it looks like I'll have to wait a few more years ... but maybe if lots of us keep asking .........

    Kristin Hall
    Drama Director
    Lincoln Public Schools
    Arlington MA

  • 6.  RE: Imaginary: A New Musical

    Posted 04-16-2019 16:53
    Is this a musical that High Schoolers would enjoy performing?

    Melinda Carlson

  • 7.  RE: Imaginary: A New Musical

    Posted 04-17-2019 01:59

    Melinda, great question. In fact, it was one of my first as well. The short answer to your question is YES! They loved working on it! The longer answer can be seen in the exchange below. When I was considering it and asking the same thing, I reached out to the two productions happening in the UK. Here was my question:

    Me:  "Karl, I'd love to hear about your experience working on the show. We haven't done a kid's show in the 7 years I've been here and I suspect my teenage students might be negative or skeptical. But there are annoying kids' shows and others that are quite smart. My sense is that this one has a nice Roald Dahl edginess that would be a lot of fun...combined with the sweetness of something like Toy Story, with those themes. Would love to hear a bit of how your young people have enjoyed working on it. Cheers! Steven." 

    Karl: "Hi Steven. It's amazing. I watched it in London last year and fought for the rights. Having worked in the West End and seen everything going it's still in my top 10 musicals. My advice: just do it, you will not regret it. The older kids love the challenge of complex harmonies and the young ones love all of it. Great roles in all areas. We have 30 in it. Ours are having so much fun and they are the top of their game. With several current West End and touring pros amongst our recent graduates they aren't easy to please. Pick it and they will love you!  Karl"

    *  *  *  *  *  *

    So yeah, that was my question too and that was his answer. And in my experience, he was totally right. The show has so much to recommend it.

    More details on why high schoolers loved working on it:
    – The four nasty teachers and charming Headmaster are such great villains, and their vocal parts are challenging. (I made them more challenging through a casting doubling too.)
    – Big Brenda is a great comedic role for someone with a big soul voice (the Brits like to do theirs w guys in drag; we did it with a Urgandan girl with a killer voice.)
    – Oogie is a super-fun part for a fun-loving kid who doesn't mind being kind of zany, someone who can move and sing. Best if unselfconscious.
    – Sam and Milo, the two main, younger characters, can be a little tricky w voices. Our Sam has a high voice that hasn't changed yet, and our Milo's had changed, but it worked.
    – Alice is a great role for a girl who can seem younger, more acting than singing, but a couple of good songs.
    – Beth (Sam's mum) and Jess (Alice's sister) are two great secondary leads. Beth has a couple of lovely motherly songs. Jess has a beautiful duet with Alice. Jess is also a Big Kid and Beth can do a few additional choral scenes.
    – Then there are the four other "new kid" roles – great for some of your talented underclassman.
    – The two choruses – Big Kids and the "IF" Chorus – allow for a variable cast size. We went big, with 8 Big Kids (kind of Hitler Youth types...who can dance) and a lot of IFs (maybe 18, but could be done with fewer).
    – And then there are a handful of small speaking parts drawn from the choruses, which are nice ways to give a few of your chorus kids additional opportunities.

    – It is a really fun costuming challenge. While the school kids just wear uniforms, the Headmaster and Teachers can be stylized creatively, and the IFs are really an open book on options. I thought that "ImaginaryLand", the place where IFs go, would be filled with a a big range: normal human-looking types, mermaids, robots, giant puppets, fairies, etc etc. Having this mismatched aesthetic created a really surreal kaleidoscope feel to those scenes that I really loved.

    – We really went to town with the Upgrade Machine and the imagination jars and I was really, really pleased with the special effects we were able to achieve. I would be happy to share what we did with anyone who might do the show. It was challenging but definitely achievable without any expensive equipment, and a nice challenge for any crew kids (or techy adult volunteers) who want to mess around with Arduino programming. 


    Steven Slaughter
    Rosslyn Academy
    Nairobi, Kenya

    "Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts." - W Berry

  • 8.  RE: Imaginary: A New Musical

    Posted 04-25-2019 12:57
    Do you have any production photos that you could share? I would love to see what the characters looked like etc. This sounds super interesting!

    Elizabeth Nelson
    Bishop Miege High School
    Theatre/Video Production Teacher
    Shawnee Mission, KS

  • 9.  RE: Imaginary: A New Musical

    Posted 04-25-2019 13:14
    Did you see the link just below in Jim Hoare's post? It's direct to a gallery of 28 photos from the original production!

    Michael McDonough
    TRWAsst VP Amateur Licensing
    New York

  • 10.  RE: Imaginary: A New Musical

    Posted 14 days ago
    Steven Slaughter,

    Can you give some more information on Imaginary like how many M & F leads, Supporting & Featured? How many songs does each character have, etc.

    Thanks in advance. I can’t get this information from the website & want to see if it will fit our needs this year.


    Maria Stadtmueller
    Kendall Park, NJ
    Stadtfamily@ Juno. Com

    Sent from my iPhone
    1 Cup (Before Bed) Burns Belly Fat Like Crazy!

  • 11.  RE: Imaginary: A New Musical

    Posted 04-22-2019 16:09
    I loved IMAGINARY when I saw the National Youth Music Theatre production in the UK, and I wholeheartedly agree with Steven Slaughter's observations, I'd be happy to share video excerpts with any interested teachers/directors.

    Jim Hoare
    Levittown NY

  • 12.  RE: Imaginary: A New Musical

    Posted 04-25-2019 14:26

    Hi All. Janet requested some photos as a reference for how our show looked. HERE is the link to a folder of photos. One caveat: a few things weren't quite done yet at this dress rehearsal – like the skirts that covered the studs of the riser. We have a wide semi-circular stage (about 60 degrees) with low access points to backstage, so we've found that a fixed unit set with smaller changes for different sets works best. The concept here was that the "real world" of the garden, schoolyard, and school was really austere – grey slate and rather drab, all straight lines. The switch to"Imaginary Land" came after intermission and was represented by the odd shaped, brightly colored and patterned "amoeba" risers on both sides, and by some boosted colorful lighting on stage. Our current lighting is limited, so I would have bumped that up more like the original production's vibrant lighting instruments. I also, had I had more time and access to more resources, tried to do a few other things to the main set that could quickly transform it for the IL scenes in Act 2 – glittery streamers, maybe black light glow paint,...something to jack it up all the more. But we work with what we have. As for costumes, while I was pleased that we went with a randomized more surreal hodge-podge of different IFs, I would have loved to push these even further. If anyone would like to see it, I have a pretty big Pintrest board with a lot of cool ideas. 

    Rosslyn's "Imaginary" Photos 

    Steven Slaughter
    Rosslyn Academy
    Nairobi, Kenya

    "Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts." - W Berry