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.Also...– 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.
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