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Disadvantage of JR shows?

  • 1.  Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-09-2019 07:50
    Being in a very small, rural school, it looks like the only big name musicals I will be able to pull off with my budget and high school cast numbers are the JR, G2K, or school editions.  Which, I don't mind much because I have found that my limit, directing on my own is about a hour long show (I just don't know how you all have the personal stamina and student commitment for a full length show!) I have just been wondering, if there are any major disadvantages you have found with these types of shows? I am even considering using one as a competition piece? Advice, suggestions?

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    Analiese Hamm
    ECHS Drama Director
    Statenville GA
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  • 2.  RE: Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-09-2019 08:49
    I love them.

    To make the show fit into an hour, songs get shortened and stories get abbreviated/adapted. In some shows (like Into the Woods) this significantly changes the show, but in all honesty I usually find it makes the show better. "Beauty and the Beast JR" is a perfect hour, and I didn't miss a thing from the full length.

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    Josh Kauffman
    Teacher
    Winfield AL
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  • 3.  RE: Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-09-2019 09:12
    It totally depends on the show, as Josh pointed out. I think the Disney shows lend themselves very well to that format.  On the otherhand, I just saw a high school production of  "Fiddler Jr." and, despite some wonderful performances, it seemed sadly reduced in scope rather than neatly distilled, as well as losing a lot of the light-hearted moments in the second half.  It was missing some of my favorite songs ("Miracle of Miracles", "Tevye's Dream") and without the dream sequence, there was really no explanation about how Tevye got out of his agreement with Lazar Wolf.


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    Elana Kepner
    Theatre Instructor
    The Oakwood School
    Greenville NC
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  • 4.  RE: Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-10-2019 13:45
    We use the Jr. versions for our Middle School shows and they work great. We're currently producing G2K Once Upon a Mattress with 6th graders and Mulan Jr. with 7th/8th graders. For our Musical Theatre II and III courses (and our big, extra-curricular production) I prefer the full versions. They provide the challenges I want older students to experience. We are also currently producing the School Edition of Rent, which maintains about 90% of the original production and is more suitable for our students and our audiences.

    Speaking of School Editions, has anyone produced Heathers (School Edition)? If so, how did it go? Thank you!






  • 5.  RE: Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-11-2019 09:39
    Every program is different, and it sounds like you have very good reasons for considering Junior versions for your school.  Even if they aren't a fit for other programs or schools, if you have determined that they are a fit for your program, that is what matters!

    As a middle school teacher, we always use junior shows (for vocal range, length, content, and cost reasons).

    I agree with Josh and Elana.  My experience also has been that some cuttings are stronger than others.  Generally speaking, the ones that are the oldest in the MTI collection seem to have been cut more, and suffer more.  Sometimes it can be challenging to get the character development/arcs to be clear due to scenes and songs cut.  Although I love the shows, I found the Junior versions of Guys and Dolls and The Music Man to have lost a lot, and question why they cut some things.  The joke about Big Jule's dice with no spots is cut, for example.  Just a couple of lines for a great joke and character moment:  why?  Arvide's song is cut, an important message, and a solo for another kid:  why?

    But for some shows, the junior cuttings are strong, and lose little. We didn't miss anything from Beauty and the Beast, or Shrek, for example.

    Dance breaks are almost always much shorter in the junior versions, so programs with lots of strong dancers might find that frustrating.

    You basically have to read the perusals, and decide if it can work for you.  I can live (easily) without Lady Larkin being pregnant, even if Normandy being cut makes me sad.  I can't live without act 2 of Into the Woods.  I can live without Sadder But Wiser Girl and Marion the Librarian, but losing the scene when Harold Hill tries to sell an instrument to the Mayor really bums me out.  I probably wouldn't do Oklahoma! anyway, but it doesn't really seem to make sense if Judd just get's punched out and not killed ... You get the idea.

    TRW's Young@Part series is another one to look at (small collection, but some shows that might appeal to high schoolers).








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    Kristin Hall
    Drama Director
    Lincoln Public Schools
    Arlington MA
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  • 6.  RE: Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-10-2019 08:25
    I say this as someone who has never produced a Jr. or school edition show. I think a major disadvantage can be student buy in. I know with my students I would get a lot of push back for even doing a school edition because of the perception that is being dumbed down and not truly challenging.

    Student commitment can come from students feeling like the show they are doing is gonna be worthwhile and worth showcasing their talents.

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    Joseph Gels
    Theatre Teacher
    Boston Latin School
    Boston MA
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  • 7.  RE: Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-10-2019 09:08
    One way we get OUR buy-in is by offering the show to nearby schools as a field trip opportunity. We can do a one-hour show four times during a school day. Knowing they can do more performances of the show, and show it to full houses and literally thousands of students, makes for a very enthusiastic cast and crew.

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    Josh Kauffman
    Teacher
    Winfield AL
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  • 8.  RE: Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-11-2019 07:58

    I started producing middle school shows before Junior versions.  While attending an EdTA  Junior Thespian Conference (somewhere around '96 I think.... before the acronym changed) MTI discussed their upcoming Junior line and had us read samples of what eventually became their first few scripts- Fiddler, Into the Woods, Guys and Dolls, Annie, and (I think) Bugsy Malone. We were given a sample or two to bring back to our schools, too. I gave them to my kids to read to get their feedback.  Their response was, after having done full length productions, these would be a step down. They would rather try to shoot for a full performance and come up a bit short than be outstanding at a watered-down production- though, since they helped with the budgeting, they like the price range for the packages. (I still remember that conversation.  At the time $500- which is what I believe the initial package was going to cost- and the added bonus of not having to find an accompanist seemed like it would be a boon from my end of things.) 

    The other issue I have seen is that when inundated with Junior shows, the kids don't always internalize that there is a difference between performing the junior and the full production: Once they perform Guys and Dolls, JR, they are done with that show and there is no need to do Guys and Dolls later on. This becomes even more pronounced among students when dealing with 'classic' shows as opposed to newer shows. Reading through recent posts here, it seems some of us have a difficult time bringing more traditional musicals to our audiences as opposed to Disney shows and knock-offs of Hollywood movies. When juniors are added to that equation it can become much harder to sell older actors on the canonical productions that give them a greater understanding of how musicals developed over time.  



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    Suzanne Katz
    Washington DC
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  • 9.  RE: Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-11-2019 08:06
    I've been doing Jr shows with middle-school kids for almost 10 years, and have never had any problem with buy-in from the kids. They are super excited to be in a show and understand that there's a difference between the version we are doing and the full version, and don't seem put off by that at all. In my experience, kids just want to do shows. My current 8th graders have done Dear Edwina, Jr, G2K Once Upon a Mattress and Annie Jr and I think they would all  jump at the chance to do those shows again.

    I've also found that while name recognition can bring in larger audiences, the kids just want to do a show. Even if they've never heard of it, they end up loving it.

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    Dianne Rowe
    Theatre Arts Teacher
    Junior Thespian Troupe 88177
    Berry Middle School
    bit.ly/BerryDrama
    Birmingham, AL
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  • 10.  RE: Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-11-2019 10:01
    For the record, I didn't mean to demean anyone's programs. And especially if you are doing middle school, do a Jr. version. My school is 7th to 12th grade and I know I would face full scale revolt if I tried to do a Jr. version. Even a high school version I would see backlash over.

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    Joseph Gels
    Theatre Teacher
    Boston Latin School
    Boston MA
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  • 11.  RE: Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-11-2019 10:29
    I direct in a rural district with a tiny student population, and even tinier interest in theater.  I love my job and my tiny, strange little set-up.  Average cast size every year is about 18, comprised of 7th-12th grade, with another 6 or 7 students working on crews.  We perform in a gym which we only have access to after the junior high volleyball season is over.  I have one assistant director and the shop teacher builds our small sets with his construction class.  That's our whole production team.  Occasionally we have enthusiastic parents willing to help (sometimes they need more guidance than the students, though!)

    I can appreciate all that's been said about student buy-in for a Junior show, and the concern about "dumbing down" a show is a valid point. When I was in high school--at a large school with a vibrant theater program--we would have been insulted if we had been handed a script for a Junior show.  However, small school theater is a different creature!

    The kids in my cast are certainly able to handle doing a full show like Beauty and the Beast or Shrek, but think what it means to a director in a situation like mine: for our annual musical, I am music director, tech director and set designer.  I also do the costumes, design hair and makeup, manage props, dress the set, and handle advertising.  The other director handles most of the blocking and choreography, although sometimes I help with that too.  Sometimes I get outside help from parents or community members.  Other years there is no one to help me.   I also have a job outside the school district, as well as 2 teenagers and a diabetic 5th grader.  There is NO WAY anyone can in my position can produce a full-length blockbuster and keep their sanity and their family intact!  If I want to continue to do well for my students in the long term, I can't be burning myself out on huge shows year after year.  Occasionally I have to give myself a "break" and lighten my load with a Junior show.

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    Amy Dalager
    Argyle MN
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  • 12.  RE: Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-11-2019 10:53
    I just want to plug back in and thank all of you for such a great on-going discussion!!  So much advice that has been offered has really helped me in my current considerations.

    If it were not for our small theatre program, my students, with the exception of maybe one in every 4 years, would not know anything of musicals beyond Hamilton and Grease, so I do not feel I would get much push back or hurt feelings from the shortened shows.  In fact, I am still very excited I am even at the point of possibly casting a short version!  I am thinking this may be the perfect starting point, and then maybe as years continue and hopefully my cast pool and adult assistance grows, I can start considering a full length show. My motto from the start is to fake a program until we made it, and we've made exciting steps each year.

    but please, keep adding in!

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    Analiese Hamm
    ECHS Drama Director
    Statenville GA
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  • 13.  RE: Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-23-2019 08:52
    I would second Kristin Hall.  We have done all of the shows she's mentioned. I have been doing Junior shows with Middle School for over 2 decades.  As time has gone on, I've found them to become more like choral shows as much of the character development lines are cut.  That has been disappointing to me.  We just finished Oklahoma Jr and it was a beautiful show but I have to agree that the crux of the conflict was lost with Judd.... and did we have to cut Poor Judd is Dead????   I have preferred the G2K musicals because they seem to leave in a bit more of the script while MTI Theatricals seems to be cutting more and more.
    In making my decision, I look at the rehearsal time we have in our rehearsal and stage spaces and the students abilities that I will have coming up in the program to decide between a full length and a shortened version.  ​I have to admit, I do have a sigh of relief when we do a shortened version:  less sets, more time on the components.... our cost is about the same at the end of the day for a full length and a short version.  We try to keep production values high no matter what we are doing.

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    Valerie Scott
    Drama Teacher/Director
    Perimeter School
    Johns Creek, Ga
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  • 14.  RE: Disadvantage of JR shows?

    Posted 04-24-2019 15:14
    Hello,

    I have directed four Broadway Jr. shows:  Aladdin, Into the Woods, Beauty and the Beast, and Alice in Wonderland with high school students.  From my experience, they have both advantages and disadvantages.  The big advantage is that you can make them as simple or as elaborate as you want.  You can go all out with sets and costumes or keep them as basic as you want.  The disadvantage, as others have said, is that some scenes and some songs are cut out or shortened.  For example, Into the Woods is basically the first act only which makes it a little odd.  My favorite was Beauty and the Beast which contains most of the main songs and scenes.  We did Jr. versions because our music director at the time did not think our students could handle a full length musical, so they were a way for us give the students at least some experience with a Broadway show.  (With a new music director with have done full musicals the last five years or so)  I know Jr. versions are meant for middle school, but our high schoolers enjoyed doing them at the time.

    Sincerely,

    Ken

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    Kenneth Robinson
    Drama Club Sponsor
    Wapahani High School
    Selma IN
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