A few of us adults in the cast were talking about how great all the kids are in the musical we're doing. Not just in terms of talent, but in their behavior, the respect they show everyone in the cast, and the manner in which they present themselves. We came to the conclusion that their involvement in musical theatre is an important factor in making them all good kids.
Our youngest cast member is 6 and our oldest cast member is probably around 60. These kids aren't just working with people in their age group; they're working with all age groups. I especially love watching the older kids (as young as 11) taking care of the younger kids; from making sure they're in the right place to cheering them on as they have their moments on stage.
Some of them have already started school. They're getting homework done while still paying attention to rehearsal so they don't miss a cue, an excellent lesson in time management skills.
They need to use their listening skills constantly. They've been directed to react to the other characters (and they do), they have to listen for musical cues, and they have to listen to the stage manager.
They also need to think on their feet. We did a mini-performance last week and none of us really knew how things were going to go until we were there, doing it. The stage was about half the size of the one we're used to and we couldn't do half our blocking, but miraculously, we collectively did and didn't do the same things!
Live theatre is awesome and terrifying for the same reason: when things don't go as planned. Sometimes, wonderful moments that were never found in rehearsals are created with the help of an audience. Sometimes, someone doesn't make their entrance and it's up to anyone on stage at the moment (regardless of age) to keep the magic going. Children involved in musical theatre learn mad problem solving skills in those seconds.
Cast members become a family of their own in this collective experience, and no doubt, there's much to be said about teamwork in a cast. At the same time, each individual knows what they did well and not so well. We may not be required to call a foul on ourselves, but we do acknowledge and apologize for any mistakes we make. We are all subject to one another, and we live up to that most of the time.
There is no more definite a deadline than an opening night. Tickets have been sold, your friends and family are coming, and they don't care if the blocking was just changed the day before. They expect you to shine on that stage. And somehow, you do. Even if there are safety pins sticking you in the ribs, and the hat you're wearing feels like a vice. You will say your lines, sing your songs, and smile your biggest, brightest smile. And you'll do it all again the next night.
While I can reluctantly admit that musical theatre is not for everyone, I wish more people had more exposure to it to make an educated opinion on whether or not it's for them. I know all of the children involved in this one will look back on this wonderful, crazy journey with fondness. It may take them years to realize just how much they learned and accomplished in just two months.
Wishing my entire musical family a magical opening night!!