This is an excerpt from Beginning Musical Theatre Dance by Diana Dart Harris.
You may now have a good idea about what your job is during rehearsals and performances. Now you need to understand how the entire staff works together to create a performance. Understanding the various jobs within a production and the hierarchy will be important so that you are aware of who is in charge of the elements that come together to create a cohesive and successful production.
The main production staff is made up of a producer, a director, a music director, a choreographer, a technical director, and a wardrobe and makeup director.
The producer oversees all parts of the production and ensures that everything runs smoothly. The producer acts as the business manager of the production and is therefore in charge of creating and following the budget; fund-raising; setting performance dates, times, and ticket prices; marketing and publicizing the show; creating a timeline for the rehearsal and production period in collaboration with the director; securing rehearsal and performance spaces; and hiring and overseeing the stage manager and house manager.
The stage manager is in charge of scheduling, giving cues, taking notes, and communicating with the cast and designers during the rehearsal period. During the show, the stage manager is responsible for overseeing each performance. She or he is in charge of every scene change and is expected to be sure that all actors are where they need to be at all times. The stage manager is always listened to and respected because she or he is in charge after performances begin.
Although the stage manager is in charge of everything that happens backstage, the house manager oversees everything that happens on the other side of the curtain. The house manager is responsible for the box office, everything that happens in the lobby, everything that happens in the audience, and the custodians. He or she must hire and oversee the people who run the box office, act as ushers, and sell souvenirs or serve refreshments in the lobby. Any time a problem arises in the audience such as a dispute over a seat or a loud, disruptive audience member, the house manager is called on to resolve the issue.
The director controls all the artistic elements of the show. She or he is responsible for running the audition; casting the show; blocking, or staging, all the scenes; coaching the actors on line delivery; and helping with character development. The director is responsible for developing the concept behind the play and being able to explain it to the other members of the artistic staff and the cast. She or he must collaborate with the staff and be able to integrate all the acting, singing, and dancing in a seamless manner.
The music director is responsible for working with both the cast and the musicians who will be playing in the orchestra for the show. He or she interprets the music and helps guide the director and choreographer by suggesting changes in the music or places where the music should be lengthened or cut shorter. The music director’s jobs include securing rehearsal accompanists; hiring the pit orchestra, the group of musicians who will play the music during the actual performance; and rehearsing the music with the cast and the orchestra.
The choreographer is the movement expert. She or he is responsible for reading through the script, listening to the show’s music, and developing movements and gestures that combine to create the show’s dances. The choreographer is generally responsible for creating dance sequences, teaching them to the cast, and rehearsing them. She or he is also often responsible for adding gestural movement to other scenes and helping to block crowd scenes. The choreographer must make sure that acting can be conveyed through the selected movements and that the cast members are able to sing while dancing. Therefore, she or he must work closely with both the director and the music director.
Besides reading through the script and listening to the music, the choreographer must research the historical era of the show to be sure that the dances are appropriate for the setting of the musical. Many shows are set in a specific period, and the choreographer’s movements should reflect the setting. For example, The Boyfriend is set in the 1920s when the Charleston was a popular dance. Using a dance from another era would not make sense or seem authentic.
A cast member is usually assigned the title of dance captain. The dance captain works under the choreographer and acts as her or his assistant. The dance captain is responsible for learning all of the choreography and helping other cast members learn it. He or she is required to teach choreography to replacement cast members and may be required to call and run additional rehearsals to practice choreography and give notes to cast members.
The technical director oversees all the technical aspects of the production. She or he works closely with the director to help create the mood of the production and be sure that the actors will be safe, seen, and heard. She or he is responsible for hiring a scenic designer, a lighting designer, and a sound designer. The scenic designer is responsible for creating a set that will work well in the performance space and help create the director’s vision. He or she must work closely with the lighting designer, whose job it is to use lighting to ensure that all areas of the stage and the performers are visible at the right times, to set the mood, to direct the audience’s attention, and to indicate the time of day during scenes. The sound designer is responsible for being certain that performers and musicians can be heard, that the sound is balanced in the theatre, and that all necessary sound effects are in place.
Although the director, music director, and choreographer all begin their work at the beginning of the production, most of the technical staff do not begin their work in the theatre until a few weeks before opening night. The people creating the set begin designing and building it early in the rehearsal process, but the lighting and sound crews will first enter the theatre during load-in, when lights are hung and wires for lighting and sound are run throughout the theatre.
Lighting effects can help direct the audience’s attention and create a mood for the dance.
Wardrobe and Makeup Supervisor
The wardrobe and makeup supervisor oversees the areas of both costume and makeup design. Responsibilities include researching the musical, meeting with the director and choreographer and working with the costume designer to ensure that the costumes will work well in all the scenes and still match the vision, determining what type of makeup will be used, measuring the actors and being certain that costumes fit well, and being certain that the costumes are laundered, ironed, and ready for each dress rehearsal and performance. Additionally, she or he is responsible for the storage of costumes and the physical transportation of them to and from the theatre.
Did You Know?
A swing is a member of the cast who is required to understudy many roles in the production so that he or she may immediately assume responsibility for a role should a fellow actor be unable to perform.
Learn more about Beginning Musical Theatre Dance.