Behind the scenes: The making of a preschool graduation musical extravaganza

Behind the scenes: The making of a preschool graduation musical extravaganza
PHOTO: Mindchamps

Getting bubbly and energetic six-year-olds to focus on a single task for 15 minutes can be a challenge at times, let alone on a full-scale musical production that lasts over an hour.

That is what award-winning director Paulene Smith and experienced dance and musical theatre director Heather McCloud have had their focus on for the most part of this year.

The two directors of MindChamps PreSchool's Graduation Musical have accomplished what few have even dared to attempt - get over 120 six-year-olds to work together for an hour and a half long musical production.

Award-winning director Paulene Smith (left) and experienced dance and musical theatre director Heather McCloud at the rehearsal.Photo: Mindchamps

Fortunately, Paulene and Heather, who have decades of theatrical and performing experience between them, were able to call upon this experience to work towards a successful concert where every child has a part to play, a song to sing and a dance to dance - and weave all these perfectly into a once-in-a-lifetime magical experience.

How did they do it?

Planning, dedication and patience....a lot of patience.

For a concert of this scale, the idea conception started in February this year. After weeks of brainstorming, the team came up with the original music score, script, dance choreography and set design. Centre-level rehearsals would begin, before coming together for mass rehearsals 2 months prior to the concert.

Photo: Mindchamps

Besides the artistic and creative challenges, logistics was also a major issue, as for the first time, six MindChamps preschool from around the island would come together for a collaborative effort to present a K2 graduation concert.

Time was another major challenge, as there was limited time for joint rehearsals and for most of the time, the centres had to practice on their own. And when everyone finally comes together, the team improvised on the spot and made changes along the way.

And of course, there were also the costumes, the stage sets and everything else that goes into a musical production.

Dance and musical theatre director Heather McCloud applying makeup for a student.Photo: Mindchamps

So everyone had to have a hand in everything, as Heather explained her responsibilities: "My role involves doing everything right now. Whether it's managing the behind-the-stage stuff, the sound effects, the music cues - things like that. As well as managing the schools, the leaders and making sure everything is coming together such as choreographing dancers and setting cues for things. It's kind of a director's role to do everything."

Getting kids to work together for something of this scale also has it benefits, as Paulene elaborates: "There's so much they can learn. Any child that's involved in the performing arts learns so many things of great importance.

"As you can see, they're working together as a team, they have to learn to try and try and try again, they're learning to work with children they don't know, with teachers they don't know. The expectation that we place on our children for this is really high, and the great thing is that they always exceed those expectations."

Award-winning director Paulene Smith with two students.Photo: Mindchamps

K2 is a turning point for a child, and getting involved in putting up a musical extravaganza of such scale will leave a deep impression on them.

Madam Huang Ying, Vice Principal at MindChamps PreSchool Serangoon, who is in charge of the Chinese segment of the concert, re-emphasised how coming together to work on such a big event has its learning points, "For the K2 children from six centres to practice together, they make new friends and learn social skills, how to interact and communicate with new friends and also, teamwork.

"They are familiar with their own preschool centres, from the environment to the friends and the teachers. Then they come into a bigger environment with which they are unfamiliar. This is where they really learn a lot, to adapt and get over their uncertainties.

"The children learnt how to coordinate with each other along the way. This is something they can't learn from books and this will help them for the future. They can't learn it from elsewhere but through this year-end musical performance."

But it isn't just the children who learn more about themselves and teamwork.

Teachers and staff from across the six centres together with the team from MindChamps headquarters get to work together on something on a much bigger scale.

So, it is not just the children who learn from this experience, the teachers and staff get a taste of professional theatre from Paulene and Heather.

Photo: Mindchamps

During these combined rehearsals, the adults also get to bond, exchange ideas and tips, and this provides them with the opportunity to see themselves as part of a bigger picture.

With the various avenues for creative input and shared artistic responsibilities, everyone young and old benefits in terms of personal growth and development.

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