1st Edition

Directing in Musical Theatre An Essential Guide

By Joe Deer Copyright 2014
    288 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    282 Pages 7 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This comprehensive guide, from the author of Acting in Musical Theatre, will equip aspiring directors with all of the skills that they will need in order to guide a production from beginning to end. From the very first conception and collaborations with crew and cast, through rehearsals and technical production all the way to the final performance, Joe Deer covers the full range.

    Deer’s accessible and compellingly practical approach uses proven, repeatable methods for addressing all aspects of a production. The focus at every stage is on working with others, using insights from experienced, successful directors to tackle common problems and devise solutions. Each section uses the same structure, to stimulate creative thinking:

    • Timetables: detailed instructions on what to do and when, to provide a flexible organization template
    • Prompts and Investigations: addressing conceptual questions about style, characterization and design
    • Skills Workshops: Exercises and ‘how-to’ guides to essential skills
    • Essential Forms and Formats: Including staging notation, script annotation and rehearsal checklists
    • Case Studies: Well-known productions show how to apply each chapter’s ideas

    Directing in Musical Theatre not only provides all of the essential skills, but explains when and how to put them to use; how to think like a director.

    Table of Contents

    Foreword by Eric Schaeffer


    How To Use This Book

    Phase One: Conception

    Timetable One: Preparation

    Chapter One: Preparing for Collaboration

    Unit 1.1 Reading and listening to the Musical

    Unit 1.1.1 Gathering Impressions

    Questionnaire: First Impressions

    Unit 1.2 Creating a Research Portfolio

    Unit 1.3 History and Society Viewed Selectively

    Unit 1.4 Tradition

    Unit 1.5 Dissecting the Script and Score

    Unit 1.5.1 Units of Action

    Questionnaire: Unit Analysis

    Unit 1.6 Character Analysis

    Unit 1.6.1 Facts

    Questionnaire: Character Given Circumstances

    Unit 1.6.2 Character Journey

    Unit 1.6.3 Charting Change

    Unit 1.6.4 Attitudes

    Questionnaire: Character Attitudes

    Unit 1.6.5 Ambitions

    Questionnaire: Character Ambitions

    Unit 1.7 Directing and Style

    Unit 1.7.1 What Is Style?

    Unit 1.7.2 Establishing Style in Your Production

    Unit 1.7.3 Unity of Style

    Unit 1.7.4 History and Genre

    Unit 1.7.5 Worldview

    Questionnaire: Defining Worldview

    Unit 1.7.5 Articulating Style

    Questionnaire: Elements of Style

    Unit 1.8 Visiting the Performance Space

    Unit 1.9 Getting It Down On Paper - Creating a Concept Statement

    Unit 1.9.1 This Is The Story Of …

    Unit 1.9.2 Themes and Ideas

    Unit 1.9.3 Images and Visual Style

    Unit 1.9.4 State Your Passion

    Chapter Two: Imagining The Chorus

    Unit 2.1 What is a chorus?

    Unit 2.2 Populating the world of your musical

    Unit 2.3 The power of the group

    Unit 2.4 Applying Pressure

    Unit 2.5 Chorus as Storyteller

    Unit 2.6 Chorus as Spectacle

    Unit 2.7 Chorus as Characters

    Unit 2.8 Engaging Chorus Actors

    Phase Two: Collaboration

    Timetable: Phase Two

    Chapter Three: Creative Collaboration

    Unit 3.1 The Passionate Center

    Unit 3.2 What is a Choreographer?

    Unit 3.3 Theatre Dance vs. Concert Dance

    Unit 3.4 Musical Collaboration

    Chapter Four: Directing the Design

    Unit 4.1 Design Process: Scenery

    Unit 4.1.1 Scenic Design Preparation

    Questionnaire: Scenic Design

    Unit 4.1.2 What to Expect in the Scenic Design Process

    Scenic Design Process for Big River

    Unit 4.2 Design Process: Costumes

    Unit 4.2.1 Character Analysis for Costume Design

    Unit 4.2.2 Practical Requirements

    Unit 4.2.3 Cast by Scene Breakdown

    Unit 4.2.4 What to Expect in the Costume Design Process

    Gregg Barnes’ Costume Design Process for The Drowsy Chaperone

    Unit 4.3 Design Process: Lighting

    Unit 4.3.1 What to Expect in the Lighting Design Process

    Natasha Katz’ Lighting Design Process for Follies

    Unit 4.4 Budgets and Creative Limits

    Checklist: Effective Design

    Phase Three: Rehearsal

    Timetable Three: Auditions to Final Studio Run-Through

    Chapter Five: Auditions

    Unit 5.1 Casting Breakdowns

    Unit 5.2 Principal Role Auditions

    Unit 5.3 Chorus Calls

    Unit 5.4 Addressing Multiple Casting Needs

    Unit 5.5 Non-Traditional Casting

    Unit 5.6 Negotiations and Waiting

    Chapter Six: Staging and Coaching

    Unit 6.1 Staging Stories

    Unit 6.1.1 Levels of Staging

    Unit 6.1.2 Staging Questions

    Questionnaire: Staging Action

    Unit 6.1.3 Believable Spontaneity and Inevitability

    Unit 6.1.4 Types of Musical Numbers

    Unit 6.1.5 Prompts to Staging Opportunities

    Unit 6.1.6 Staging Structure

    Unit 6.1.7 Storytelling Through Staging

    Unit 6.1.8 All Staging is Action

    Unit 6.1.9 Storytelling – Beat-by-beat

    Unit 6.1.10 Group Staging Notation

    ‘I Wanna Be A Producer’ from The Producers

    Unit 6.1.11 Choreographic Staging

    Unit 6.2 Staging Tools

    Unit 6.2.1 Movement and Images

    Unit 6.2.2 Principles of Effective Blocking

    Unit 6.2.3 Compositional Qualities

    Unit 6.3 Blocking Scenes and Songs

    Unit 6.3.1 Blocking Script Set Up

    Next to Normal scene/song blocking script

    Unit 6.3.2 Ideas Into Action

    Unit 6.3.3 Blocking Notation

    Unit 6.3.4 Giving Blocking to Actors

    Unit 6.4 Coaching Your Cast

    Unit 6.4.1 Actor/Singers

    Unit 6.4.2 10 Keys to Coaching the Singing Actor

    Unit 6.4.3 Dancers are actors, too

    Unit 6.5 Entertainment Values and ‘Selling It’ To The Audience

    Phase Four: Production

    Timetable: Phase Four

    Chapter Seven: Moving Into The Theatre

    Unit 7.1 Getting acquainted with the space

    Unit 7.2 Spacing Rehearsals and Adjustments

    Unit 7.3 Safety First

    Unit 7.4 Adding Scenery and Props

    Unit 7.5 Adding Lighting

    Unit 7.6 Adding Orchestra

    Unit 7.7 Sound Design and Reinforcement

    Unit 7.8 The Stage Manager Takes Charge – Technical Rehearsal

    Unit 7.9 Adding Costumes

    Unit 7.10 Crew

    Unit 7.11 Special Rehearsals

    Unit 7.12 Putting It All Back Together

    Unit 7.13 Finding The Heart of the show again

    Unit 7.14 Prioritizing and Problem Solving

    Unit 7.15 "Please" and "Thank You"

    Phase Five: Performance

    Timetable: Previews to Closing

    Chapter Eight: Shaping the Production

    Unit 8.1 Curtain Calls

    Unit 8.2 Previews

    Unit 8.3 Advice and Opinions

    Unit 8.4 Opening Night

    Unit 8.5 Notes and Rehearsal After Opening

    Unit 8.6 Post Mortem

    Chapter Nine: Etcetera – And All The Rest

    Unit 9.1 Directing New Works

    Unit 9.2 Directing Revues

    Unit 9.3 Habits of Successful Directors


    Appendix A: Sample Documents

    1. Weekly Rehearsal Schedule – Seussical
    2. Daily Rehearsal Schedule – Carousel
    3. Blocking/Staging Checklist – Seussical
    4. Cast-by-scene Breakdowns – Nine
    5. Scene and Song Rehearsal Unit Breakdown – Kiss Me, Kate
    6. Concept Statement – Into The Woods
    7. Scene/Song Unit Analysis – Fiddler On The Roof
    8. Character Analysis (short) – The Light In The Piazza
    9. Staging Roadmap (Beat Breakdown) – ‘The Night Waltz’ from A Little Night Music

    Appendix B: Complete Production Timetable

    Appendix C: Blank Questionnaires

    1. First Impressions
    2. Unit Analysis
    3. Character Given Circumstances
    4. Character Attitudes
    5. Character Ambitions
    6. Defining Worldview
    7. Elements of Style
    8. Scenic Design
    9. Staging Action
    10. Checklist: Effective Design

    Appendix D: A Brief Glossary of Useful Stage Terms


    Joe Deer is Distinguished Professor of Musical Theatre and Director of The Musical Theatre Initiative at Wright State University. He has directed off-Broadway, in top regional theatres across the US and at many of the finest educational institutions in the world. His first book, Acting in Musical Theatre: a comprehensive course (co-author, Rocco Dal Vera) is also available from Routledge.

    'This will be an essential handbook for anyone faced with the challenge of directing a musical. Deer writes from a wealth of experience in directing, and a thorough knowledge of the musical theatre repertoire.' – Dominic Symonds, University of Portsmouth, UK

    'Directing is a somewhat ‘ethereal’ job – those who do not do it have a hard time articulating what it is we exactly do as Directors. I think this book is both practical, but asks the right questions so that directors do not merely ‘replicate’ another show.' – David Gram, Director, Dramaturg, Actor & Teacher, USA

    'Finally! A step-by-step handbook on how to direct musicals. Joe Deer’s Directing In Musical Theatre is the perfect book for aspiring and experienced directors alike. The craft of directing can be quite mysterious, but as Joe masterfully tells it, with thoughtful insight, extraordinary detail and great passion, the director’s role becomes vividly clear. This book is sure to become a valuable resource for anyone working in the theatre.' – Marcia Milgrom Dodge, Tony Award Nominated Director & Choreographer, RAGTIME

    'A terrific analysis of how to mount a musical. From reading the script, right up to opening night, Joe Deer's insights are practical and inspiring.'Walter Bobbie, Tony Award winning Director, CHICAGO 

    'Joe Deer's book is an eloquent and accurate analysis of what a director in the musical theatre actually does. He understands the many components of a musical and how to coordinate and integrate them. I highly recommend it to anyone contemplating directing a musical.' – Jerry Zaks, Tony Award winning Director, GUYS AND DOLLS and SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ

    'Directing In Musical Theatre is a splendid text for anyone wishing to explore directing for the musical stage. It deals with every essential aspect of this daunting task, and explains each with singular clarity and intelligence. The work is well organized, thorough, and completely accessible. Finally, here is a book that gets to the heart of this art.'Gregory Lehane, Professor - Former Head of Directing, Drama and Music, Carnegie Mellon University

    'Joe Deer's Directing in the Musical Theatre is a well-informed exploration of the musical theatre directing process that is filled with heart, intellect and spirit. If every director was required to read the chapter on staging alone, we would be blessed with productions more truthful, entertaining, and ultimately satisfying. This book, which equally balances craft with artistry, will be helpful to beginner and seasoned veteran alike.' – Cary Libkin, Professor, Head Of Musical Theatre Degree Programs, Penn State University