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Musical Theatre Camp Activities
Join us for a fun, 30-minute musical theatre lesson for elementary-aged students and their parents.
Before we begin, you can get your voice ready by trying our warm-up activities!
The Hissing Kettle
Musical Theatre, just like all theatre, tells a story to the audience! The tale can be sad, happy, funny, scary, or make the people watching feel any other emotion you can imagine. Since singing is such a large element of Musical Theatre, the music, itself, is a very important part of telling the story. In particular, the rhythm of a song can help us understand the emotions of the actors. RHYTHM is the specific pattern of sounds and silences in both the words and notes of a piece of music. No two songs have the same rhythm, and specific patterns of sound can tell us that the singer is happy, angry, or even afraid!
In the Arden’s production of A Year With Frog and Toad in 2016/17, singing was huge storytelling element, and each song had its own unique rhythm. During the “He’ll Never Know” number, both Frog and Toad are hoping to surprise each other by raking their friend’s front yard. This song is a great example of rhythm because the actors used rakes to mimic and add to the rhythm of the music, so you can hear it very clearly. Let’s watch!
Now, let’s practice identifying and creating different patterns of sound by playing the game FORBIDDEN RHYTHM! Here are the instructions:
- Find a partner. You can even play with more than two people, if you would like.
- One person will lead the rhythm and come up with a specific series of claps that are the Forbidden Rhythm. They should teach it to the other player(s).
- Now, the game begins! The leader should clap out different rhythms, and the other player(s) should repeat them back after each series of sounds. However, if the lead claps the Forbidden Rhythm, the players should NOT repeat it.
- Participants can play as long as they would like, and switch the leader for each round of the game.
Need a challenge? Play for a FORBIDDEN RHYTHM champion. If a player claps the off-limits rhythm, they have lost the game. You can also make the game harder by adding a second forbidden rhythm into the mix.
Need to simplify? If you are playing with a younger student, rather than enforcing the “forbidden rhythm” rule, clap out a simple series, and have your student repeat it back to you to practice rhythm skills.
Singing with Emotion
Musical Theatre performers use three elements to help tell the story of a piece of theatre: dancing, singing, and acting! The rhythm of the music informs dancing and the pattern of the lyrics, or words, that are sung. An actor can also change their vocal tone to act out different emotions while singing. TONE refers to a person’s attitude, which can change what their voice sounds like. For example, every person speaks differently when they are happy as opposed to angry, and you can do the same thing with your voice when you’re singing.
Let’s practice acting through song by using “Happy Birthday to You,” while changing the tone of our voices to express different emotions or states of being! Here are the instructions:
- Sing the song with a big smile on your face, while trying to sound as HAPPY as possible.
- Now, sing the song with a grumpy look on your face, while trying to sound as ANGRY as possible.
- Lastly, sing the song while yawning, and try to sound as SLEEPY as possible.
- If you would like, you can try even more emotions or states of being! For example, you could sing the song while pretending to feel BORED, SAD, or even AFRAID.
Need a challenge? Try doing the same exercise, but use a song with more complex lyrics. You can even try changing your tone in the middle of a song.
Need to simplify? If you’re singing with a younger student and they are having difficulty understanding tone, sing an example. Then, they can try repeating it back to you by mimicking your acting.
Performing a Song
Lastly, we’ll put together everything we’ve learned, and apply it to performing a Musical Theatre number! We’ll be using the beginning of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz. First, let’s learn the song. Here are the lyrics:
Somewhere over the rainbow,
Way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of,
Once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow,
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream,
Really do come true.
Next, you can learn the tune, and sing along!
Now, that you’ve learned “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” it’s time to perform it, and try storytelling through song! Here are some questions to think about before you begin:
- What do the rhythm and lyrics tell you about the emotion of the song?
- How can you change the tone of your voice to act that emotion out while you sing?
- If you would like a challenge, think back to what we learned about dynamics in the first lesson, Let’s Sing: Vocal Tools. How can you change your dynamics, or volume, throughout the song to help communicate the emotion?
Need a challenge? Learn the whole “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” song from The Wizard of Oz by looking it up on YouTube, Spotify, or even watching the full movie musical. You could also add your own choreography to help tell the story.
Need to simplify? If you are singing with a younger student, rather than focusing on acting, simply try to help them learn the words and sing along. If learning the words is difficult, ask them to move to the music in the way that it makes them feel.
Thank you for singing with us today!
We would love to see how you performed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or how you participated in any of the other exercises! Tag us using @ArdenTheatreCo on Facebook or Instagram if you would like to share.
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