When you are lighting the stage, be aware that lights need to come from the FRONT in order for us to see a child’s face, not from above, beside, or behind. If you are lucky enough to have a stage at your school, the “working lights” that are on the ceiling of the stage will not light the kids properly.
Most elementary schools will likely not have a proper lighting system but you can imitate this with shop flood lights, which are available very affordably from places such as Home Depot. There are several models that come with their own tripods. You’ll need two sets so you can have one on each side of the auditorium or gym space – if you only have one, the shadows will be very distracting.
Schools that are lucky enough to have curtains on their stage have a tendency to overuse them. If you’ve ever seen a professional theatre production you’ll notice that the only times a curtain is normally is used is before the show, during intermission, and at the end of the show. DO NOT close the curtain in between scenes or musical acts.
I have had disagreements with other teachers in the past who want the curtain closed while their class comes onto the stage. The only thing this achieves is giving the class a license to move more slowly and act silly (since they are not being watched) and provides NOTHING for the audience to look at. It adds unnecessary time and clumsiness to your production. If you have a musical number or scene that requires more extensive set-up, use the curtain only if absolutely necessary – and if you do, make sure you provide an entre-act (a mini-scene that can be done in front of the curtain) to keep the show moving during that time.
When students sing along with a track that already has the vocals on it, they never sing to their full potential. They tend to sing quieter because they are listening for the original to make sure they are “singing it right” instead of singing out strong and with confidence. Given how easy it is to find karaoke tracks for most well-known songs using iTunes or internet sites such as YouTube, there is really no excuse for asking kids to sing along with the original vocalist. The parents don’t want to hear the recording artist – they want to hear their own kid. Get a proper instrumental track so that all that rehearsal won’t go to waste.
Minimize “dead air”
Any experienced performer will tell you that the #1 way to lose an audience is to have “dead air” – a period of time where nothing is happening. This means you need to tighten up all transitions so that you can maintain the attention of your audience. The most common kiss of death is those times when classes are getting on and off the stage. You NEED to practice this. For the last two weeks before a concert I always start taking my music classes into the gym (even if it’s just for 10 min) and practice going on and off the stage in the order they will be standing. Then by the time the actual concert arrives they are super comfortable doing this and are able to do it very quickly. For younger classes, I have grade 6 helpers whose only job is to herd those kids on and off as quickly as humanly possible. A great tip for making this process easier is to have one side of the stage that is the “on” side and the other the “off” side. That way one class does not have to exit completely before the next one can start. Another trick is to always place a skit or scene in between each musical number that can distract the audience while the next class is getting set up.