A second show of a run is usually the hardest. Coming off of a successful opening night, the performers tend to struggle to pump up to the same energy and focus level of the first show. As a director, I always try to think of things that will help. This spring I directed the show "A Successor to the Throne" at an Elementary School. The kids were so excited, bouncing off the walls and hardly contained in their skins for opening night. Then they waited all weekend for the second show on Monday night and for a third show for their peers during school the next day. What they all seemed to want to do was talk about comments from opening night. I shared with them some accolades that I received and then all their hands went up. They nearly all had something to say. So, we just took some time to share.
From listening, I realized that very few of these children had ever had an experience doing a musical play like this. Apparently, the shows the school had done previously had all the standard elements - a handful of leading characters, two or three ensemble numbers sung to a prerecorded accompaniment CD complete with vocal tracks, and only enough parts for a small cast --- but no one, including administrators, staff or parents, really expected very much. The previous shows were mediocre at best, but adequate enough for an after-school club activity.
What these children were telling me was that they were so pleased that the show had enough meaningful parts for 50 kids and that no one person was the star. They all felt important to the telling of the story. They each had many jobs to do throughout the show that kept them very busy. They learned some acting techniques and dance steps and they did their own singing!
The comments from the audience and parents to me were much the same. The audience was delighted with the music, and the dancing, and the colorful costumes. They were amazed at how well the children sang and that they could understand every word. Many people said they had read the book The Empty Pot, so they knew the story, but they were thrilled to see how it came to life with so much added depth and colorful characters.
The children continued to give wonderful, polished performances for their next two shows with very few fumbles. They were troupers. I was gratified to know that they got more than applause. I am so pleased that their audiences gave them the accolades and thoughtful critiques that they needed to validate their hard work. It's true, sometimes applause is not enough!