Benefits extend beyond the musical stage

By LAURA-LEITH PETTIGREW

Strong stories, passionate power ballads, exuberant dance moves, elaborate costumes and sets: musicals are designed to amaze.

But Sunshine Coast teachers said school musicals not only provide entertainment, they also benefit the students.

Immanuel Lutheran College is just one of the Coast’s schools eagerly preparing their school musical, Shrek.

Shrek director and the executive producer Nick Knignenburg, said musicals provide a multitude of benefits for students, including a self-esteem boost.

“Look I think confidence is a big thing for kids … and I think being a part of an ensemble really helps with that when they’re not the only focus on stage,” Mr Knignenburg said.

Maroochydore State High School creative industries head Steve White said while participating students receive “intrinsic” rewards: goal setting, high self-esteem, improved confidence, memory development, teamwork skills and the ability to get along with others, the larger student body also benefited.

“We have the cinema … but young people don’t necessarily get to see live theater or be a part of it so it’s good making that available to students who might otherwise not indulge in those types of things, either as an audience member or as a participant in the cast or crew,” Mr White said.

He said many businesses and organisations in the community gained business from the musical’s creation.

“You’re linking with people in the community, suppliers … and community organisations,” Mr White said.

“It’s great it brings people together. Everyone wins. It’s great.”

Students from Immanuel Lutheran College have been rehearsing their musical, Shrek, two to four times a week for the past six months leading up to the show.

And they are not alone. Other schools such as Sunshine Coast Grammar with The Little Mermaid and Maroochydore State High School with Wicked are also hard at work

Regular rehearsals, memorising lines, costume fittings and designing sets are added to students busy schedules which often include part-time work, academic pressure, additional testing like NAPLAN and the QCS, extra-curricular activities and personal commitments.

With so much on their plate it is not hard to see why almost half of all students surveyed claimed to be “very stressed”, up from 28 per cent in 2003.

So, is the increased load associated with school musicals adding unnecessary stress?

Mr Knignenburg said while musicals can be stressful it is not a bad thing.

“I think there is negative stress and positive stress [and] I think for the students there is a positive stress that comes [from being in a musical],” Mr Knignenburg said.

“They are being challenged and stretched and so I think that’s a good thing.”

Mr White said while the large workload “does increase stress” the students are equipped to manage it.

“Generally, a lot of those students that are involved in musicals … know it’s a lot of hard work and therefore the students that do participate, they’re well organised, they’re well motivated and … they’ve got the right mindset  [and] work ethic,” Mr White said.

Sunshine Coast Grammar’s male lead Dan Omeally said his mindset is the key to dealing with the added pressure.

“Just talking about stress here is making me think about how much work I have to do when I get home as well as rehearsal for this show,” Dan said.

“But I find having a positive attitude and not overthinking the workload makes the stress a lot easier to manage.”

Despite the added stress and pressure Dan said it is all worth it once he is on stage.

“Being on stage is electric; of course, there’s nerves at play, but for me they immediately disappear once I start to sing – it’s an indescribably beautiful ecstasy that empowers me to perform my best,” he said.

Mr White said movies like The Greatest Showman and La La Land promoted musicals.

“Hollywood makes it [musicals] accessible and the … whole package is very appealing, and people enjoy that,” Mr White said.

“That gets them to buy into school musicals too, it’s like ‘oh wow I’ve seen that movie’, or ‘I like that movie’.”

Mr Omeally credits the popularity of movies made of musicals with changing attitudes.

“The growing positive attitude towards music in schools, and the amount of people willing to participate is growing exponentially.”

Maroochydore State High School and Sunshine Coast Grammar’s productions will take to the stage next month. Immanuel Lutheran College’s musical will begin their production in late July.

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