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Performing Arts 101: Musical Theatre: Everything You Need to Know Before Your First Musical Theatre Experience

Now that summer at Wonderland Center for Performing Arts has begun, I thought it would be the perfect time to share with you my newest blog series, Performing Arts 101. My hope with the Performing Arts 101 series is that current and future students will use it as a reference guide for upcoming productions, workshops, and other experiences within the realm of performing arts.

So, to kick things off, I thought I would first talk about musical theatre. From the rehearsal process to important terminology and tips to follow that will hopefully make your musical theatre experience one to remember!

The Rehearsal Process

Of course, every production’s timeline is different, but this is a pretty standard production timeline that most directors like to follow:

  1. Choose the material. A production can’t begin until the directors and producers first select it!

  2. Auditions. Once the material has been chosen and the production has been announced, auditions are held for performers to showcase their talents and have the opportunity to audition for their favorite roles in the production. During auditions, you may be required to prepare a monologue, song, or dance routine depending on the part you are auditioning for. Callbacks may be necessary for the directors and producers to decide who to give the parts to. Never feel discouraged if you are called back – they wanted to see you again!

  3. Cast list announcements. After auditions are over and the cast has been determined, the cast list is announced.

  4. Read-through. At the first rehearsal for the production, the cast meets and reads the entire script together with the directors and producers. This allows the cast to familiarize themselves with the story, their characters, and the vision of the directors.

  5. Music rehearsals. Performers with singing roles learn and practice the songs they will sing during the production.

  6. Choreography rehearsals. Performers in musical numbers learn and practice the choreography they will perform during the production.

  7. Blocking rehearsals. Blocking refers to the cast’s movement and positioning on stage, so blocking rehearsals are for the director to determine the cast’s blocking and allow the cast to explore their role on stage and how they are seen and heard by the audience.

  8. Review days. Review days are longer rehearsals and involve rehearsing and critiquing the numbers learned during the music and choreography rehearsals. This is when adjustments are made to ensure the production is still meeting the director’s vision.

  9. Stumble through. The stumble-through is the first time the cast does a full run-through of the show without stopping. This allows the cast to familiarize themselves with the flow and pace of the production and allows for more critiques and changes when necessary.

  10. Running the show. Rehearsals become even longer as the cast begins practicing full-length performances.

  11. Tech week. Technical elements of the show like lighting, sound, set changes, and special effects are integrated into rehearsals.

  12. Dress rehearsals. Dress rehearsal is the final rehearsal before opening night, where the entire production is run with costumes, makeup, and all tech elements.

  13. Opening night. The first time the show is ever performed in front of an audience! Opening night is the mark of the production’s run.

  14. Strike. After the final performance, strike is the last leg of the production. Strike includes disassembling the set and removing props, costumes, and all other traces of the production from the performance space. It is so important to leave the performance space exactly how you found it!

After it is all said and done, a cast party is a well-deserved treat to everyone that was involved in the production. Cast parties allow the production’s cast and crew to celebrate what a great performance they pulled off after months of hard work!

Important Musical Theatre Terminology

Sometimes, it can feel like thespians speak an entirely different language. So, here are a few terms that you’ll definitely hear during rehearsals and performances:

  1. Upstage/Downstage: Upstage is the area farthest from the audience, while downstage is closest to the audience.

  2. Chorus: A group of performers who sing, dance, and/or act in unison that provide background support and help enhance the overall production.

  3. Eight-counts: A rhythmic unit used to keep in time with the music.

  4. Marking vs. Full-out: Marking involves performing movements at a reduced intensity, typically to make sure the performer knows the steps, while going full-out means performing at maximum effort and energy.

  5. On-book vs. Off-book: During the early stages of rehearsal, actors may carry their scripts on stage (on-book). As they become more familiar with the material, their goal is to perform without the script (off-book).

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, a musical theatre production is a team experience. It takes the dedication of every cast and crew member involved to pull off a production. I believe musical theatre is an awesome way to learn more about yourself and what you can accomplish. During rehearsals, I always encourage my students to take a step out of their own comfort zone and see what new things they can become on-stage (and off).

I hope that after reading this blog, you feel better prepared for your next musical theatre adventure, whether you’re a seasoned or a first-time performer. If you or your child is interested in any of Wonderland’s upcoming classes, workshops, or summer camps, please visit our website at to learn more or give us a call at 337-534-8014 to speak with one of our instructors.


At Wonderland Performing Arts we provide educational experiences that encourage confidence, connection, and creativity. To learn more about Wonderland’s classes/camps, showtimes, and event rental opportunities, visit

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