JUNIOR vs. FULL SHOW
If you have been a long time patron or participant in Journey’s main stage productions, perhaps you’ve noticed a recent trend to move towards doing “Junior” versions of shows rather than the full version. Why is this? We thought maybe a brief explanation of this choice would help you in planning your trips to the theater for our Winter session.
There are MANY merits to performing the junior version rather than the full version. First, when we request the junior version, a Show Kit is delivered to us regardless of the production dates. With full versions, we rent the materials and we are only allowed 8 weeks of use from the date of opening night. This can put some significant time restraints on artistic teams being able to prepare for the show. Likewise, the orchestra scores come in a different shipment. We have often needed to pay hundreds of dollars extra for extended rental times in order for our teams, students and orchestras to have adequate rehearsal with the materials. With the Junior Version Show Kit, all materials arrive at once and we get to keep them.
Second, by using the same tracks for performance as we do for rehearsals, students have consistent aural cues they are working off of. When we do full versions, the Lord has been so good to bless us with volunteer orchestra members who bring tremendous skill and generosity to their performance. However, due to limitations at the venues, we typically are not able to have as many musicians as are called for by the Broadway score. Modifications have to be made and adaptations applied. Therefore, when students arrive to the dress rehearsal week, there are often some changes to what they’ve been used to listening to on their practice recording. For instance, perhaps there is an oboe line that a particular dance move cues off of, and suddenly, there is no oboe line to be heard because that orchestra member is covering the saxophone score instead. It has nothing to do with skill, but has everything to do with number of personnel.
Additionally, Music Directors are really appreciating that the junior versions are “voiced” for young actors. The music is in sing-able ranges that really showcase young performers. There are harmonies included that are attainable and dynamic for our students to be challenged while reaching musical success and clarity.
The Lord has continually blessed us with a wonderful team of volunteer parents to serve on production committees! It is just remarkable how He supplies for us and gives us parents and helpers that are so eager to learn and to grow in a skill for themselves as well as for their student. Mixing a live orchestra, and being attentive to the need of our students to be amplified, is a difficult skill. It’s not for the faint of heart. By eliminating the need to always step up to this most challenging task, it allows time for our parents to learn the skills of mixing sound in a more controlled capacity and really serve the production well. We want to set our parents up for success just as much as we want our students set up to achieve excellence. Remember, when you go to see performances at theater companies that always use a live orchestra, the players are usually in a “pit” where the sound can be contained and masterfully dialed in. Also, they typically have the luxury of being in one location that they are able to have unlimited access to for optimum conditions of acoustic balancing. We, on the other hand, have the opportunity to learn how to adapt to new spaces, with strict time constraints, and limited options for placement and size of orchestra. We love our partnerships with the schools we perform in and are so grateful for the open door they’ve granted us to rent from them, however, they are not without significant challenges to our tech equipment and staff. While patrons enjoy the presence of a live orchestra, most are attending the performance to show support for the kids performing. And boy, do our kids sound good up there!! How about a big round of applause for our tech parents!?!
Finally, the junior version is not a lesser quality production. It is simply shorter. In most cases, reprises or slower moving sections have been trimmed out allowing the pace of the show to gain the momentum it needs. This has been a great benefit to the Directors for rehearsal schedule planning, as they have enough time to “front load” the schedule and then have time to really polish it before Move-In. By having a shorter show, that has all the strongest elements included, our elderly patrons and our younger audience members have a more comfortable theater experience. Also, for school day shows, our actors generally do not need to accommodate tricky “cuts” for the school district bus schedules when working with a junior script. They get to perform a consistent show every time. As a performer, it is such a relief to not have to keep track of two very different shows.
We want our students to always be set up for optimum success. When we can do full shows (some shows, like Disney’s Aladdin Jr and Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. only come in junior versions), we strategically evaluate, given the venue, if that would be the best option given the factors outlined above. I hope this has been useful in helping you understand that our goal is always for excellence in production value and for a fabulous experience for our loyal patrons!