watching shows with our parents and sometimes not getting everything that was said or sung, but knowing our folks were having as great a time as we were – all laughing at the same jokes and singing along to the same catchy tunes. So we set about trying to do the same ourselves. Shorter song structures, repeated lyrical ideas, fairly straightforward messages but also a wide range of musical references and lots of “suddenly”s (our old friend the playwright David Wood’s phrase for making sure that on every page of script there is at least one metaphorical “when, suddenly…”) as a device to keep the children engaged and focused.
A guest blog entry from George Stiles, writer of The Three Little Pigs to be presented at this year’s Festival of New Musicals.
The Three Little Pigs was written in response to a specific brief from the Singapore Repertory Theatre. Over the past few years, they have built up their younger audiences – from 3 years and over – with their dedicated “The Little Company.” Singapore has a huge number of school-age children, for whom English is their first language, with Malay, Mandarin or Hokkien as their second. SRT realised that this audience was barely catered for with live entertainment and that, aside from large, highly-visible branded tours, there was a lack of high quality musical theatre material.
Since we already had considerable experience writing for a truly “family” audience (Honk!, Mary Poppins, Just So, Peter Pan) we were intrigued to see how we could adapt our style to cater for an audience of 3 years and upwards. We were encouraged to find a story that “sold itself” by having title recognition, and that had a small cast to make the numbers work. We briefly thought of Snow White, before realizing it inherently demanded at least 8 in the cast! So we soon settled on The Three Little Pigs – immediately wondering if we could write a “trilogy of trios” – and move on to Goldilocks and the Three Bears and The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Well, we figured the “rule of three” works even better as the rule of three threes!
We quickly found a sense of liberation knowing that we wanted the show to run at 45-50 minutes, have just 5 in the cast and be understood by very young children as well as be enjoyed by their older brothers, sisters, parents and grandparents. As kids, we both remember loving
We loved writing the show. It flew by and we clocked up the key songs “A real Pig-sty”, “A Bit Misunderstood” and “A Little House” over a couple of months while working on other projects. We then sat down to assemble the show over a few weeks at Ant’s house in the South-West of France.
The show was a very considerable success in Singapore – the run was extended and played for over 70 sold-out performances – on the set of another show that played the regular 8-show-week. It’s since been translated into Mandarin and played a further 4 sold-out weeks in the same 350-seat theatre.
We believe that there is a huge opportunity here for theatres to program more creatively – reaching out to locals schools and pre-schools and building an audience for this kind of educative, fun and accessible musical theatre. And of course the show also works for the whole-family weekend and holiday schedules. Down the line, our idea is that you could also choose to perform two of these short shows as a double-bill to make a full evening’s entertainment – thus giving the shows the ability to be programmed in many different ways.
We’ve already written and premiered Goldilocks, to even greater success and will start work on the Billy Goats later this year for a 2015 premiere. We already have movie and TV interest in them – there’s no doubt that children’s entertainment across the world is massively in the ascendant. Don’t be left behind – there’s a whole new audience for theatre to be won over here, and a whole new chance to make your theatres full, vibrant and earning at times you didn’t think could be profitable.
Leave a Reply