Nowhere is Mister Rogers more revered than here in Western Pennsylvania where he lived and broadcast his iconic children’s show, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Those of us who grew up watching him change into that red sweater and sneakers each episode associate Mr. Rogers with comfort, security, and a sense of goodness. Seeing those episodes now, I’m struck by the humanity of his messages. Fred Rogers never spoke down to children - he spoke to and with children. Also, as a music educator, I’m impressed by his musical talent and the caliber of musicians he hosted on his show. Rogers allowed kids to experience music that many others would consider too sophisticated for an elementary audience.
When choosing musicals, I think Mr. Rogers is a great example to follow. We miss a great opportunity to spread Fred Roger’s love of and respect for children if we choose a show only because of its popular appeal. Kids have the ability to experience deep emotions and recognize messages of goodness and hope, so why not give them characters who are like themselves? Also, regarding music, it’s a mistake to assume kids will only want to sing the newest, most recognizable songs. We don’t give our students, including the youngest of them, the credit they deserve for musical taste and sensibility.
Think about the last show you directed. Hopefully, it was a big success! Who doesn’t love to watch kids perform? And I’m sure your kids loved their time on stage. But also ask yourself – what message did the kids come away with? What was the point of the story? Is there a concept or principle they can apply to their own lives? Did you discuss the importance of the message? Did the music convey meaning and emotion in a way kids could grasp and perform?
We all spend untold hours creating scenery, finding props, contacting parents, etc., but what is the point of all that activity if the experience doesn’t help your kids become better people? Or give your audience something to think about? Entertainment for entertainment’s sake is not a bad thing, but as children’s musical directors, I think our standards should be high. We miss the entire point of a theater experience if we let kids think that entertainment is the only goal. And if your show’s musical quality is lacking or exposes kids to only one style or genre, how will they appreciate other artistic experiences?
I’m speaking to myself as well as you. It’s so easy to get caught up in the supposed desires of your kids or community; giving them an unfamiliar show or one with a more challenging message seems risky. And taking the time to talk to your young cast about issues deeper than blocking or costumes seems unnecessarily time-consuming or, possibly, not part of your job as director. However, you can produce a wonderfully entertaining show AND promote a deeper understanding of theater and – even more – how to live our lives.
“At the center of the Universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.”
― Fred Rogers
Musicals for Change
Musicals for Change produces children's musicals which raise awareness and funds for worthy causes.
How to Purchase
All Musical for Change products are sold as digital downloads. Unlimited copies of scripts and rehearsal MP3's may be made and projected for your students to learn. No more lost music!