Once we had decided on Alice in Wonderland for our 2018 Junior School Musical, the search was on to find a script that was suitable. Music Teacher, Mr Alex St Vincent Welch, chose to take a curious path – creating and writing new music and lyrics himself. His efforts and talents paid off creating one of the most wondrous musicals the school has seen and raising the bar for future productions.
Alex shares how he came up with the idea and what inspired the process:
Our philosophy for a musical was to create something that reflected our unique culture at Melbourne Girls Grammar. With such lofty aspirations, finding a musical proved difficult. Despite Alice in Wonderland being somewhat obscure, it seemed only sensible considering the simultaneous anniversaries of Lewis Carroll’s novel and MGGS celebrating its 125th Anniversary. With Jannah Davies, our drama and choreography expert, we stripped back Carroll’s narrative to tease out its themes of curiosity and independence.
Musicals begin with a song that sets up the entire musical – this explains why the hero does what they do. Carroll does this in the first sentence of his novel beginning with, “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do”. This inspired the first song, Get Out There and Look, where Alice desires to know and find out more. For the music enthusiasts, the chorus is in a different key from the verse to illuminate the difference between her reality and her desire to change.
Alice’s song with the caterpillar, You’ve Got to Grow, was a rewrite of a melody I’d been playing with for a while where I managed to make the text fit to the melody. The most difficult song to write was the song for the tea party. Jannah and I found this a challenge as the tea party is such a famous part of the story yet lacks a logical narrative. What became Funny Rules was a perfect foil to Alice’s rule breaking and suspicion of traditions that she sings about in her opening song, Breaking the Rules is so Much More Fun.
I had this idea that everything ‘above the ground’ was black and white and when Alice falls down the rabbit hole, everything becomes colour. With our amazing costume designers and makers, STEM teacher Wendy Johnson and Learning Assistant, Deb Ridge, we created all the costumes from four colours – Blue (of Alice’s blue dress), purple (of the Cheshire Cat), lime green (of the caterpillar) and red (of the Queen of Hearts) to tie everything together into one consistent palette. Our artist, Rebecca Jones, kept her work in black and white, which really made the colours stand out.
I feel lucky to work in a school where we are free to create unique opportunities like this, and create truly distinctive moments of art and music.
Mr Alex St Vincent Welch
Music Teacher, Morris Hall
“It has brought me great joy watching the girls, staff and parents learn, sew, sing, dance and laugh together during the creation of this musical. Congratulations to Alex, for his creativity, passion and ability to make his ideas come alive.”
Ms Kellie Morgan, Director of Students, ELC and Junior Years
“It was a fabulous chance to get into the groove of excitement and made up things. It was very fun to sing and dance and talk in ways that the characters in the book would. It was very smart of Mr Welch to come up with all of the songs and speaking parts. It must have taken him a really long time to pull it all together.”
Inez, Year 4 Student
“Alice in Wonderland was a really good musical. It was good for us to work as a team. Mr Welch chose a great production and the right characters for all of us. It was great that he put all of the songs and music together. It was amazing knowing that he put so much effort into it. The songs were brilliant and we can’t stop singing them.”
Scarlett, Year 4 Student