Musical Theatre students get into the Swing of it

11th July 2022

Musical Theatre students from Stratford-upon-Avon College have been put through their paces as they learn all about the role of a Swing; a performer who understudies multiple roles in a show.

Swing performers are an incredibly important part of a cast. Their job is to be able to cover a large number of the ensemble cast members roles, which means learning all the movements, dance numbers and singing parts for each person they are covering. Sometimes this can be as many as 12 roles or more!

Chairspray link and tracey
The students put on quite the show with students shining in every role they took on

As this is an important role in the industry, the college’s Musical Theatre students are prepared for it by working on a Swing Project. This year’s project was entitled ‘Chairspray’; a performance of 4 songs and 4 short, abridged scenes from the hit musical Hairspray.

As well as instruction from their tutors, the students also were lucky enough to get a session with Morgan Scott. Not only a former student from the College, Morgan now works professionally as a Musical Theatre performer and Dancer and has worked regularly as a Swing.

He explained how sketches and drawing out stage positions in a ‘Swing Bible’ helps you to keep track of everything and gave advice on how to learn more than one part and how Swings work in professional life. He was happy to come in and advise the students: “I like to give younger people the advice and insights you don’t usually get until Stage School so they can be more prepared.”

Morgan doing swing talk
Morgan spoke with the students and showed them practical examples of how to prepare for a role such as this

The students then began learning the show. They auditioned for their ‘Dream’ role and got cast for their regular part. After this they were assigned four other roles they would have to learn.

For the actual performance, the students would perform the 30-minute show twice with an interval. The first time would be their original role. The second time, they would be assigned one of the other four roles. They would not learn which one however, until the interval. This reflects the last-minute nature of how Swings operate.

The performance was amazing and it was wonderful to see the confidence and precision shown by the students in both their regular and Swing roles.

Pictured above are the students in both the first show and the second show where the roles were switched around

The students really appreciated the learning experience. Lucy Hazzard commented: “It was a bit of a shell shock, seeing how much you actually needed to learn.” Lana Penney added: “I had heard of the role but didn’t truly understand what it entailed.”

Chloe Shepherd details how important this training was: “Yes it is more work, but now we have done it we can take those skills with us professionally and we will know we can do it.” Billy Lambert added: “It forces us to get it right. You have to be disciplined and work harder which makes us better performers.”

Katharine Bayley, the student’s lecturer, highlights how unique the training is: “The College have been doing Swing training for the last six or seven years. There are very few colleges that offer this type of training, so our students leave here being more savvy about the profession. This year especially the students have been incredible. In previous years some students have said they can’t manage the workload of a role like this but none of these students backed away from the challenge. It’s been excellent to see.”

Congratulations to all on an amazing project!

Find out more about the College’s Performing & Production Arts courses: SUAC Onstage