"Babble at Babel" and More: Reviews of several children's musicals

Every spring the children in Bethany's Youth Choir have something to look forward to. They know that this year, like last year and the years before, they will have the opportunity to lead an evening worship service. Through singing, acting, costumes, and lights, they will bring a part of Scripture to life for the congregation.

Many of the youth choir members are new to the Bible and to life in Christ. For them participation in the annual musical often has been a learning experience—a chance to discover more about the wonderful God they sing to and for during the Sunday morning worship hour throughout the year. It's also a chance to use the singing skills they've worked on for six months. It may even be their opportunity to sing a solo!

When the chosen Sunday arrives, the children are able to sense the importance of their contribution. Instead of serving as just an add-on or extra, their musical drama usually begins the service. The hymns and message after the production build on and complement what the children have presented. And after the service, the whole congregation, along with family and friends of the choir members, enjoy fellowship together over supper.

Following are some of the musicals our church has produced throughout the years. We have used these for children in grades 3-8, but they certainly are appropriate for other levels as well. My advice to those of you who have not tackled a musical before is to begin small. Use a very simple, short musical the first time—one with few costumes, little staging, and simple choreography. After your initial experience, you can develop more extravagant sets, costumes, and choreography in future efforts.

Browse through some of these musicals at your local music store and enjoy. It's great fun working with God's Word in this format—especially since children are more creative than we can ever dream of being!

ADAM'S APPLE

Words and music by Daniel A. Smith

Adam's Apple does a nice job of teaching the Adam and Eve story with lessons on temptation, forgiveness, love, and praise. If this is the first time you're attempting a musical, Adam is a good choice.

The set needs for the production are very basic, and costumes can consist of T-shirts with an apple iron-on, jeans, and tennis shoes. The music can be unison or two-part, and it is delightfully arranged for children's voices. Accompaniment can be kept simple (piano or keyboard), although instrumental parts (flute, clarinet, and tenor sax) are also available. No choreography instructions are included.

Performance time: c. 25 minutes
© 1985 Choristers Guild
Complete Score CGCA335 $3.50>

THE PROMISES OF GOD

Words by Betty Wilson, music by Joanne Brown

I have used this series of four musical numbers for a summer program for inner-city children because I think it gives them an understanding of God that will help them in their daily living. "When God Makes a Promise," "God Is Always There," and "It Pays to Obey" are three of the lessons presented in this short musical. Although there is no dialogue, each song is based on a Bible story that can be read or told. We used our biblical storytellers (church members who memorize portions of Scripture) to present the story before the children sang each number.

The songs are good for children's voices, well-written and enjoyable to sing. Like Adam's Apple, Promises is a very simple musical to present. The numbers can be pantomimed or simply sung with no choreography.

Performance time: c. 12 minutes, music only
© 1987 Choristers Guild
Complete Score CGC19 $2.95

THE TROUBBABLE OF ZERUBBABEL

Words and musk by William Anderson

Who knows anything about Zerubbabel? By the time they finish learning this musical the children in your group will! This production about the rebuilding of the temple is great fun because it includes many expressive numbers that are meaningful to children. We found the addition of handbells when the temple is completed especially effective.

Although there are some very creative choreography suggestions at the beginning of the musical, the remaining music is not choreographed. So if you have no experience with dance and movement, you may want to have someone work with you on the remaining sections. You can keep costuming simple by having all the children dress in black and using colored tunics to represent the various groups in the musical. You'll also need to develop a "temple building" set. We accomplished this with large, painted refrigerator boxes.

No matter how you decide to stage this drama, have fun! "The Troubbable" is a great vehicle for developing a meaningful experience through an Old Testament story.

Performance time: c. 30 minutes
© 1987 Choristers Guild
Complete Score CGCA390 $3.95

OH, JONAH!

Words and music by Allen Pole and Carole McCann

The story about Jonah is interpreted very creatively br Pote and McCann. It teaches a lesson of forgiveness and love—with the Ninevites portrayed as a motorcycle gang! Choreography is suggested throughout as well as costumes and staging.

The music is great fun and quite easy for the children to learn—but the production as a whole is quite a bit of work. Because of the length of the program and the many different solos, this may be a good score to use after the children have had some experience with musicals.

Performance time: 30 minutes
© 1987 Choristers Guild
Complete Score CGCA430 $4.95.

PAUL & CO.

Words by Mary Nelson Keithahn, music by John D. Horman

This musical is based on Acts 15:35-16:40—the story of Paul's second missionary journey. Because the text follows the Scripture very closely, this is an outstanding example of a musical very well suited to a worship service. Our children quickly became involved in the exciting story. In fact, they remembered the details of Paul's missionary journeys for years to come.

The music in Paul & Co. is well composed, even using hymns and psalms in a very meaningful way. The set does include a jail cell, but that was the only difficult part to construct. We used period costumes to give the children (and the audience) a feel for Bible times.

Performance time: 35-40 minutes
© 1990 Choristers Guild
Director's Score CGC28 $10.95
Choral Score CGC29 $3.95

BABBLE AT BABEL

Words by Trilby Jordan, music by Albert Zabel

The story of the tower of Babel is told very well in this musical. It iss related to love, humility, and being open to God's Spirit. The children will enjoy singing the songs and will learn from them as well.

They'll also enjoy putting on the production. The tower must be built and flattened, of course, adding some drama and delight for everyone. And the singers will have great fun singing the different languages, shouting, and screaming up to the final fall of the great tower. In this production, as in The Troubbable of Zerubbabel, we used many painted boxes of all shapes and sizes and then built them into a high tower. Trumpet and flute parts add to the accompaniment.

Performance time: 40 minutes
© 1979 Hope Publishing Company
Choral Score 945 $3.95

THE STORY-TELLIN' MAN

Words and music by Ken Medema

If you do not have this score in your library, it would surely be a good addition. Since Medema's work is based on the parables of Jesus, it can be used in its entirety or in small parts (one parable at a time). We have used this meaningful musical with both children and adults, churched and unchurched.

Sets for The Story-Tellin' Man can be kept very simple, and choreography and costumes have a variety of possibilities, depending on your resources. We have used different sections of this musical for years, and always find it fresh and timely.

Performance time: 45-50 minutes
© 1975 Word Music, Inc.
Complete Score 3010007019 $4.50

A TECHNICOLOR PROMISE

Words by Carole McCann, music by Allen Pote

The story of Noah with all the animals in the ark makes for an imaginative musical. Working on A Technicolor Promise was a lot of fun, and it gave children a better understanding of God's care for his people—Noah and us.

We used silk flags for the beginning and finale and matching silk tunics (along with the staging suggestions included in the score), providing a bright, exciting setting for the wonderful story of Noah and his family We also created an illusion of the huge ark quickly and simply by using an outline of wood, with flags. The animals were represented with different pairs of hats that gave everyone an idea of what it may have been like on that ark.

Performance time: 30 minutes
© 1993 Choristers Guild
Complete Score CGC032 $3.95