Thinking of trying Stagecoach Theatre School(80 Posts)
I'm not a pushy mother but have a rather energetic 4 yo DD who loves dancing and singing. Googled Stagecoach theatre school and saw some mixed feedback from MN a few years ago.
Does anyone have any recent feedback before I part with my cash?
Can you stay and watch initially?
Thanks for your help
I think it depends hugely on the Principal and the teachers. Our local one is really great, the Principal knows every child despite it being a huge school that operates 5 days out of seven across two sites, and they all adore her. It's very inclusive but the Principal does everything she can to find opportunities for talented kids. DS isn't with the agency as we have no time for or interest in doing castings for TV ads etc, but she still puts him forward for professional roles and auditions. He's had quite a bit of luck and has learned a lot both in terms of performance skills but also confidence. If any parent is wondering whether to go for Stagecoach I'd suggest doing a week's holiday course first and seeing whether their child enjoys it.
My dd has been at Stagecoach for three years and it is one of the on,y activities we have routinely tried that she has stuck at and really enjoyed.
It sounds like branches do vary, so check out the teachers qualifications, they usually are on the Branches page on their website.
If you have serious expectations for your child to have a career in the theatre, then structured dance lessons may be better Including tap and somewhere that does LAMDA exams. However, all drama schools will do these things anyway as part of their curriculum, it just gives a head start.
I love it, I get three hours to myself on a Saturday morning, a child who is full of confidence, luckily she does have 'something' and seems to get good parts in school plays and also recently auditioned along with 350 other children for a musical in our nearest city and got through, not sure she would have done that without stagecoach.
She has learned patience, how to take direction and met children other than those at school.
Even at school, surely you expect the child who can actually connect with the ball to be chosen for the football team? Kind of makes sense, doesn't it? And you would expect them to choose as goal keeper someone who is good at catching balls, no?
My ds, who loves football and plays regularly with his friends in the park, has never been part of the school football team. (He hasn't been chosen for the school orchestra either- probably because he can't play an instrument.) Is that discrimination? I think youth theatre groups are a lot more inclusive than almost any extra-curricular activity that goes on in school. And that there are far more valuable parts for different abilities in a dramatic production than in most sports.
But I do feel a lot of school and youth theatre drama is ruined by parents who turn up and are only interested when their own offspring get the limelight. They spoil the pleasure of the theatre for the rest of the audience- and I have no doubt they spoil it for their own child.
I think Stagecoach varies very much according to which one you attend. However my experiences have only been positive - and not because my daughters have been given all the lead roles. In fact my eldest who is in stage 2 is a pretty decent actress, singer and dancer who is signed to an agency and has undertaken professional work and made it through several rounds of West End auditions. She is not given all the lead roles and has already learned that just because you are good, doesn't mean you are right for every part. She thoroughly enjoys the teamwork aspects of ensemble singing/ dancing and is pleased for her friends if they get any 'main part's. Performances couldn't happen with all the smaller roles and so I think it's important to teach your children that every part is worthwhile and necessary for the whole to succeed. You can gain as much confidence from the weekly sessions if you get cast in productions as small or main part's. At our Stagecoach, large scale productions only happen once a year anyway and they do lots of smaller things the rest of the time. But if you are casting for a main performance surely you want the best cast? It is a reflection of the teachers at the end of the day and they want it to be good (and it is a business).I don't think that's discrimination. If this was School I may have a different opinion.
That is very dramatic language, helena. No experience of Stagecoach, but is it really discrimination if the casting of a theatrical production is done according to who is thought best suited for the part? That is not what my dd has taken from her years of youth theatre. It was many years before she got more than a very small part but we always pointed out to her how much you can learn from even a very small part and she totally took that on board. Her acting and confidence skills came on enormously and she learnt masses. Is now applying for drama school, having done very well in her acting BTEC. But more than that, she has learnt something useful about the value of team work, how a production is something you do together, something which depends on every small part being done as well and enthusiastically as possible. You seem to be set on teaching your dd to feel sorry for herself. Doesn't sound a very useful skill to me.
I do conquer with the latter. My daughter has been going to one of the Franchises for a period of five years . Whilst she has gained some form of confidence, I must say that some of the children in her class are given more opportunities than others who are constantly given lead parts. My understanding would have been that since all parents pay the same amount of money, make similar sacrifices and take their kids for the same cause, each of their children should be given a chance to shine. My daughter is now in stage two and is always given two or three line to recite as a 'narrator' whilst a few usual people are always given lead parts. I have been patient thinking that her turn will come but am starting to loose hope since the moment does not seem to appear. It makes me wonder if the rest of us are just used to make a few other people's children benefit from the process. What bonus do we get for being loyal. What is even worse is the thought of what our children are being taught in the process. Are we teaching them that they are not good and thus not fit to get leading roles? Or teaching them to support and uphold inequality and discrimination. Talking only about the Franchise I have knowledge about, I would say that something has to change. The culture of favoritism has to be abolished otherwise we will be deemed agents of discrimination. I have now been reduced to having to pay more money for LAMDA classes for my daughter to acquire some acting and confidence skills.
My kids love Stagecoach and it's helped their confidence hugely. But they are probably among the less talented kids that make the organisation "inclusive". They have great fun, learn fab songs, dress up and perform for families, make new friends. That's why I sent them, not because I want them to be the stars of the West End.
It's expensive for sure, especially when you add in the cost of costumes, tickets, exams. But I'm willing to pay for convenience of three hours in one place at a time that suits.
As with all these things, ultimately a school is only as good as its principal. Especially (as noted above) sometimes the teachers are doing their level best, but may not be receiving any support from above in order to do their job properly.
Sorry MorganKitten, I'm with Ant123 on this one. I worked for a Stagecoach for 3 years and had such an awful experience, I left and set up my own school, charging a fraction of the price for a much better quality of service.
The owner was useless. She claimed to have a theatrical background and a passion for musical theatre, but spent 90% of her time sat in an office playing games on her phone and drinking tea. Us teachers were left completely to our own devices. We made all the creative decisions and organised all the scripts and music etc. On a positive note, I feel very lucky to have worked with those people, because they were an excellent team of true professionals and we did what theatre people do, and got on with the show (two of them have been working for me ever since!).
Money was always an issue as well. We usually ended up having to devise our own productions, because she refused to pay performing rights for anything. On one occasion, we even had to take it upon ourselves to borrow costumes from another Stagecoach branch, because she told us there was no money in the budget. Bearing in mind the fees are £100s per term, she expected the parents to be satisfied with them doing a show in their Stagecoach tracksuits, no costumes, no scenery, no lighting? This was a branch with 2 sets of main stages on a Saturday (my day), one on Sunday, one midweek and 2 sets of early stages. I don't know what she was spending all the money on, but it certainly wasn't being invested back into the school! She did go on an extraordinary number of holidays though, often emailing me on the Friday night, to tell me that a caretaker would be opening up the building for us the following day.
The owner was also incredibly passive aggressive, often refusing to speak directly to the parents whenever issues a rose. Her answer to any problem, was to issue a nasty letter, which was invariably given to us teachers to hand out... and take the flack for. I honestly don't know why the parents tolerated it, but they did. All I can assume is that most of them had more money than sense.
Now I should say here, that I don't think Stagecoach is necessarily bad. I know there are some very well run branches, but they are few and far between. In the main, they are a good recreational activity for children, but I wouldn't consider them a breeding ground for talent. Stagecoach exists for one reason, and on reason only... to make money!
The day I left Stagecoach and opened my own school was the best decision I ever made. We now have a fantastic reputation in our town. We have staged numerous shows at the local theatre, including two full musicals working alongside the adults from the amateur dramatic society. Thanks to our connection to the theatre, we have had the opportunity to work with a whole host of visiting theatre companies and given the children access to learn a broad range of theatrical skills, from performing, to costume, lighting, sound, stage management and more. I have personally never come across a Stagecoach that does what we do... because it requires a backbreaking level of work to achieve, and it's never about the money.
As someone who worked at Stagecoach head office I will say your statement about 'little quality control' and happy to take the money is wrong
I would be very careful about using Stagecoach. I worked for a lovely school as a singing teacher for over 12 years. It came under new management. Unfortunately I was not paid at all for an entire terms work as the owner went bankrupt. Each franchise owner pays to use the Stagecoach name. Stagecoach are happy to take the money with very little quality control or help for owners and staff
Dd went to something like Stagecoach from7-14 every Saturday morning and it got progressively worse. Huge staff turnover, and no productions..just showcases which were embarrassingly awful...we still have the dvds.
Luckily a friend set up her own drama/singing Saturday thing, with two professional singers/actors. It's fantastic...dynamic, two good shows a year and a fantastic group of friends for dd to hang out with.
Rockinhippy, I would say that being inclusive is not necessarily an obstacle to quality. Dd's youth theatre is totally inclusive and takes children with learning difficulties and physical disabilities as well as with NT children with a wide range of abilities, but still gets very good results. Everybody gets a part in their shows, they tend to get very good reviews in the local press and have recently won regional awards for the quality of their acting. Some of their children go on to stage school or the professional stage. Dd has learn a lot from them.
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I second the poster who said that though great fun, it's a franchise business, geared to make money & not really a substitute for a proper stage school training, though of course that can vary a bit with your area, down to who owns & runs it, but having tried both Stagecoach which was fun & entertaining, but quite expensive, she didn't really learn much, nor do much in the way of shows, which she loves to do -
My now DD goes to another local small independent one, unlike Stagecoach, they don't just take anyone, they have a long waiting list & vet applicants by aptitude - DD was offered a place after she attended a weeks summer school - (they don't vet for that as its more about fun) she's been going a couple of years now & it is miles better all round, far more professional & they get involved in local festivals & stage performances too - & I was surprised its about half the price of our local Stagecoach
two of mine go - Ds2 as he is interested and good - DD1 as she is a 'have a goer ' but has dyspraxia and finds the dancing hard. However I have been blown away by increase in confidence in both and have been impressed with the inclusive approach. It is quit expensive compared to voluntarily run stuff but for me having 2 of them do 3 hours in one place is time-wise/travel worth it and we have avoided a lot of the 'favoritism' which seamed to take part in the local am dram run group.
I have found it makes sense to ask around locally as Stagecoach groups can vary widely and are expensive at the best of times.
Doing this, we were able to find a small youth theatre who were considerably more affordable but who have done dd very well over the years.
I think it does vary from franchise to franchise. Ours has started running a lot of one off free workshops with external choreographers etc which ds2 seems to enjoy. (Limited numbers you just have to get your name down quick). There are two styles of jazz shoes for sale at ours, the thin ones and then some which are more like a trainer & more expensive. When we joined we were told we didn't have to buy stagecoach branded gear - black tracky bottoms and a plain black or yellow t-shirt were fine. The only time I've been told to buy something in 7 years was a regular stagecoach t-shirt for performance group ( and we've had some freebies in our time).
Ds1 isn't in stagecoach agency btw - I think it's a bit expensive, and if we were going down that route there are other agents i'd prefer, but we still get told about the auditions (usually by the school principal). For theatre auditions you don't usually need an agent anyway (you do more often for film).
I have to admit that gladrags was not our finest moment and I decided to do no more of those after that. Sometimes things work - sometimes they don't.
Congratulations to little quint
Ds1 loves drama, and has "stage confidence", he was selected to represent his school at a public speaking competition, and also got the role of MacBeth at a borough school production (nods to Copthall, which is why I think he got his offer at Emanuel as he was very excited about that on the day of his interview).
It is definitely a very middle class area, and lots of parents send their kids to stage coach for confidence building.
Sorry, to clarify DD did Stagecoach.
And part of the reason it became less stimulating was that Stagecoach Head Office decided to impose the productions, so that instead of well known musicals, they were performing poorly written "down with the kids" supposedly edgy stuff which missed the mark, and the kids and the teachers thought were rubbish.
DD did it for 10 years, when she started the franchisee was fantastic, looked like a bag lady but recruited excellent teachers and really developed exciting productions, chances to appear in West End showcases etc. She also allowed in talented youngsters on scholarships which made for a diverse and stimulating student body. Quite a few went on to the Brit School. DD had auditions, and got to grade 7 with Lamda. DD was having problems with some difficult characters at school and at Stagecoach she could relax . She also had private singing lessons with the teacher beforehand.
A new franchisee took over, supposedly a professional actress but I reckon it can only have been the blonde bimbo in farce, she was a bit wet and definitely in it only for the middle class money. It just became somewhere DD hung out with friends. However without a doubt her success at Stagecoach fed into her success in school drama.
I do get cross when I hear people not followingvthecrules as they are there for a reason and it impacts on those of us who do our utmost tonprovide a good service.
I am not involved with head office. I am principal of a local school and therefore know the rules I have to adhere to.
If someone isn't following the rules then they should be reported
I have occasionally in an emergency ran with larger classes (staff illness so had to combine two age groups) but then made sure I was around to help too.
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