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Top 10 Favorite Musicals for Schools

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Hello Teachers & Directors!

One of the emails I get frequently from teachers is: “What are your favorite shows to do?” Now, I have different answers to this question depending on the situation so, since many of us are busy picking shows for our upcoming season, here are my Ten Favorite Musicals for Schools.

NOTE: These are NOT in any particular order. I listed them alphabetically for convenience.

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My Ten Favorite Musicals for Schools

Disney’s Beauty & the Beast 

Rights: Musical Theatre International 

This is a very fun and yet challenging show to do. Most students know the music, which really helps with drawing in students to audition. While there is a definite need for singers in this show, many of the roles are perfect for those character actor types you may have. These characters allow your students to sink into exploring these iconic characters and it’s almost impossible to go “too big” with them. While this is a very technical show that can challenge some schools’ resources, there are many great rental places to find the costumes, props, and set pieces needed for this show.

Check out Grosh’s collection of backdrops for Beauty and the Beast here.

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Hello Dolly!

Rights: Concord Theatricals (Tams Witmark Collection)

You’ve got that one girl – that belter – who you really want to showcase this year but you’re not sure what show will showcase her well? Look no further than Hello Dolly! Dolly Levi is a beautiful role for that girl who really knows how to command the stage. In addition to Dolly, you have great roles for the young men in your cast – Cornelius and Barnaby are fantastic roles for those high energy / comedic boys you have. This show features a large ensemble, easy to find / make costumes for most schools, and features iconic songs that your audience will come in already ready to sing along to. A true audience favorites.

Check out our selection of backdrops for Hello Dolly! here.

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Into the Woods

Rights: Music Theatre International 

Ready for a challenge? Into the Woods is a beautifully written show that allows your cast to go to very fun and interesting places with their character work. This show does not feature a chorus – which means that every single role in this 20+ character cast is a fully fleshed out character, giving your cast a chance to really hone their acting work. This production can be done very effectively with a simple unit set of trees – allowing for a very easy show in terms of scenic requirements. This is a perfect show for schools with talented musicians – both vocal and instrumental – and truly allows a music department to shine.

Grosh has a great collection of backdrops for Into the Woods here.

Into the Woods

Les Misérables – School Edition

Rights: Music Theatre International 

Another challenge but a beautiful showcase for a very strong group of performers. If you have a group of students who you really want to showcase, Les Misérables is a great show for you. Les Misérables features characters across the different voice types and archetypes, making it great for schools with a broad range of singers. This beautiful story features iconic songs which many students (and audiences) already know. While this show can be considered a sweeping epic with lots of technical components – like the barricade – it can be done very effectively using digital backdrops in a format very similar to the recent Broadway Revival and the current National Tour.

Check out Grosh’s Les Miserables Backdrops here & Les Miserables Digital Projections here.

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Music Man

Rights: Music Theatre International 

He’s a What? A MUSIC MAN! That’s right. Harold Hill is the perfect role for the young man who knows how to truly captivate an audience. If you have that young man with incredible acting chops you really want to show case, Music Man is the perfect show. This production features beautiful songs for Marian and for the Barbershop Quartet – making it great for the singers in your cast, as well as incredibly fun character roles like Mayor & Mrs. Shinn which are a blast for your comedic actors to play.

This show features a beautiful score for your instrumentalists to play and allows for younger cast members, which gets the younger ones hooked on being part of your musicals early and opens up your potential audience pool as well. Simple costumes that you probably have in storage or can find at a local thrift shop and sets that can be very simple and suggestive, make this a great show for any first-time director to tackle.

Check out Grosh’s collection of backdrops for The Music Man here.

Music Man

Once Upon a Mattress

Rights: Concord Theatricals (Rogers & Hammerstein Collection)

Looking for a classic? For years Once Upon a Mattress ranked the most popular show among high schools and community theatre groups – and for good reason. This show has great characters, fun dance numbers, and is actually pretty easy to produce.

Most schools have access to Madrigal costumes which are perfect for this and the set can be a simple row of flats painted with bricks. For a simple addition, you can even add a beautiful backdrop or projection from Grosh to expand your set even further (check out these options here!) Definitely an audience favorite and very fun for you and your cast to do.

Grosh has a great collection of backdrops for Once Upon a Mattress here.

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School of Rock

Rights: Concord Theatricals (Andrew Lloyd Webber Collection) 

Probably the surprise of this list, but to be honest I LOVED doing this show with the high school cast I had. The hardest part of this show is dealing with the instruments but if you have instrumentalists who are interested in acting, this is a great way to show case them. You can also have the orchestra double all of the onstage instrumentalists.

Costuming is all modern-day clothes and a simple Amazon search can find you matching sweaters for the school uniforms. The set can be done using furniture you probably have in storage at your school – desks, tables, etc. A beautiful rock score and a great team building show for your cast, this is a blast to do.

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Rights: Musical Theatre International

Seussical is a great show to get your entire community behind your production. You can partner with your local library or elementary schools to have the characters come and read books during story time, you can have a “green eggs and ham” fundraiser meal before the show, you could even tie the show into part of the celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday that schools have each year – the possibilities are endless.

The show has great characters that are accessible to any group, many roles can be gender swapped for ease in casting, and the costumes and set are only limited by your imagination. A fun and entertaining show that is perfect for a group that is newer to doing shows – this is a great one to use to expose your students to the magic of theatre.

Check out Grosh’s collection of backdrops for Seussical here.

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Rights:  Musical Theatre International 

Similar to Seussical, Shrek features a bunch of characters that we know! A great ensemble of characters that really allows your cast to get creative in how they create these people. This show is great for use in class work – allowing for individual designs of make up or costumes, has various scenic locations for exploring different types of painting techniques, and allows for exploring traditional fairy tale characters and bringing them off the page to make them real.

Great star vehicles for Shrek and Fiona as well as great character roles in Lord Farquaad, Donkey, Pinocchio, and Dragon – this show is a hit with casts and audiences alike.

Grosh has a great collection of backdrops for Shrek here.

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Wizard of Oz 

Rights: Concord Theatricals (Tams Witmark Collection)

Who doesn’t love Wizard of Oz? This audience favorite packs the house every time. It is so fun to see all the little girls in the audience dressing up like Dorothy and clicking their red slippers following along to Glinda’s directions. This show has a huge cast that can feature younger students in the roles of the Munchkins, the Poppies, and the Flying Monkeys which is a great way of opening up your potential audience.

The RSC version is the closest to the MGM movie which makes it very accessible for your cast since they have a reference point to look to for inspiration. Costumes can easily be made or found online, and the set can be done easily with some simple practical pieces – a fence, the scarecrow’s post, the house, etc. – and the beautifully created projections or backdrops from Grosh.

These are some of my favorite pieces in Grosh’s collection and I have used them several times in productions of Oz Check them out here.

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I hope this list gives you some ideas to look at when choosing your show. By no means are these the only shows to consider. There are so many great shows for schools and this list is just the start. What show are you considering doing? Is it on this list? Let us know!

Best Wishes Onstage and Off!

⁃ Nate

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