Welcome to our fifth article in the “Choosing Your High School’s Musical” series. This series of blog posts is designed to introduce you to some of our shows that we know work in a high school setting. Of course, it’s up to you to determine if the shows are best-suited to your community, so we encourage you to order a perusal copy of the script to read before making your selection.
The following shows from our collection are some contemporary hits that will guarantee fun for students and audiences alike! Read on for suggestions on which shows might be smash hits for your school:
Now one of the most performed shows in America, SEUSSICAL is a fantastical, magical, musical extravaganza! Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (“Ragtime,” “Once On This Island”) have lovingly brought to life all of our favorite Dr. Seuss characters. The story centers around Horton the Elephant, who finds himself faced with a double challenge–not only must he protect his tiny friend Jojo (and all the invisible Whos) from a world of naysayers and dangers, but he must also guard an abandoned egg, left to his care by the irresponsible Mayzie La Bird. Although Horton faces ridicule, danger, kidnapping and a trial, the intrepid Gertrude McFuzz never loses faith in him. Ultimately, the powers of friendship, loyalty, family and community are challenged and emerge triumphant, in a story that makes you laugh and cry.
This whimsical show is fantastic for high schoolers. It is truly an ensemble piece that can accommodate a large cast while providing tons of opportunities for solos and featured moments. Sets and costumes can be wild and extravagant or simple, which makes this show perfect for any budget. Given the familiar Seuss characters, any high school community will jump at the chance to be involved in this show!
- Check out this promotional video for Bridgeport High School’s 2010 production of SEUSSICAL to get a sense of their rehearsal process and community involvement.
ONCE ON THIS ISLAND
This highly original Caribbean adaptation of the popular fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” garnered eight Tony nominations for its Broadway run, including Best Musical, Book and Score. In almost non-stop song and dance, the show tells the story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who rescues and falls in love with Daniel, a wealthy boy from the other side of her island. When Daniel is returned to his people, the fantastical gods who rule the island guide Ti Moune on a quest to test the strength of her love against the powerful forces of prejudice, hatred and death.
ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is a director/choreographer’s dream — it’s an intimate show presented in a dance/movement-driven style. With a small band and minimal sets and costumes, this show is great for any budget! Its catchy, Caribbean-flavored score by the Tony® Award-winning songwriting team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (“Ragtime” and the animated film “Anastasia”) includes tender ballads and rousing celebratory numbers for an ensemble cast of strong singers. The musical has a female lead, with many male and female supporting roles. ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is guaranteed to move audiences and cast members, alike, with its beautiful story and music.
- In this video clip, taken from the documentary “After the Storm”, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty work with students in post-Katrina New Orleans on various songs from ONCE ON THIS ISLAND.
JEKYLL AND HYDE
A true musical theatre phenomenon, “Jekyll & Hyde” attracted legions of loyal fans even before the show began its smash-hit Broadway run. JEKYLL AND HYDE is the evocative tale of the epic battle between good and evil, “Jekyll & Hyde” is based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic story about a brilliant doctor whose experiments with human personality create a murderous counterpart. Convinced the cure for his father’s mental illness lies in the separation of Man’s evil nature from his good, Dr. Henry Jekyll unwittingly unleashes his own dark side, wreaking havoc in the streets of late 19th century London as the savage, maniacal Edward Hyde.
This show is an excellent choice for large casts, with many ensemble/featured role opportunities, as well as two female leads and one male lead. Though it is not dance-heavy, this musical offers endless vocal opportunities for both ensemble pieces and solo songs. While the subject matter is provocative and dark, any high school willing to take on the material is sure to deliver an exciting spectacle of a musical. Opportunities for community involvement abound — from period costuming, to tech design of light, sound, and blood and gore — this show requires a group effort. Additionally, JEKYLL AND HYDE, based on a classic work in the English literature canon, can be tied in to classroom studies.
- Check out this article to learn a bit more about the show!
CHILDREN OF EDEN
From Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell” and “Pippin”) and John Caird of “Les Miserables” comes a joyous and inspirational musical about parents, children and faith… not to mention centuries of unresolved family business! Freely based on the story of Genesis, CHILDREN OF EDEN is a frank, heartfelt and often humorous examination of the age-old conflict between parents and children. Adam, Eve, Noah and the “Father” who created them deal with the headstrong, cataclysmic actions of their respective children. The show ultimately delivers a bittersweet but inspiring message: that “the hardest part of love… is letting go.”
CHILDREN OF EDEN ties in biblical stories with beautiful and catchy music, which is sure to pique students’ interest in learning about the Old Testament (which can tie into History and Literature studies). This show is great for large casts — it provides incredible ensemble music and movement opportunities, as well as featuring almost ten different lead characters, including Adam, Eve, Cain and many more. You have the option to double cast certain roles (like Adam/Noah and Eve/Moma Noah) or to split the roles up, offering even more students their moments in the spotlight. This show is what you make it, in every respect — casting, dance, sets, costumes, lighting… the options are infinite and, no matter what, the show is sure to be memorable!
- Here’s an MTI Marquee article on Stephen Schwartz‘s FAQ (where he answers questions about all his shows)!
In the London season featuring the appearance of “The Lion King,” HONK! became a stand-out by winning the 2000 Olivier Award (the British equivalent of the Tony Award) for Best New Musical. Written by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (dubbed “The brightest hopes for the future of the British musical” by The London Daily Telegraph), HONK! is the story of Ugly, whose odd, gawky looks instantly incite prejudice from his family and neighbors. Separated from the farm and pursued by a hungry Cat, Ugly must find his way home. Along his rollicking and harrowing journey he not only discovers his true beauty and glorious destiny, but also finds love and acceptance in all its forms.
HONK! is a fun, spunky show for any high school to perform. The songs are catchy, the plot is appropriate for audiences of any age, and the show can be produced at any budget. This show is great for a medium-sized cast, looking to feature a talented male actor, as well as students of a variety of ages (who may be a mix of changed and unchanged voices). While this show thrives on comic actors and singers, minimal dance is required. Additionally, communities will love getting involved, as they work on costuming these animal characters, and building a fantastic set!
Elton John and Tim Rice‘s AIDA is a contemporary musical take on a grand classic tale of the timeless bond between an enslaved Nubian princess and an Egyptian soldier. As forbidden love blossoms between them, the young lovers are forced to face death or part forever. Together, they set a shining example of true devotion that ultimately transcends the vast cultural differences between their warring nations, heralding a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity. With a pop-rock score that features stirring ballads and rousing choral numbers, Elton John and Tim Rice‘s AIDA is a modern crowd pleaser that embraces multi-cultural casting and exuberant dancing, staging and singing.
Looking for a show to suit the needs of your talented female vocalists? This is the show for you. With two demanding female leads, and one male lead, as well as various supporting roles and a highly involved ensemble (mid-sized), AIDA is sure to thrill audiences. The show deals with some heavy subject material, such as slavery and forbidden love, but it handles the subjects in an appropriate way. This musical is also perfect for any school looking to tie its show into academic studies — music teachers can educate students about the opera “Aida” on which the musical is based, and history teachers have ample opportunities to tie in Egyptian studies. With a beautiful and memorable score, dancing and staging moments, plus great opportunities for exotic sets and costumes, AIDA is a great choice for high schools.