Filling the Seats: The Best Musicals for High School Theater

Filling the Seats: The Best Musicals for High School Theater

What Makes a Good Choice for a High School Musical?

Have you been blessed with the daunting task of selecting a musical for your high school? Fear not – help is on the way! We know that making this decision is tricky and time consuming, so we’ve put together a helpful list of things to consider when weighing your options, as well as our own top choices.

Some things to consider when weighing your high school musical options:

  • Are the technical demands of the show reasonable for your students? It’s very important to consider the students that you will be working with when you make your final decision. Finding a show that will highlight your students’ strengths is both desirable and highly advised in order for you to produce the highest quality event possible.
  • Does the musical in question offer great entertainment value? Put yourself in your average audience member’s shoes, but also consider your students. They will feel most inspired to invest their time and efforts if they are enjoying the show they’re working on!
  • Are the book and lyrics family-friendly? When working with students in a school setting, it’s incredibly important to consider the appropriateness of the material. Try not to choose a musical for your high school that is too controversial or you may find yourself dealing with angry parents or officials.
  • Will the musical resonate with the students, but also offer room for growth? As previously mentioned, students will feel most inspired when they connect with the show. It’s important to strike a balance between their connection with the material and the chance for personal and theatrical growth that the material can provide.
  • How many students do you expect to have in your cast? Choose your show according to the number of students you expect to have involved! Don’t choose a big-cast show (such as Into the Woods) if you’re only expecting 10-15 students to participate. This really can’t be stressed enough!
  • What’s your budget, and will it be able to cover the expected costs of costumes, sets and props? Again, choose accordingly. Tackling a period musical (like Les Miserables) might not be the best choice if you are working with limited financial resources.
  • How big is your venue? Some musicals (such as The Fantasticks) are simply better suited to small venues. Take this into consideration and play to your strengths
CC Image by Nic McPhee
CC Image by Nic McPhee

Our Top 10 Picks

Here are our 10 top high school musicals (in no particular order):

  • You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown – Requires a small but extremely solid cast of talented singing actors. The music isn’t overly demanding.
  • Oklahoma! – An extremely entertaining musical comedy that offers a great selection of roles. Major singing is required but the dancing can successfully be kept simple.
  • Les Miserables – A wonderful show for a larger group of talented singing actors. This musical has become very popular in recent years (especially with the recent release of the Hollywood adaptation).
  • Fame – This musical is set in a high school, so it works really well for high school performers. That being said, it requires serious dance skills.
  • Footloose – Like Fame, this musical is great for high school performers because the characters are high school students. This musical also requires serious dancing skills though.
  • Into the Woods – This fabulously entertaining musical offers a large number of super supporting roles and shares the weight of the show fairly evenly across a large cast. This choice offers great opportunity for fun, but also further understanding for clear dramatic and emotional development from your students.
  • Hairspray – You and your students are definitely in for a fantastically fun production experience with this one. Hairspray is best suited to a large cast of strong singers and dancers.
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie – This musical features a large ensemble cast – there are a lot of juicy roles to choose from. Thoroughly Modern Millie is a period comedy based in the 1920s, so there’s fun to be had with costumes and sets. This choice is best for a large cast with strong dancers.
  • Beauty and the Beast – This choice has been a popular mainstay in recent years. Great for a mid-sized cast with a reasonable budget to ensure the technical demands of the show can be effectively met.
  • The Fantasticks – This musical is a great choice for a smaller cast with great music skills. It works particularly well in a smaller venue.
CC Image by USAG-Humphreys
CC Image by USAG-Humphreys



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