Every performer that you may see on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in London’s West End, or any other theater throughout the world, most likely got their start in high school. We all remember those kids in high school who were animated, sung in choir and stuck together singing and performing. It was a passion for them and for many that lust for performing lives with them well past secondary education facilities and these folks pursue careers in that field.
This list honors the high school musical that we all saw and covers a list of musicals that have been deemed the most popular productions for high schools to recreate in their drama departments. Our list was compiled by www.playbill.com for the most performed musicals in American high schools for the year 2014-2015.
1. The Addams Family
The number one musical for high school performances during the previous school year is not surprising. This musical is of a comedic nature and family friendly. Andrew Lippa wrote the music and lyrics while the book was written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice.
Based on the popular cartoons by the same name created by Charles Addams, the story surrounds a family in America who is of a twisted sort. They love anything dark and Halloween-esque by they are a strong family who loves one another and is as strong as they come. The writers chose to use the cartoons directly as their inspiration and stay away from the adaptations that have been created for television and film.
Originally performed in Chicago, this musical made its way to Broadway rather quickly and opened in 2010. Nathan Lane was the original Gomez and the Broadway production would last more than a year. From there it not only graced the stages of many American high schools, this musical has been reproduced all over the world in cities that include Sydney, Buenos Aires, Bremen and Tokyo.
It is not wonder this musical sits at number one, it’s track record globally shows how loved it is by folks from all walks of life.
2. Shrek the Musical
It isn’t surprising that the musicals on this list are of a family friendly nature. Our next on the list was created by Jeanine Tesori (music) and David Lindsay-Abaire (book and lyrics) and took its trial run in Seattle. Based on the film and book titled Shrek!, this musical went directly to Broadway and opened in December of 2008.
After performing on the famed American theatrical street for more than a year the musical toured the country and then made its way to London’s West End. It ran in the UK from June of 2011 to February of 2013. The writers and producers of Shrek the Musical left the rights open so that it could be restaged at theatres around the world and the global community took full advantage. The first to do so was Israel in 2010.
From there it went on to Poland, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Australia, and back through the UK and the United States. Shrek the Musical has proven to be a well-loved story and the critics agreed, for the most part. None-the-less, high school theatre departments last year continued to utilize it for their repertoire and that is why this musical sits at number two on our list.
3. Legally Blonde
Our third musical on the high school popularity list was also once a popular Hollywood film. With music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and a book by Heather Hach, Legally Blonde opened for previews in San Francisco and quickly made its way to New York and Broadway. The box office is recorded to have pulled in more than a million dollars a week on many occasions and the critical response was predominantly of a positive nature.
Directed and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell the cast that played in the original production included Laura Bell Bundy, Christian Borle and Richard Blake. After closing on Broadway in 2008 Legally Blonde went on to tour the United States. Reproductions of this work have graced the stages in all corners of the globe including South Korea, London’s West End, the Philippines, Paris, Finland, Sydney, Vienna, Quebec City and Abu Dhabi.
The plot surrounds a fun girl named Elle who loves her boyfriend Warner. He breaks up with her because she isn’t the “type” of girl his East coast family would accept. She follows him by gaining admittance into Harvard Law School and when she arrives, Elle finds that her California blonde girl persona is ridiculed and looked down upon. Elle decided to beat them at their own game and realizes that becoming a lawyer will enable her to help a great deal of people in need.
The unique thing about the next high school musical on our list is that this work was written specifically for television by the famed composing duo Rogers and Hammerstein. The basis of this musical is the classic fairy tale, but the writing pair specifically utilized the version written by Frenchman Charles Perrault.
Originally shown on television on March 31, 1957 the first woman to play Cinderella in this Rogers and Hammerstein production was the beloved Julie Andrews. They say more than one hundred million viewers sat home to watch the show that evening and it would go on to be reproduced for television in 1965 and 1997.
Television and high school stages were not the only places where this musical would be seen. In 1958, the first stage production of Roger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella would be given at the London Coliseum on December 18th. More stage versions were produced including the New York City Opera in 1993, 1995 and 2004. In 2000 a tour was produced for the United States that finished at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden the next year.
A Broadway production was staged in 2013 at the Broadway Theatre and actress Keke Palmer came in the middle to play the title role. The production was hailed for the choice of an African-American actress to play a typically white role and commended for the choice that showed Broadway’s direction of giving more lead and significant roles to people of color and broadening the spectrum that graced the Broadway stage.
5. Little Shop of Horrors
Another film to stage musical on our high school list was not inspired from the Rick Moranis/Steve Martin film we all loved. It was actually the other way around. This musical was actually inspired by another film by the same name produced in the year 1960. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman took the low-budget story of Seymour and the man-eating plant Audrey II and created songs to go along with the plot.
They focused on an era of American music known as doo-wop and created some of the most memorable songs from a musical to ever be written, including “Skid Row” and “Suddenly Seymour.” It premiered as an Off-Off-Broadway production by made its way to an Off-Broadway theater, the Orpheum, shortly after its opening and ran for five full years.
From an Off-Broadway production in 1982 Little Shop of Horrors went on to be produced at the Comedy Theatre in London’s West End in 1983. Running for more than eight hundred performances this production closed its run on October 5, 1985. It won the Best Musical category in the Evening Standard Awards.
From there it was made into the popular film in 1986 and subsequently saw a Broadway run in 2003. Other awards it has taken home were the Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, the Drama Desk Away for Best Musical and an Outer Critics Circle Award. It is no wonder with its dark yet humorous storyline and campy characters that this work would be a favorite for high schools to reproduce.
6. Anything Goes
Our final musical on this high school list was originally premiered on Broadway in 1934 and has music and lyrics written by Cole Porter. The plot surrounds the character Billy Crocker, who stows away on a cruise ship that is headed to London from New York city. Crocker is madly in love with Hope Harcourt, an upper class woman who is promised to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Croker plots to win Harcourt’s heart.
The idea for the story was from Vinton Freedley, producer, who had spent time living on an ocean liner. He did so to avoid the money he owed to creditors in the United States. After selecting a team of writers and Ethel Merman to star they created a few drafts. The first title was Crazy Week but then it became Hard to Get until they decided on the title Anything Goes.
It is said that the first script set to appear on Broadway included plot points of a shipwreck, but right before the debut the SS Morro Castle, which had set sail from New York to Cuba, caught fire and nearly one hundred and fifty passengers and crew died in the tragedy. Feeling that it would be in poor taste to showcase a musical with that theme the script was rewritten quickly before opening night.
From its first production until today this musical has been made into a film in 1936, appeared in London’s West End in 1935 with revivals there in 1989 and 2003. Broadway revivals have been produced in 1987 and 2011 as well as an Off-Broadway production in 1962. It has won Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards and songs from this work have gone on to be used in many pop culture references. Some include the use of “I Get a Kick Out of You” in Mel Brooks movie Blazing Saddles, “You’re the Top” in the movie Evil Under the Sun and “Anything Goes”, the title song, sung by Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
All these songs are iconic and most of the United States population can recognize them without having ever seen the legendary musical. So it is fitting that this Cole Porter original would be recreated many times in high schools across the US.
Continue to the second half of the list here!