During high school, you can pursue a wide variety of things, including theater. Plays, as well as musicals, are a great way to not only express yourself but also to improve your acting ability. Variety is important, and you might not want to only do popular musicals.
To help your musical department pick out the perfect musical, we’ve prepared a list of the 55 best musicals for high school.
1. 12 Angry Jurors – Sherman l. Sergel
Based on the film 12 Angry Men, 12 Angry Jurors tackles a serious and dramatic subject—12 people deciding whether a young man is innocent or guilty. This musical puts its participants in roles that may be challenging, so be mindful about whether they’re able to do this kind of play.
2. 21 Chump Street – Lin-Manuel Miranda
If you’ve got a small group of guys in your ensemble, 21 Chump Street is a good fit and has a smaller cast overall. Based on the comedy film 21 Jump Street, this musical has five spots for men and one spot for a woman, and—get this—it’s only 14 minutes long! It’s great if you just want a small project.
3. 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee – Rachel Sheinkin And William Finn
This musical is a lot of fun, and it is designed in such a way that the gender of the performer doesn’t matter, but it is not an easy musical to get set up. If you want to do this one, the participants will have to put in a lot of practice, especially for some of the tougher parts. Be sure to do your research beforehand.
4. The Addams Family – Andrew Lippa, Marshall Brickman, and Rick Elice
Traditional musicals might get a lot of play, but the reason why The Addams Family is so popular with high school students is that the characters represent the social freaks of society. They’re not like other people, and people just don’t get them. That speaks to a ton of young people, especially nowadays, and being able to perform that counter culturalism is a great escape.
5. Anne of Green Gables: The Musical – Mavor Moore
Something family-friendly is a great fit for high school-aged performers. A musical like this will attract people of all ages looking to have a good time with the story.
6. Annie – Thomas Meehan
If you’re of a certain age, you’ve probably heard of Little Orphan Annie, and the musical still goes strong to this day. We all sympathize with Annie’s goals to reach above their station, and the progress of her ascent is fun to perform and fun for the audience to follow.
7. Beauty and the Beast – Linda Woolverton
Beauty And The Beast is perhaps the greatest romantic Disney film of all time, with one of the best reasons being its beautiful, romantic soundtrack. This musical has a lot of roles and costumes, making it so much more fun for more people.
8. Bernarda Alba – Michael Long LaChiusa
Bernarda Alba is a story of a grief-stricken wife who behaves overprotectively towards her mother and daughters, and the story of the daughters rebelling against the strict rules imposed on them. Because each daughter is given time to sing, each actress will have the chance to show off.
9. Bring It On: The Musical – Tom Kitt And Lin-Manuel Miranda
10. A Bronx Tale – Chazz Palminteri
A Bronx Tale also has a version for high school, and its small cast makes it a great choice if you want to keep a cohesive, focused one.
11. Bye Bye Birdie – Michael Stewart
A musical that lets you maximize the number of people who get the spotlight is valuable, as it provides them with valuable experience to prepare them for other projects. The ensemble is quite large, so you should be able to get many of your troupe into the musical.
12. Carrie: The Musical – Lawrence D. Cohen
Carrie, also a book and a movie, is not exactly known as being a particularly wholesome or family-friendly experience. Thus, you should definitely make sure the performers are ready to perform it. It covers murder, bullying, and Christian extremism, which are all quite controversial topics.
13. Catch Me If You Can – Terrence McNally
Catch Me If You Can is a musical full of intrigue and drama, following a con man who’s been cornered by the FBI, and just wants to tell his story. This is highly character-driven, so putting people who can project strongly onto them is important.
14. Cinderella – Richard Rodgers And Oscar Hammerstein II
When kids are first trying to get into musical performance, it’s important for them to have a musical that is not too intimidating. Cinderella is perfect for that for a variety of reasons. It has lots of roles—main roles included—and by comparison, the songs are easier to learn. The dances may be a little tougher, however.
15. Disaster! – Jack Plotnick and Seth Rudetsky
No matter the title, this musical is anything but a disaster. It’s a jukebox musical, featuring artists such as Barry Manilow, Chicago, Michael Jackson, and more, which makes this a favorite for many.
16. Disenchanted! – Dennis T. Giacino
Whether you want to find a play specifically for girls or you want an ensemble of both, Disenchanted! can be either. This musical pokes a lot of fun at Disney properties but does so without coming off as disdainful at all to them.
17. Emma: A Pop Musical – Eric Price
An adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, this musical has a more modern setting. A lot of your favorite artists are featured, including The Supremes, Katy Perry, Lisa Loeb, and more.
18. Fame – Jose Fernandez
There’s something poetic about high school students performing a musical about being in school. This is solid if you have a lot of slots to fill and provides insight into the High School for the Performing Arts.
19. The Fantasticks – Tom Jones
The musical The Fantasticks is the world’s longest-running musical, and for a very good reason. This story is very Romeo and Juliet-esque except the parents are secretly trying to bring them together, but through a variety of unfortunate events, the two lovers go through turmoil and self-doubt.
20. Fiddler on the Roof – Joseph Stein
Just as Fiddler On The Roof was one of the biggest musicals on Broadway, so too did it see a lot of play in many other venues, high school musicals included. The story of Tevye is one that stands the test of time, proving an interesting story for audiences.
21. Frozen – Jennifer Lee
Frozen is arguably one of the biggest Disney properties ever made, and it still resonates with children of all ages. The reason why it resonates so strongly is due to a multitude of factors, including representing newfound independence and a sisterly bond, which is sadly rare in Disney musicals.
22. Grease – Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
It may be a classic that’s been going for decades longer than students today have been alive, but it’s a classic that still hasn’t lost its luster. This is because the topic is timeless! It’s all about your own identity, love, and who you want to be when you’re with the person you love.
23. Guys and Dolls – Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling
Guys And Dolls is a classic musical, and one that has been featured in many high schools over the years. The music and costumes are fun, and the comedy behind the musical has made it an audience favorite.
24. Hairspray – Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan
This classic musical has lots of spots, meaning you don’t have to worry so much about making sure people get a chance to shine. It says a lot about racism, body image, and more, and the music is a real bop to listen to.
25. Heathers: The Musical – Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy
This may be a bit too much for a high school musical, but the creators thought the very same thing. That’s why they actually came up with a version that teens can do themselves for their high school, meaning no more angry parents! Plus, plenty of people will get their opportunity to shine, considering how big the cast is for both men and women.
26. High Fidelity – David Lindsay-Abaire
While musicals are a great way to escape into a fantastical world, sometimes the best musical is one that is grounded in reality. This deals with loving someone and losing them, and how our protagonist learns from it.
27. High School Musical On Stage! – David Simpatico
It might be a little meta to do a musical of High School Musical, but hey, whatever works, right? You can go in a lot of different directions with this one, whether you want to base it on the concert performance or if you want to try your own adaptation of the movies.
28. Into the Woods – James Lapine
This play is popular for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is very popular with a mainstream audience. If you’re looking for a musical that will get people to fill the seats, there are a few better choices than this.
29. Legally Blonde – Heather Hach
When choosing this one, it’s valuable to consider how well it will be taken. Legally Blonde is appropriate for high school for the most part, but some parents may object. However, if you get it past the approval process, the performers will have lots of fun with its songs and dances.
30. The Little Mermaid – Doug Wright
For a high schooler, being able to relate to wanting to explore another person’s world is all too appealing. Ariel hits so many notes with this, and the soundtrack to this play is among Disney favorites.
31. Little Shop of Horrors – Howard Ashman
Little Shop Of Horrors is a mixture of extremes. It’s rather easy to perform due to how understated a lot of the singing is, meaning that you do not have to do a lot of prep to make a chorus work. However, at the other end of the spectrum, we have the plant—Audrey II—which, depending on how much work is put into it, can be quite a complicated beast.
32. Little Women – Allan Knee
A period piece is a lot of fun to do, and Little Women is one of the best period musicals in our opinion. It gives your costume department something fun to do! Also, despite the period, this musical has plenty of modern music.
33. Lucky Stiff – Lynn Ahrens
If you need something to fill in the gaps between your larger productions, Lucky Stiff is a solid choice. This musical wears its zaniness on its sleeve, especially since it tells the audience from the onset just how insane things are about to get.
34. Mamma Mia! – Catherine Johnson
Mamma Mia! is easily one of the biggest recent musicals, and if nothing else, it’s quite popular due to just how fun it is to perform. Not only that, but it has a lot of lead characters—6 women and 3 men—so this musical offers students plenty of opportunities to stand out.
35. Mary Poppins – Julian Fellowes
This classic story about a magical nanny stole the hearts of many growing up back in the day, and it still manages to be a popular choice for all ages to do musicals. There’s just a lot of wholesome magic at work that keeps people coming back to it!
36. Matilda the Musical – Dennis Kelly
Matilda is a cult classic amongst many, focusing on the story of a young girl blessed with magical abilities but who has neglectful parents and an abusive teacher. Even the oldest of high school students can find an appeal in the character, who learns to stand up to those who do her wrong.
37. The Music Man – Franklin Lacey and Meredith Willson
The Music Man feels like a musical about musicals themselves, which makes it a fun bit of meta-musicality. This has inspired a lot of people and has been featured in many venues over the years.
38. Newsies – Harvey Fierstein
Back when newspapers were still relevant, newsboys were a vital part of the process. So when these newsboys decided to strike back in 1899, people took notice. This musical is based on many true details of the events, but it does take some liberties nevertheless.
39. No, No, Nanette – Frank Mandel and Otto Harbach
This is a solid choice for a musical, but only if the performers have the experience to pull it off. The music is quite a challenge, and everyone involved will have to put in a lot of work to pull it off successfully. But when you do pull it off, it feels all the sweeter.
40. Oklahoma! – Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers
Considering how important both Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II have been for musicals, it should come as no surprise that their first—Oklahoma!—is a popular choice for anyone looking to perform a musical, high schooler or otherwise.
41. Once Upon a Mattress – Dean Fuller, Jay Thompson, and Marshall Barer
A classic tale that plenty are familiar with, this musical puts a comedy spin on things. The premise is built around the idea that the Princess And The Pea tale was a false version, and that the minstrel telling the story knows the truth. It’s quite an amusing take on this story.
42. The Pirates of Penzance – Arthur Sullivan and William Schwenck Gilbert
Of all the musicals that high schoolers perform, The Pirates Of Penzance is certainly one of the oldest. One of the things that makes it so attractive is the costumes and props won’t break the bank.
43. Rent – Jonathan Larson
While the premise is certainly heavy, touching upon issues such as AIDS, homophobia, the housing crisis, and more, these topics are important ones for high schoolers to understand as they grow up. This is a great musical if the students are looking to push the envelope.
44. The Robber Bridegroom – Alfred Uhry
While we love a hero, an anti-hero is just so much more fun to play and watch, as is the case with The Robber Bridegroom. The protagonist, much like Robin Hood, robs from those more fortunate in particular, making his crimes arguably less unethical.
45. Ruthless! – Joel Paley
Ruthless! doesn’t pull any punches, having a combination of murder, intrigue, and comedy. This all-female musical gives its performers the opportunity to have fun with a darkly comic musical.
46. Seussical – Lynn Ahrens
Whichever Dr. Seuss’ tale is your favorite, the good news is that Seussical likely covers it. This musical serves as a reimagining of the Seuss worlds as one collective world, featuring a number of roles based on characters from these stories.
47. Shrek the Musical – David Lindsay-Abaire
Shrek had the tendency to be a mixture of rude, crude, lewd, and simply funny, making it a perfect fit for people who are often one of these at varying times.
48. The Sound of Music – Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
This is another musical that, if done well, will attract plenty of attention from the parents and grandparents of the kids in the play. It has great music that is as fun to listen to as it is to perform, and it has a large ensemble cast.
49. SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical – Kyle Jarrow
Since SpongeBob SquarePants is a show that has been going on since 1999, it should come as no surprise that a lot of people have grown up with it. Thus, it’s a musical that a lot of high schoolers will naturally gravitate towards. And to boot, it’s a funny comedy in its own right, and the cartoony personae provide plenty of opportunity to ham it up.
50. Spring Awakening – Steven Sater
The theater, no matter how old you may be, will get into heavier topics from time to time, and Spring Awakening is one of the heavier musicals. If you want to do this one, be sure that your performers are prepared for the subject.
51. West Side Story – Arthur Laurents
West Side Story is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, set in modern times (at the time anyway). Instead of the rivalry between the Montagues and the Capulets, you have the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks. Still an effective story, even with the change.
52. The Wizard of Oz – Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams
This musical is always an audience favorite, as no parent is going to complain about seeing a quality adaptation of an age-old classic. It’s not the easiest play to do though; after all, the cast does have pretty elaborate costumes. Just make sure that your costumes are safer than the ones they used in the original movie!
53. Working – Nina Faso and Stephen Schwartz
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Working is a perfect musical if you’re operating on a tighter budget. As far as costumes are concerned, the students can just take work outfits of their own or their parents to use. You don’t even have to worry about cohesion since the musical is a series of vignettes.
54. You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown – John Gordon
This musical has tons of advantages if you are trying to get a good musical that isn’t going to hurt your budget. First, it’s a popular comic, so most people are already familiar with it. Second, props and costumes are fairly cheap to produce. And finally, the small cast allows for better coordination.
55. Zombie Prom – John Dempsey
For students who are looking to have a sillier musical experience, Zombie Prom is a good way to get away from the more serious stuff. It’s definitely one of the weirder takes on zombie fiction in general.
Each musical may communicate a different feeling depending on the person, so the perfect musical is going to be an entirely subjective thing. Thus, what might be the most popular musicals for high school may appeal to you a lot less than something more obscure or understated. Heck, you may even want to make your own musical! It wouldn’t be the first time, and maybe it will be a musical that spreads to other high schools as well.
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