High School Play
Mary Poppins is out and Matilda is in, according to the new high school theater rankings from the Educational Theatre Association. The top spot for high school musicals went to The Addams Family, a show that's been hanging around the top 10 list for the last decade. Mamma Mia! was the second most-popular, making an appearance on the list for the second year (the rights for schools recently became available). Cinderella rounded out the Top 10 list — a new addition this year.
For full-length plays, Clue finally beat out Almost, Maine (the most popular production for high schools this decade) for the No. 1 spot. The rankings come out as schools across the country are being challenged to adapt their theater and concert performances to online platforms because of the coronavirus.
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For Vernon Hills High School in Illinois, Clue was a great choice because of its creativity and humor, says Stephanie Freichels, the school's theater director. "It combines mystery with some really great physical comedy," she says. "There are secret passageways and over-the-top characters."
The school wasn't able to perform the show as planned last spring due to the coronavirus, so over Zoom, the cast and crew created a radio drama. They sold tickets and streamed the audio for "one night only!" in May.
This year, 85 percent of nearly 3,300 schools surveyed by the EdTA said they had canceled performances, and many educators say they'll feel the financial impact from that this year.
Money made from ticket sales in the spring often funds the fall shows. For nearly half of the schools surveyed, financial losses from cancelled shows mean cutbacks for next year's theater and arts-related activities. At Vernon Hills High, where they're planning to hold classes remotely in the fall, staff are still working on a plan for theater. Perhaps another radio play is in their future!
The back story
Even though I myself did not bask in the glow of the high school stage, I do have fond memories of working behind the scenes, as stage crew. Dressed in black, I rushed the bed onstage for Tevye's dream sequence in Fiddler on the Roof.
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The Most Popular High School Plays And Musicals
I've also spoken with many people who weren't involved in theater at all but can still — for some reason — remember the shows their schools performed.
There's just something about the high school stage.
All of this got me wondering: What are the most popular high school plays and musicals?
As it turns out, the answer is in Dramatics — the monthly magazine for theater students and teachers. It's been publishing an annual ranking of the most popular high school plays and musicals since 1938.
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