The 10 Best and Most Popular Musicals for Schools
By Philippa Pearne
Who doesn’t love a fun-filled, heart-bursting, action-packed and, at times, wonderfully cheesy musical? From dancing in the aisles to singing along to catchy songs at the top of your voice, we defy anyone to sit through an entire musical straight laced and straight faced. It’s the ultimate pick-me-up – quite frankly, it should be renamed ‘Happy Hour’ - and even more so if it’s performed by happy, enthusiastic children excited to put on a show for their parents, grandparents and extended family.
But how do you choose the best musical for your school? The list of criteria for popular school musicals is long; is the story engaging? Is the music brilliant? Is it a suitable length? How many cast members does it have? Can the lines be distributed effectively? And what about the manageability of the staging, props and costumes? If ‘Happy Hour’ has now swiftly turned into ‘Anxiety Hour’ (*gets brown paper bag ready to encourage controlled breathing*), don’t panic! Any hint of stress should be instantly demolished once you’ve read this rundown of the top ten best musicals for schools. These fantastic productions are ready and waiting for you and will have you humming the tunes all the way through to the summer holidays. Happy choosing!
Cast size: 20-60, Running time: c.70 mins
With 33 speaking roles, a hilarious script and eleven original songs, Pantastic is an award-winning musical adaptation of Peter Pan and is widely regarded as one of the best musicals for schools. Aimed at girls and boys aged 9-13 and already staged in over 30 countries, there are plenty of exciting named parts for young performers to sink their teeth into. It’ll make the adults in the audience wish they had never grown up!
Cast size: 20-60+, Running time: c.65 mins
Available at both Senior and Primary ages, this captivating version of ‘Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland’ is sure to become one of the most popular musicals for schools. With an exhilarating – and at times beautifully poignant – collection of songs, a cast brimming with innumerable lovable characters, and a script that perfectly captures the eccentricities of the original, ‘Wonderland’ takes you down a rabbit hole from which you’ll never want to climb out.
Cast size: 26-60+, Running time: c.60 mins
We all know and love the story of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Book’, but the book itself it can be a tricky one to navigate for children and includes some rather difficult language too. This feel-good musical version is hugely accessible, has nine original super-catchy songs and an engaging script, fit enough for a large, mixed ensemble. It’s sure to captivate children, adults and the odd nearby wild animal.
Cast size: 25-60+, Running time: c. 65 mins
Available at both Senior and Primary ages, when it comes to good musicals for schools, ‘Sherlock & Cinders’ couldn’t be a better fit, with Holmes and Watson on the case to find the mysterious owner of the glass slipper. Whilst it’s not rocket science to know whose foot they’re looking for, your school will have a ball (pun intended) performing this toe-tapping, side-splitting ensemble piece. It’s perfectly pitched for 9-15year olds - just make sure it’s finished by midnight...
Cast size: 20-60+, Running time: c.70 mins
Delve into the world of magic lamps, genies and making wishes come true with this brilliant, award-nominated adaptation of ‘Aladdin’. With a reworked story fit for today, especially in its strong female characters, it maintains its timeless and familiar themes; from princesses and sultans, to gems, rags and riches, you name it, it’s got it! So, don your turbans and practise your royal curtsey because A-la-la-la-la-laddin’s coming to a school stage near you. Available at both Senior and Primary ages.
Cast size: 23-68, Running time: 50 mins
Featuring seven original songs and a charming script, Minotaur is perfect for 7-11 year olds and ideal alongside studying the Greek and Roman myths. Set in Crete, it tells the story of a man-eating monster who lives in a dark labyrinth, a frustrated king, a heroic prince and a bored princess. Cue: adventures, escapes and confrontation, all with a witty sense of humour of course. With a running time of under an hour, this Greek journey is quick and easy to learn, but will build memories that will last a lifetime.
Cast size: 18-60, Running time: 70 mins
A re-interpretation of the famous story ‘Dick Whittington’, this musical for 9-13 year olds is action-packed, includes a hub of memorable characters and ten catchy new songs. Full of fun, drama and determination, it’s a favourite amongst pupils because of downtrodden Kitty’s journey to eventually coming out on top. And with 31 speaking parts, there are plenty of lines to share out between keen performers.
Cast size: 36-60+, Running time: 50 mins
If you’re looking for a fun, swashbuckling school musical that also teaches children an important lesson, this one’s got a particularly special message at the heart(y) of it. It tells the story of Captain Clingfilm and his plastic-loving team of pirates who are harming the sea creatures beneath. Will they finally show some compassion and change their littering ways? 7-11 year olds will love the brilliant planet-aware songs, as well as the story’s sentiment.
9. Paws & Claws
Cast size: 20-50, Running time: 70 mins
Take a gang of wily cats and a group of fearless dogs who are all vying for the same leftovers patch at the back of a bakery. Then mix in a cat and a dog who become friends – wait, what? That’s right, this unique cats-and-dogs musical is loosely based on William Shakespeare’s most famous love story, Romeo and Juliet, only this has got a much happier ending! Boasting 35 speaking roles and 11 contemporary, catchy songs, this is a musical ‘tail’ that your pupils will love.
Cast size: 30-60, Running time: c.70 mins
With plenty of loveable characters to get acquainted with, an innovative score and a unique script, this brilliant comedy delves deep into history and discovers that it is never as dead and buried as you might think. Intrigued? Just click below and dive into a world of Ancient Egyptian-themed shenanigans - perfect for enthusiastic boys and girls who are game for performing something a little bit different.
As you can see, the possibilities for choosing good musicals for schools are endless. Will you go for the one about the detective and the fairy tale? Put on a spectacular show about a gang of gung-ho cats and dogs? Or will you wow the audience with a performance about a cheeky group of cluttering pirates? Whichever one makes the cut, this school musicals list is sure to have you covered.
Need a little help with the process? Take a look at Organisation Is The Key To A Brilliant School Musical and Summertime And The Musical Is Nearing.