Musicals and Plays

69 Best Musicals for High School: The Ultimate List

students performing a musical in high school

Picking musicals for high school is a huge responsibility — in addition to finding a show that’s appropriate for your students, you need to consider parents, school leadership, the school board, and the community at large. It can be challenging, but it’s worth it to see shy kids transform into confident, capable actors and singers.

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For theater kids, musicals are the best part of high school. Think back — do you remember when you first felt your castmates turning into family? The first time you stepped on stage and found your voice? The first time you heard the audience applaud or laugh and thought, “Oh, I’m home“? 

At Theater Love, we believe that musical theater is magic. It’s essential. It’s a place where everyone belongs — a lifesaver for kids who feel like they don’t fit in anywhere else in high school.

Whether you work at a school with a big arts budget or you’re building a high-school drama program from the ground up, these musicals are a great place to start planning your next theater season.

Top image courtesy of Steven Pisano under CC BY 2.0 | In the Heights, directed by Sonya Baehr at Poly Prep Country Day School

Looking for a specific type of high school musical? Jump to:

Actors in Beauty and the Beast, one of the most popular musicals for high school
Image courtesy of HarshLight under CC BY 2.0

Sometimes, you just need a surefire hit for your theater program — and that’s when it’s time to choose from the most popular high school musicals. Each of these shows is virtually guaranteed to draw a huge audience, so you can pack the house with excited friends, family members, and people from the community. When you want to build interest in your school’s drama club, start here!

1. Beauty and the Beast

You probably already know the story of Beauty and the Beast — and that’s exactly why it’s one of the most popular musicals for high school. Audiences won’t think twice about buying tickets because they already know they’ll love the show! Plus, the cast has a large number of roles, so you can show off more of your talented performers. (The fun costumes don’t hurt, either.)

2. Mamma Mia!

One challenge that high school theater directors face is finding musicals with plenty of roles. If your drama department is packed with stars, Mamma Mia! makes it easy to feature them. There are six starring female roles and three leading men, plus a variety of smaller parts. Dancing, singing, and ABBA — what’s not to love? Though it does reference adult activity (drinking, “dot, dot, dot…”), Mamma Mia! is relatively tame and appropriate for high school. As a bonus, you won’t have to spend much on costumes; summer street clothes work just fine. Is

3. The Addams Family

Since it debuted in 2010, the Addams Family has been rising up the charts of the top high school musicals. It’s easy to see why — the characters are quirky, the music is fun, and the sets are delightfully dark. This is a great show to do while your students are in the Halloween spirit, but it works any time of year.

4. Into the Woods

Die-hard theater nerds have always been obsessed with Sondheim’s masterpiece, Into the Woods. The 2014 movie starring Meryl Streep brought everyone else into the fold — now this show is guaranteed to draw a crowd. You can perform it in a theater of any size, but it works particularly well in an intimate black-box setting.

5. The Wizard of Oz

Get ready — you’re about to hear “there’s no place like home” on repeat. Ever since The Wizard of Oz movie came out in 1939, this adorable musical has been an American classic. You can bet that local families will be buying tickets en masse — no parent is going to deny their kids the chance to see Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion in person? High schoolers love this show partly for the iconic characters, and partly because it’s just so much fun. Plus, if you live in a conservative area, no one will find fault with the squeaky-clean plot.

6. The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music is one of the best musicals to do in high school. It has everything: a big cast, cute kids, beloved music, and just enough darkness to keep things interesting. And let’s not forget — nuns! (There’s something about a nun costume that makes a chorus role more fun.) If your theater program needs to make money for future shows, this classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is sure to spike ticket sales.

7. Annie

Annie is one of those musicals that everyone knows — it’s a family friendly show, which is handy if you live in a conservative area. This show is ideal for a new high school drama department or a program that includes middle school and elementary school, too. And when you need to sell tickets, it’s sure to be a hit.

8. My Fair Lady

Do you have a standout female star in your high school musical theater program? My Fair Lady is the perfect musical to show off her skills. Based on the George Bernard Shaw play Pygmalion, the plot follows the feisty Eliza Doolittle as she transforms from an unkempt flower seller to a well-mannered woman of society. As a bonus, it’s one of the most beloved and well-known shows of all time — you’re sure to sell plenty of tickets.

9. Mary Poppins

Based on the 1964 Julie Andrews movie and the stories of P.L. Travers, Mary Poppins is a grand, crowd-pleasing musical for all ages. The stage production works best for a large high school theater program with ample resources — the set, dance, staging, and costuming requirements are significant. Our favorite part? There are multiple standout female roles, making this a wonderful musical for high schools with talented female actors

Easy Musicals for High School

A high school production of the musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Image courtesy of otterbeintheatre under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’ve ever directed a musical, you know how much work goes into it. To streamline the process, look for easy shows. These musicals all have one thing in common — at least one element makes your life easier. Some, such as Cinderella, are easy for students to learn (thank you for the catchy melodies, Rodgers and Hammerstein!). Others, like Working, are easy to direct. Still others are small cast high school musicals, so you don’t need to worry about staging and directing an enormous, wayward ensemble.

10. Cinderella

Cinderella is an easy musical to do with your high school students for one reason: the music is extremely singable. There are no complex harmonies, and most of the vocal lines are easy to pick up quickly. The dancing might be a stumbling block, but as long as your actors can master a basic box step, you’re golden. If you’re just starting a theater program, the undeniable magic of Cinderella is sure to draw your kids in and keep them spellbound.

11. Once Upon a Mattress

Once Upon a Mattress offers a comical, quirky take on the fairy tale musical. This show, which debuted on Broadway in 1959, is based on “The Princess and the Pea.” The princess in question is anything but a damsel in distress — Winnifred the Woebegone can take care of herself. With its laugh-out-loud dialogue and delightful music, this musical is a fun challenge for novice actors. Interestingly, the music was written by Mary Rodgers, the daughter of the famous Richard Rodgers.

12. Working 

You haven’t heard of the musical Working? You’re not alone — this small show is rarely produced. The story unravels in a series of vignettes, each showing the perspective of a different type of worker. It’s the perfect musical for high schoolers; there’s a solid moral to the story, and each actor gets to explore more than one character. You can do the show with as few as six performers or expand the cast to accommodate the number of kids who come out for auditions. Since there’s minimal interaction between characters, rehearsals are a breeze!

13. Grease

Grease is one of the top high school musicals of all time. The tale of Danny, Sandy, and friends is fun and frothy, with a surprisingly deep undercurrent. Students resonate with the show because it doesn’t make light of the very real problems they face and the potentially lifelong consequences of their decisions. For the director, the plot presents a teaching moment: is it ever wise to change yourself for a romantic partner?

14. You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown 

This musical hits all of the bases for high school: it’s easy to produce, and you can do it on an exceptionally small budget. It’s also one of the best small cast musicals for high school — and since everyone recognizes the name, selling tickets is a breeze!

15. Little Shop of Horrors

Are you looking for an easy musical that doesn’t look easy? Little Shop of Horrors delivers, big time. The music is fun, but it doesn’t involve complicated harmonies or challenging rhythms. There are no big chorus numbers — in fact, there’s barely a chorus at all — so you can work in small groups with students. The biggest challenge is Audrey II, the bloodthirsty plant.

Low-Budget Musicals for High School

People performing The Fantasticks: one of the best high school musicals
Image courtesy of otterbeintheatre under CC BY-SA 2.0

Many schools offer a tiny (or nonexistent) budget for the drama department. If that sounds familiar a low-budget high school musical is a great solution. By saving money on licensing, costumes, and/or sets, you can give your kids a memorable musical theater experience — without dealing with endless fundraisers!

16. The Pirates of Penzance

The Pirates of Penzance is one of the best low-budget musicals you can do with a high school group for one big reason: it’s in the public domain, so you don’t need to pay licensing fees! Costumes are easy to put together with thrift-store finds or volunteers who can sew, and you can get away with very minimal sets.

  • Cast: 11 roles, optional ensemble
  • Licensing: Public domain

17. A Bronx Tale (High School Edition)

Set in the Bronx in 1960, A Bronx Tale tells the story of a young boy with mob-boss ambitions and a father who’s fighting to keep his son away from organized crime. The show has a bit of a West Side Story vibe — it’s a coming-of-age story brimming with racial tension.

We love that two of the principal roles in A Bronx Tale are high schoolers; it lends an extra level of realism to the musical. One character (the elementary-school version of the teen male character) is 9 years old, which is handy if you have a talented actor who can play a younger role.

18. The Fantasticks

With its gorgeous (but not overly complicated) music, small orchestra, and flexible set requirements, The Fantasticks is the perfect budget musical for a small high school theater program. The cast is made up of just 8 characters, each with plenty to do — and best of all, the romantic leads are teenagers.

19. The Apple Tree

If you’re looking for an interesting, slightly offbeat high school musical, The Apple Tree fits the bill. It’s actually a set of three short musical tales with music written by the legendary Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Cast each one separately to include more performers, or use the same cast to stretch your actors’ abilities.

20. The Robber Bridegroom

Here’s a musical you don’t see often in high schools; The Robber Bridegroom is a wild, folksy musical overflowing with bluegrass tunes (from the onstage band!) and outrageous characters. It takes place in the south in 1795, but there’s nothing overly historical about it — the fun lies in mistaken identities, bumbling criminals, and even a wicked stepmother.

21. Disaster! The Musical

The 1970s are alive and well in this comedy jukebox musical, which pokes fun at classic disaster movies. An eclectic collection of characters board a floating casino for an evening of entertainment, only to be faced with a series of increasingly wild natural disasters. It’s exactly the kind of absurdist humor that high school students love — and their parents and grandparents will love how Seth Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick have cleverly woven in hits like “When Will I Be Loved,” “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” and the “Hawaii Five-O Theme.”

Contemporary Musicals for High School

High-school age performers onstage in Matilda the musical
Matilda musical; Image courtesy of Roderick Eime under CC BY-ND 2.0

If you have a bunch of theater kids who keep up with the latest Broadway shows, the Golden Age classics will only get you so far. At some point, it’s time to look into the best contemporary musicals for high schoolers. This is harder than it sounds, since many modern shows deal with dark, adult themes; you need to do a bit of extra research to find a school-appropriate musical.

The following shows have all been on Broadway or the West End in recent years — which means that they’re some of the coolest high school musicals you can find — and they’re all available for licensing.

22. Mean Girls (High School Version)

Mean Girls is one of those rare musicals that will delight both high school students and their parents. Parents will remember the 2004 Mean Girls movie; students love the recent Broadway production. (The Mean Girls touring cast also has a big presence on TikTok, which has done a lot to build awareness.) The story is packed with life lessons about bullying, cliques, and accepting people who are different from you. We love that the high school version comes with a list of approved changes to help you tailor the musical to your community’s needs.

23. Matilda

After the movie craze swept TikTok, we’re willing to bet that most of your high school actors are familiar with Matilda the musical. The songs are catchy, and there’s plenty of opportunity for over-the-top choreography. And, if you cast a beloved teacher or coach as the Trunchbull, you’re sure to draw a crowd.

24. The SpongeBob Musical

Based on the TV show SpongeBob SquarePants, The SpongeBob Musical is a fun, optimistic show for high school students. The familiar characters are just the right amount of outrageous — and the costuming requirements are surprisingly flexible. We love that the casting is completely gender flexible; it makes life so much easier for high school drama departments. (We’re hoping more musicals follow suit!)

25. Legally Blonde the Musical

Based on the 2001 movie starring Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde the Musical has brought new life to this classic story. After she’s dumped by her college boyfriend, Elle Woods goes to law school to win him back — and discovers her power in the process. This female-heavy musical is good for a high school with plenty of strong belters and dancers.

26. Disenchanted! (High School Edition)

What happens when the women of fairytales decide to take ownership over their own stories rather than relying on a handsome prince? Find out in this fun, irreverent musical. The cast is all female, so it’s an excellent musical for high school drama programs. We love that there’s an option to add an all-genders ensemble for a more inclusive experience.

27. Emma: A Pop Musical

If you’ve ever read the Jane Austen novel Emma (or seen the movie Clueless), you’ll recognize the blog of Emma: A Pop Musical. High-school senior Emma decides to play matchmaker for her friend Harriet, and ends up discovering who she is in the process. This jukebox musical is fun and unexpected, featuring music from Katy Perry, The Supremes, and more.

28. Catch Me If You Can

Catch Me If You Can opened on Broadway in 2011, starring Aaron Tveit. The script, which is based on a true story, follows the charming con-man Frank Abignale, Jr. as he successfully pretends to be a pilot, doctor, and attorney. This musical is a classic Broadway spectacular, featuring big dance numbers and fun 1960s costumes.

29. High School Musical

High School Musical, which originated as a 2006 Disney movie, is a fun musical for high school performers. Kids will love playing characters their own age; you can even get a couple of teachers in on the fun to play Ms. Darbus and Coach Bolton. The ensemble is flexible, so you can add as many performers as you like to the big song-and-dance numbers.

30. Shrek the Musical

Does your high school have skilled costumers, puppeteers, and aspiring makeup artists? Shrek the Musical is an exciting challenge. It’s packed with outrageous fairytale characters, each with their own style — every performer gets a chance to stand out.

31. Freaky Friday

If you’re looking for a high school musical where kids can play characters their own age, Freaky Friday is a fun option. A high school student wakes up to find that she’s switched bodies with her mom — and as you might guess, chaos ensues. The story comes from the Mary Rodgers novel of the same name and the 203 Disney movie starring Lindsay Lohan.

Large Cast Musicals for High School

Actors performing Seussical the musical with a large cast
Image courtesy of USAG Stuttgart

Does your school have a large turnout for auditions? Large musicals for high schools are a great way to ensure that everyone who wants to participate, gets to participate. If you have a few star performers and a large collection of beginners, look for ensemble heavy high school shows. Musicals with big ensembles — especially those with a variety of featured roles, like Bye Bye Birdie — help you foster the talent of all your singers and actors.

32. Oliver!

Oliver! is a classic high school musical — and with 17 roles, it’s the perfect option for a large cast. Based on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, it tells the story of an orphan boy and his band of buddies. This musical is particularly well-suited to a school theater program with a wide range of ages; there are roles for younger and older kids.

33. Footloose the Musical

Though it was written as a movie in 1984, Footloose the Musical explores themes that are still relevant to high schoolers. A new student moves from a big city to a small town, only to discover that the local preacher has led a ban against dancing. He falls in love with the preacher’s daughter and discovers the heartbreaking reason for the ban. This jukebox musical is packed with 80s hits, including “Holding Out for a Hero” and “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.”

34. Newsies

If your high school has a strong — and we mean seriously strong — dance program, Newsies could be the perfect musical. The story follows a band of newsboys as they strike in support of fair labor practices in the early 1900s. Newsies is based on a true story, so it’s a great opportunity to collaborate with your high school’s history and government teachers. Keep in mind that this show has a mostly-male cast. You might also consider Disney’s Newsies Jr. for a younger group.

35. Bye Bye Birdie

If you’re looking for a musical with a Grease-style 1950s vibe, Bye Bye Birdie is the perfect choice. Before he ships out with the military, the rock star Conrad Birdie makes a visit to a small town to meet high school student Kim MacAfee. Packed with poodle skirts and impossibly charming songs, this musical is ready for a resurgence. The script has lots of meaty principal and featured roles, so it’s perfect for a big drama department.

36. Oklahoma!

Oklahoma! is the first-ever Rodgers and Hammerstein musical — in fact, it’s credited with changing the face of American musical theater. Set in (you guessed it) Oklahoma in the early 1900s, it introduces the audience to a group of frontier farmers and cowboys as they enjoy life and love on the plains. You’ll need a solid baritone to play the leading man, Curly. There are also several interesting female roles, including Laurey, Aunt Eller, and the charming Ado Annie.

37. The Music Man

In The Music Man, con-man Harold Hill arrives in a small Iowa town to swindle the locals into shelling out for a faux boys’ band. He winds up falling in love with Marian (the librarian) in the process. This show requires a strong soprano with a high range. The leading man doesn’t need to be an accomplished singer; you can cast a fast-talking charmer.

38. Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler is one of those classic musicals that’s appropriate for high schools, professional theaters, and everything in between. It has a fascinating historical premise with plenty of teaching moments; the plot follows a Jewish community in Russia as they face the threat of pogroms and anti-Semitic laws. The musical is heartbreaking and packed with familiar songs, including “Matchmaker,” “If I Were a Rich Man,” and “Far From the Home I Love.” The show has multiple principal roles, which is perfect for high schools with a wealth of talented performers.

39. Seussical

Seussical combines the most-loved Dr. Seuss characters into a zany musical with a good heart. The show is a little like Shrek the Musical — it’s overflowing with fantasy characters in wild costumes, so it’s a fun way to give all of your high school actors the chance to shine. The casting is largely gender-flexible, so it adapts easily to any theater program. In fact, MTI offers different orchestrations for the leading role (The Cat in the Hat) to suit a range of voice parts.

40. Guys and Dolls

Guys and Dolls is one of the most popular musicals of all time. The musical follows two NYC gamblers as they navigate relationship drama, plan a blowout craps game, and avoid the police. The cast is big, and the script features a steady lineup of show-stopping musical numbers. “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” will bring the audience to its feet.

Lesser-Known Musicals for High School

Urinetown musical; Image courtesy of MC Quinn under CC BY 2.0

When you’re looking for obscure or lesser-known musicals for your high school drama program, these shows are a good place to start. Quirky and eccentric, each one adds depth and dimension to your theater program. Some shows, including Lucky Stiff and Weird Romance, are small cast musicals that provide a fun challenge for your most dedicated and passionate students between big productions.

41. Urinetown

Despite its unappealing title, Urinetown makes an interesting high school musical — and a fun change of pace. In the world of the show, private toilets are illegal; a big corporation has a monopoly over the city’s toilets, and residents are ready to revolt at the high prices and alarming penalties. With its entertaining mix of political commentary and musical theater references, Urinetown offers plenty of laughs and learning opportunities.

42. Lucky Stiff

Lighthearted and funny, Lucky Stiff is an easy musical to love. It all starts with a Weekend at Bernie’s premise: shy salesman Harry Witherspoon has to take the corpse of his uncle on vacation to Monte Carlo — and complete a specific lists of tasks on the journey — in order to receive a massive inheritance. Bizarre characters, mysterious circumstances, and mistaken identities ensue. Curious? You can watch a full high school production here.

43. Something’s Afoot

“Something’s afoot, and the butler didn’t do it.” That lyric captures the vibe of Something’s Afoot, a lighthearted send-up of classic murder mysteries. The 10 cast members are stuck at an English country manor during a storm, and a mysterious someone is taking them out, one by one. It’s funny and goofy — the perfect way to help your high school actors learn how to let loose on stage. (Watch this Pioneer Theatre Company promo to get a sense of the show.) We love the vintage Broadway music, which is beautifully timed to add to the humor. One thing for high school directors to note: this musical does not have a chorus.

44. Zombie Prom

Good-girl high school student Toffee falls in love with Jonny, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. When Toffee’s parents force her to end the relationship, Jonny rides his motorcycle into a nuclear power plant. He comes back as a zombie — as one does — raising all sorts of problems at the school. Should Toffee get together with Jonny? Can a zombie come to the prom? It’s just as fun and absurd as it sounds. The show contains some suggestive content (watch the full musical here), but Concord Theatricals also offers a school edition.

45. Weird Romance

Looking for something different for your next high school musical? Weird Romance delivers. It’s actually two one-act musicals: The Girl Who Was Plugged In and Her Pilgrim Soul. This show lives up to its name — it’s a bizarre little musical duo with robots, body-switching, holographs, and ghosts from the past. (And of course, two very weird romances) Your students will love it. You can cast the two musicals with the same actors, or double the cast to accommodate a larger high school theater program.

46. High Fidelity (High School Edition)

High Fidelity is one of the most underrated musicals, for high school or any theater company. The soaring rock score is surprisingly great — it’s fun to sing, and it’ll give your most serious student actors something new for their audition books. The original Broadway production starred Will Chase and Jen Colella, which should give you a good idea of the sound. (And if your school has a standout electric guitar player, they’ll get plenty of time to shine.) The story is relatable for high schoolers; record store owner Rob gets dumped, looks back at all his failed past relationships, and tries to get his girlfriend back.

Musicals Set in High School

Image courtesy of brapai (public domain)

There’s something special about doing a musical set in a high school with actors who are still in high school. The students are in the thick of it — they have a unique and visceral understanding of the characters’ problems and intense emotions. And from a practical perspective, you probably already have the set pieces lying around school. We’ve already mentioned two of the classics,  Grease and High School Musical, but there are so many more!  Make sure to request a perusal script before you choose; shows like Spring Awakening, Bare, and Dear Evan Hansen tackle some pretty serious subjects. 

47. Hairspray

You know the story: high schooler Tracy Turnblad desperately wants to be a dancer on the Corny Collins Show. When she succeeds, she uses her unexpected fame to tackle the segregation that’s running rampant in her 1960s community. With fantastic dancing, beautiful costumes, and a plot that’s all about inclusivity, this is a lovely story for high schools. (Especially in the era of book banning and other similar atrocities.) Note that you must cast this show as written; the MTI licensing contract now requires it.

48. Bring It On The Musical

Bring It On The Musical is loosely based on the 2000 movie of the same name — your students’ Millennial parents will love the blast from the past. The plot follows competitive high school cheerleaders as they pursue a National Championships win. It’s a great opportunity to bring in your own cheer team. The choreography is the star, because when it comes to music, this one goes the way of many modern musicals: fine but forgettable.

49. 13

Are you working with young high school and middle school actors? 13, a musical by Jason Robert Brown, could be the right fit. It tells the story of a NYC teenager who moves to small-town Indiana and learns to navigate an entirely new social sphere. The musical is sweet but not saccharine, and it’s packed with life lessons that will resonate with a younger cast.

50. Bare: A Pop Opera

Bare: A Pop Opera is a musical that could suit a (very) progressive high school. The plot doesn’t shy away from tough topics — it follows a group of Catholic school students as they navigate their unique identities. This musical features a solid, sung-through rock score; read the script and lyrics carefully before you decide to proceed. If you live in a conservative area, this one probably won’t go over well!

51. Be More Chill

Be More Chill is one of those musicals that really resonates with high school students — it was even a social media sensation at one point. The star, a high school nerd named Jeremy, wants to be popular, so he takes a supercomputer pill to help him…well, be more chill. Naturally, chaos ensues. The Joe Iconis score is forgettable, but the sci-fi story is fun and unapologetically weird. Most importantly, the musical is relatable for young actors; perhaps more than any other age group, they’ll understand what it’s like to long to fit in.

52. Spring Awakening

53. 21 Chump Street

54. Dear Evan Hansen

  • Cast: 4 female, 4 male
  • Licensing: Not yet available

55. Calvin Berger

56. Vanities

57. Fame the Musical

58. West Side Story

59. Heathers the Musical

We know what you’re thinking — is Heathers the Musical appropriate for high school? That depends on your high school, of course; the original version is definitely going to cause a fuss. Recognizing that, the creators came out with a solid teen edition that’s appropriate for high-school actors. You won’t miss the R-rated elements; the revised version has excellent music, plenty of meaty characters to go around, and some high-school-appropriate life lessons about bullying and inclusivity.

60. Carrie: The Musical

A musical for high school based on a horror story? It sounds grim — and it certainly is. Carrie, a social outcast from a strict religious family, is the victim of a cruel prank at the prom. In response, she unleashes her secret telekinetic powers and wreaks havoc. This one might be a hard sell to school administrators, but it’s an insightful (and timely) look at the effects of bullying.

61. Anne of Green Gables

If you’re searching for a family-friendly, G-rated musical for your high school, Anne of Green Gables fits the bill. Based on the beloved novels by Lucy Maud Montgomery, the story follows the young orphan, Anne Shirley, as she navigates her new life with her adoptive family and friends. This is a musical everyone can get behind — students will love the chance to bring the iconic literary characters to life, and parents will happily buy tickets for the whole family.

62. 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

This show is set in a middle school, but we hope you’ll forgive us — it’s a downright fantastic musical for high schoolers. Make sure you have a few talented singers in mind; the character of Olive Ostrovsky, in particular, has some demanding vocal lines. There are also two adult roles, which you can assign to students. Alternatively, it’s a fun way to bring in a choir and gym teacher. (The female performer should be prepared to sing!) Make sure to listen carefully to “Chip’s Lament” before you select this show; it’s the song that’s most likely to hold up the approval process.

High School Musicals with Female Leads

Image courtesy of Larry Ziffle under CC BY 2.0

It’s a problem shared by high school theater programs everywhere — lots of actors to play the female roles, but not enough to fill the male roles. The trouble is, many musicals (especially from the Golden Age) have multiple male leads and one lone female principal role. If you’re facing a casting challenge, these musicals all have female leads. Need more ideas? Check out our full list of musicals with female leads.

63. Bernarda Alba

Bernarda Alba’s husband has just died, and she announces that the entire household (including her mother and five daughters) will be locked in the house in mourning. Chafing at Alba’s strict rules, the girls rebel and find ways to interact with the world outside. The musical, which has an all-female cast, is based on the play The House of Bernarda Alba. The Spanish origins of the playwright come through in Michael John LaChiusa’s music, which is at times haunting, lively, and soaring. It’s a spectacular opportunity to show off your best singers and actors — each daughter gets her own song.

Cast: 10 female
Licensing: Concord Theatricals

64. Ruthless!

Here’s another all-female musical that’s fun for high school. Your drama students will appreciate the plot — child actor Tina Denmark will do almost anything to get the role she wants (even — gasp — murder). This ridiculous, laugh-out-loud funny farce deals with dark themes in a lighthearted way, always with great self-awareness. If you have an actress who looks too young for most leading roles, this is a great opportunity.

Cast: 7 female
Licensing: Concord Theatricals

65. High Spirits

If you’ve ever read Noël Coward’s play Blithe Spirit, you already know the plot of High Spirits — it’s the musical version of the play. It’s a tale as old as time: a widower marries again, only to be tormented by the ghost of his first wife. The new wife, Ruth, can’t see the ghost wife, and chaos ensues. With its small cast and comical script, this is a great musical for a smaller high school theater department…and you only need one male actor!

Cast: 3 female, 1 male
Licensing: Concord Theatricals

66. Little Women

Does it get more wholesome than Little Women? If you need a show that will sail through the approval process — even in the most conservative of communities — this is it. Based on Louisa May Alcott’s novel of the same name, the musical tells the story of the beloved March family. The principal roles are almost all female, but you’ll need a few actors to play the male love interests. With its period costumes and modern music (the orchestration will be a fun challenge for your high school pit ensemble), Little Women is a great opportunity for everyone involved.

Cast: 6 female, 3-4 male
Licensing: Music Theater International

67. The Utter Glory of Morrissey Hall

Do you have a huge high school drama club that’s mostly populated by women? The Utter Glory of Morrissey Hall gives everyone a chance to get onstage — it has a whopping 18 roles for women. Set in a girls’ school in England, the plot is charming and more than a little absurd. Order a preview copy first, and let us know what you think; we couldn’t find a record of a single recent production.

Cast: 18 female, 4 male
Licensing: Concord Theatricals

68. No, No, Nanette

With its female leads, challenging music, and huge chorus, No No Nannette is the ideal musical for high schools with a large, well-established theater department. It’s a true spectacle: big ensemble numbers, a soaring score, and even a little bit of dap dancing. The exuberant score and the light-hearted plot will leave your audiences (and your actors) smiling from ear to ear.

Cast: 7 female, 3 male
Licensing: Concord Theatricals

69. Bring It On The Musical

Packed with all the snarky fun and high-octane stunts of the 2000 movie, Bring It On The Musical has a mostly female cast. As you might guess, the dance requirements are significant; it’s a fun opportunity to get your high school’s cheerleading team involved. Plus, Millennial parents will get a kick out of seeing this classic high school story brought to the stage.

Cast: 12 roles, flexible ensemble
Licensing: Music Theater International

What musicals can high schools perform?

High school students performing the Oklahoma! musical
image courtesy of otterbeintheatre under CC BY-SA 2.0

Legally, high schools can perform any musical that’s available for licensing. Of course, if you’re a drama teacher or director, you know it’s never that simple! There are many different stakeholders at play — parents, teachers, kids, principals, and school-board officials, to name a few.

As you’re choosing a high school musical, some factors to consider include:

  • Guidance from the school administration and school board: Ask about what’s acceptable; some schools request that you replace all swears with milder language, for example, while others might ask you to stay away from “adult” content.
  • Parent opinions: The best time to seek parent opinions is before you license a show. Instead, run your final musical selections by the PTA or a music/theater booster organization for approval. If possible, make the script available for parents to read. Most licensing companies allow you to request a perusal copy (read more at MTI), which allows people to look at the script and the vocal score before you commit to a licensing agreement.
  • Type of community: If you live in a conservative area, local parents may kick up a fuss at even the slightest mention of cursing/drugs/sex/etc. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t choose a musical that will ruffle feathers — just make sure you (and your students) are prepared and willing to deal with any potential controversy!
  • Budget: Musicals can be very expensive to produce, even at the high school level. Before you finalize the show selection, estimate costs for licensing, stage rental (if necessary), costuming, sets, props, and marketing. Chances are, it’ll be more expensive than you anticipate — ensure that your budget can handle the costs. When your funds are low, look for low-budget musicals or shows that can be done with minimal staging. You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown is one great option; The Robber Bridegroom is another.
  • Casting: The musical you choose depends on your high school. If you’re just getting a musical theater program off the ground, consider choosing an easy musical that will make your students look and feel great. Think anything by Rodgers and Hammerstein — easy to sing for beginners, fun to perform, and crowd-pleasing. (This builds enthusiasm among students, audiences, and the administration, making it easier to put on more shows in the future.) If you have a developed theater program and plenty of talent, you can push the boundaries with unexpected shows or contemporary musicals. 

What Broadway musicals can high schools do?

High schools can do any Broadway musicals that offer licensing rights. New Broadway musicals usually aren’t available for licensing while the show is running on Broadway or touring the country. These rules don’t always apply to Broadway revivals, though you might find that rights are restricted in your area when a touring company is nearby.

New to musical theater licensing? Check out the handy explanation at MTI.

If you want to do a Broadway musical in your high school, you’ll need to get a license. Four companies handle the majority of musical theater licensing:

Another licensing company, Tams-Witmark, was acquired by Concord Theatricals in 2018.

Can a high school do Mean Girls the musical?

High schools can do the Mean Girls High School Version. However, the Broadway version of the Mean Girls musical is not yet available for licensing because of the national tour. To license the high school version, visit Music Theatre International.

Can high schools do The Lion King musical?

No — The Lion King musical is not available for licensing to high schools. If you have a younger group of theater performers, you might consider Disney’s The Lion King Jr.; it’s a 60-minute “theater-making experience” that comes with educational materials and videos. This package is designed for middle-school students, so it doesn’t appeal to most high school theater programs. Visit Disney Theatrical Licensing to learn more.

Can high schools do the musical Dear Evan Hansen?

High schools can’t do Dear Evan Hansen because the musical is not yet available for licensing. This is typical — Dear Evan Hansen is running on Broadway and in a national tour; it was also made into a movie in September of 2021. The rights probably won’t become available to high schools and community theaters for several years.

Need more ideas for choosing a high school musical? We recommend that you watch high school drama teacher’s Marji Eldreth’s series on TikTok; she gives a little summary of each show, and her enthusiasm is contagious. (We loved watching in real time, but it’s also fun as a replay.) Here’s the first video in the series:


What will Cab’s musical be next year?????

♬ original sound – Marji Eldreth

We’d love to hear about the shows you’re doing! Let us know about your favorite musicals for high school — we’ll add them to the list to help other educators find the best shows for their students.