jakub | June 6, 2023

AMERICAN THEATRE | ‘Addams Family,’ ‘Clue’ Top High School Musicals and Plays List

CINCINNATI: The Educational Theatre Association (EdTA) has released the findings of its annual play survey, tallying the most performed works on high school stages and assessing the educational climate.

The most-performed works in 2022-23 all appeared at or near the top of last year’s list. Clue and Disney’s Frozen Jr. remained in the top spots for full-length play and short musical, respectively. The Addams Family returned to number one in full-length musical, while 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse and Check Please topped the short plays category.

While the lists tend toward popular, non-controversial titles that drive ticket sales, as most school theatre programs rely on box office revenue to support their activities, 85 percent of the 2,390 respondents reported being at least somewhat concerned about censorship, and 67 percent said censorship concerns are influencing their selections for the 2023-24 school year. Thirty percent said they were aware of student, parent, or administrative concerns about their play or musical selections during the 2022-23 school year, but just six percent reported being asked to switch to a different title, and about four percent said they actually did. Cancellation of productions while in rehearsal or production was more rare, affecting only one percent of educators.

“We know educators are worried about the current wave of legislation mandating what they can and can’t teach,” said EdTA executive director Dr. Jennifer Katona in a statement. “What’s concerning about these results is the potential impact of self-censorship. School theatre should be a way for students to explore diverse perspectives, which helps them develop empathy and critical thinking.”

This issue is surfacing just as school theatre programs are rebounding from the pandemic: Schools presented an average of 11 performances throughout the academic year, up one from 2021-22. The average audience size across all performances in a school season increased 13 percent over last year to 1,967. In 2018-2019, the last academic year not affected by the pandemic, responding schools averaged 10 productions with an audience size that averaged 1,800.

Although perennial favorites continue to dominate top 10 lists, there are a few notable additions and subtractions in 2023. Chicago: Teen Edition and Mean Girls: High School Version made their debuts in the top 10 full-length musicals, and predictably, The Addams Family Young@Part joined the top 10 short musicals list. Meanwhile, Our Town, a mainstay of full-length plays since the survey began in 1938, fell just short of the top 10 this year. Read the full lists below.

Top 10 Full-Length Musicals

1The Addams Family (Andrew Lippa, Marshall Brickman, and Rick Elice)
2. Mamma Mia! (Catherine Johnson, Benny Andersson, and Björn Ulvaeus)
3. Into the Woods (Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine)
4. Little Shop of Horrors (Alan Menken and Howard Ashman)
5. (tie) Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Linda Woolverton)
5. (tie) Disney’s The Little Mermaid (Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Glenn Slater, and Doug Wright)
7. The SpongeBob Musical (Kyle Jarrow, Tina Landau, and various composers)
8. Chicago: Teen Edition (John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Bob Fosse)
9. Legally Blonde: The Musical (Heather Hach, Laurence O’Keefe, and Nell Benjamin)
10. Mean Girls: High School Version (Tina Fey, Jeff Richmond, and Nell Benjamin)

Top 10 Short Musicals

1. Disney’s Frozen Jr. (Jennifer Lee, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and Robert Lopez)
2. Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical Jr. (Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin)
3. Disney’s Newsies Jr. (Harvey Fierstein, Alan Menken, and Jack Feldman)
4. Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka Jr. (Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley)
5. Annie Jr. (Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse, and Martin Charnin)
6. Disney’s High School Musical Jr. (David Simpatico and various composers)
7. (tie) Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. (Doug Wright, Alan Menken, and Howard Ashman & Glenn Slater)
7. (tie) Shrek: The Musical Jr. (David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori)
9. The Addams Family Young@Part (Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice, and Andrew Lippa)
10. (tie) Disney’s The Lion King Jr. (Elton John, Tim Rice, Will Van Dyke, Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Roger Allers, and Irene Mecchi)
10. (tie) Seussical Jr. (Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty)

Top 10 Full-Length Plays

1. Clue (Jonathan Lynn, Hunter Foster, Eric Price, and Sandy Rustin)
2. Puffs (Matt Cox)
3. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (William Shakespeare)
4. (tie) The Play That Goes Wrong (Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields)
4. (tie) Radium Girls (D.W. Gregory)
6. Almost, Maine (John Cariani)
7. (tie) Peter and the Starcatcher (Rick Elice)
7. (tie) She Kills Monsters: Young Adventurer’s Edition (Qui Nguyen)
9. Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll, various adaptations)
10. 12 Angry Jurors (Reginald Rose, adapted by Sherman L. Sergel)

Top 10 Short Plays

1. (tie) 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse (Don Zolidis)
1. (tie) Check Please (Jonathan Rand)
3. The Brothers Grimm Spectaculation (One-Act) (Don Zolidis)
4. Bad Auditions by Bad Actors (Ian McWethy)
5. The One-Act Play Disaster (Don Zolidis)
6. Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (Greg Allen)
7. 13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview (Ian McWethy)
8. (tie) Our Place (Terry Gabbard)
8. (tie) Tracks (Peter Tarsi)
10. (tie) The 9 Worst Breakups of All Time (Ian McWethy)
10. (tie) 15 Reasons Not to Be in a Play (Alan Haehnel)
10. (tie) Game of Tiaras (One-Act) (Don Zolidis)
10. (tie) The Greek Mythology Olympiaganza (One-Act) (Don Zolidis)

The Educational Theatre Association (edTA) is based in Cincinnati and is an international association with more than 135,000 active members. Its mission is to shape lives through theatre education and it is the home of the International Thespian Society.

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