The Educational Theatre Association has unveiled its list of the most-produced plays, musicals, and short plays in U.S. high schools during the 2022-2023 school year, the result of a survey that has been conducted annually since 1938.
Frequent chart topper The Addams Family was back on top for the musicals this year, dethroning last year's winner and this year's runner up, Mamma Mia! New to this year's full-length musicals list were Mean Girls: High School Version, released by Music Theatre International just last fall; and Chicago: Teen Edition. The former ranked number 10, while Chicago came in eighth on the list.
This year's list is the second to track short musicals, with full-length winner's short adaptation, The Addams Family Young@Part, making the list for the first time ranking ninth. Disney's Frozen JR. came in first for the second year in a row, followed by Roald Dahl's Matilda: The Musical JR. and Disney's Newsies JR. This list was again dominated by MTI's Broadway Junior collection, which adapts Broadway musicals for performance by elementary and middle school-aged actors—Theatrical Rights Worldwide's The Addams Family Young@Part was the sole title not from the Broadway catalogue.
The most produced play of the year was Clue—a title the work has held for now four years—followed by Puffs, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Play That Goes Wrong, and Radium Girls. List mainstay Almost, Maine dropped to the sixth position, with Thornton Wilder's Our Town falling short of the top 10 after placing on almost every list since its inception in 1938. Playwright Don Zolidis continues to dominate the most-produced short plays, with his 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse tying with Jonathan Rand's Check Please for the top spot. The play is one of five Zolidis works to make the list this year.
The survey also tracked school theatre programs facing increased scrutiny on selection of material. The survey reports 30% being aware of student, parent, or administrative concerns about their play or musical selections during the 2022-2023 school year, though just 6% reported being asked to switch to a different title and 4% went through with a change. Cancellations were pretty rare this past school year, affecting only 1% of responding educators. Concerns about this growing trend were another story, with 85% of respondents reporting concern about censorship and 67% saying that those concerns are affecting their selections for the upcoming school year.
"Teachers know that they need to be strategic and mindful about what they're putting on their stages," says EdTA executive director Dr. Jennifer Katona. "They're making choices that will allow them to keep their theatre programs. Theatre has always been a safe space for a lot of our students, but with the increasing concerns about censorship, it's become even more important for educators to navigate these challenges and ensure that diverse voices and perspectives are represented so that our stages can be a safe space for all students."
In better news, school theatre seems to be slowly rebounding from the pandemic. Schools presented an average of 11 performances last school year, an increase of one from the year prior, and audience size went up by 13%. Both of these figures are an increase from the 2018-2019 school year, the most recent to not be affected by the pandemic.
Take a look at the complete list of the most-produced shows at high schools in the 2021-2022 school year:
1. The Addams Family (Andrew Lippa, Marshall Brickman, and Rick Elice), Theatrical Rights Worldwide (TRW)
2. Mamma Mia! (Catherine Johnson, Benny Andersson, and Björn Ulvaeus), Music Theatre International (MTI)
3. Into the Woods (Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine), MTI
4. Little Shop of Horrors (Alan Menken and Howard Ashman), MTI
5. (tie) Disney's Beauty and the Beast (Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Linda Woolverton), MTI
5. (tie) Disney's The Little Mermaid (Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Glenn Slater, and Doug Wright), MTI
7. The SpongeBob Musical (Kyle Jarrow, Tina Landau, and various), Concord Theatricals (CT)
8. Chicago: Teen Edition (John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Bob Fosse), CT
9. Legally Blonde: The Musical (Heather Hach, Laurence O'Keffe, and Nell Benjamin), MTI
10. Mean Girls: High School Version (Tina Fey, Jeff Richmond, and Nell Benjamin), MTI
1. Disney's Frozen JR. (Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez, and Jennifer Lee), MTI
2. Roald Dahl's Matilda: The Musical JR. (Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin), MTI
3. Disney's Newsies JR. (Harvey Fierstein, Alan Menken, and Jack Feldman), MTI
4. Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka JR. (Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley), MTI
5. Annie JR. – (Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin, and Thomas Meehan), MTI
6. Disney’s High School Musical JR. – (David Simpatico and various composers), MTI
7. (tie) Disney’s The Little Mermaid JR. (Howard Ashman, Glenn Slater, Alan Menken, and Doug Wright), MTI
7. (tie) Shrek: The Musical JR. (David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori), MTI
9. The Addams Family Young@Part (Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice, and Andrew Lippa), TRW
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), MTI
10. (tie) Seussical JR. (Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and Eric Idle), MTI
1. Clue (Sandy Rustin, Hunter Foster, and Eric Price), Broadway Licensing (BL)
2. Puffs (Matt Cox), CT
3. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (William Shakespeare), public domain
4. (tie) The Play That Goes Wrong (Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields), BL
4. (tie) Radium Girls (D.W. Gregory), Dramatic Publishing (DP)
6. Almost, Maine (John Cariani), BL
7. (tie) Peter and the Starcatcher (Rick Elice and Wayne Barker), MTI
7. (tie) She Kills Monsters: Young Adventurer's Edition (Qui Nguyen), CT
9. Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll), Various
10. 12 Angry Jurors (Reginald Rose), DP
1. (tie) 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse (Don Zolidis), BL
1. (tie) Check Please (Jonathan Rand), BL
3. The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon (One-Act) (Don Zolidis), BL
4. Bad Auditions by Bad Actors (Ian McWethy), BL
5. The One-Act Play Disaster (Dan Zolidis), BL
6. Too Much Light Makes Baby Go Blind (Greg Allen), BL
7. 13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview (Ian McWethy), BL
8. (tie) Our Place (Terry Wayne Gabbard), DP
8. (tie) Tracks (Peter Tarsi), DP
10. (tie) The 9 Worst Breakups of All Time (Ian McWethy), BL
10. (tie) 15 Reasons Not to Be in a Play (Alan Haehnel), BL
10. (tie) Game of Tiaras (One-Act) (Don Zolidis), BL
10. (tie) The Greek Mythology Olympiaganza (One-Act) (Don Zolidis), BL
The Educational Theatre Association houses both the Educational Theatre Foundation and the International Thespian Society and works to support, celebrate, and increase access to theatre education.
For more on the 2022-2023 survey, visit SchoolTheatre.org.