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Do This Musical, Not That One

6 alternatives to popular musicals


Choosing popular musicals for your program’s next productions can be tempting. Sure, top-of-the-charts cast recordings draw new people to the art of musical theatre, and it can be exciting to tap into that energy.

But popular shows aren’t always feasible. You want your program to stand out, and maybe even attract a general audience. That’s made harder by choosing a show that several other schools are performing or have recently staged. And that’s on top of licensing issues: Companies may grant rights to a popular show to only a handful of schools or programs in a region. When planning your next season, consider these six less-performed (but no less substantial) musicals.


1776 instead of Hamilton A cultural phenomenon that sparked interest in both civics and theatre alike, Hamilton remains on Broadway and not at a community or school theater near you. But the oft-overlooked 1776 also dramatizes the founding of the United States (and, indeed was referenced in Hamilton’s “The Adams Administration”).

Of note: 1776’s characters are overwhelmingly male and white, in stark contrast to Hamilton’s race-blind approach to casting. But a 2022 all-non-male revival of 1776 paved the way for new ways of staging the show.

Honorable mentions: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights or Bring It On. Both incorporate styles of nontraditional music and have several roles explicitly for people of color.

Once Upon a Mattress instead of Shrek Though decades older than everyone’s favorite ogre, Once Upon a Mattress (a comedic take on The Princess and the Pea) is also a send-up of traditional fairy tales. And, like other suggestions on this list, Mattress offers more prominent roles for actresses than its male dominated counterpart, Shrek.


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