After he collected three Drama Desk Awards last year for the off-Broadway run of his sensational musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda engaged in a bit of future nostalgia: "I'm savoring every moment of this, but I also want to press the fast-forward button," he told TheaterMania, insisting that he's most excited to see the first high school productions of Hamilton. "I feel like I'm writing the shows I would have killed to do in high school," he confessed.
That got us thinking about what new(ish) musicals we would have killed to do in high school. Here are 8 awesome, daring, and shocking shows for which our teenage selves would have committed murder most foul in order to perform them on the high school stage:
1. No show with id 195766 exists!
"I would have been an awesome Stacee Jaxx. I can't sing to save my life, but I can rock out with the best of them!"
—Seth Walters, TheaterMania media producer
Some people consider this show a glorified karaoke night, but we beg to differ. A giant musical bear hug to classic rock (think Journey, Bon Jovi, and Pat Benatar), Rock of Ages is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Everyone knows the songs, so we are sure there are teenagers across America champing at the bit to belt them out in the school auditorium. You can see a bunch of them in the video above. We won't stop believin' that this show will be the biggest thing in high school theater since The Music Man.
2. Fun Home
"As a young gay man growing up in a socially conservative part of Ohio, it would have felt incredibly empowering to put a smart and sensitive show like this in front of my community."
—Zachary Stewart, TheaterMania lead critic
Winner of the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical and based on Alison Bechdel's bestselling graphic novel about growing up a lesbian in suburban Pennsylvania, Fun Home seems light-years away from any high school productions. But its themes of self-discovery and fraught parent-child relationships are undeniably relevant and would certainly lead to some interesting conversations (or awkward silences) on the car ride home from the auditorium. It's not a big brassy musical with a chorus, but we can see some excellent drama club chamber productions of Fun Home on the horizon.
3. Something Rotten!
"I would have loved being part of a production of Something Rotten! because it would have made me feel less like a nerd for knowing things about Shakespeare, and I would have thought the Hamlet/Omelette pun was really clever."
—Bethany Rickwald, TheaterMania features editor
This bombastic musical comedy about Shakespeare and his lesser competitors has people rolling in the aisles eight times a week at the St. James Theatre, so there's no reason to think they wouldn't be just as tickled at the high school auditorium. There are so many reasons this will one day make an ideal selection for a school theater program: Set in the world of great Elizabethan dramatists, Something Rotten! is (vaguely) educational and fun! Also, the chorus can easily swell into the hundreds, with plenty of roles for townsfolk, poets, and dancing eggs.
4. The Producers
"I would have made an awesome Max Bialystock, but I also just want to see 'Springtime for Hitler' performed in a New York City public school."
—David Gordon, TheaterMania lead reporter
This one is already available from MTI to license for high schools! All it takes is an ambitious director and some leading players with panache. Based on the Mel Brooks film about unscrupulous Broadway producers mounting a musical comedy about Hitler, this is one of the most successful shows in Broadway history, garnering an unprecedented 12 Tony Awards during the 2001 season. It has an aura straight out of Broadway's golden age and features ample opportunity for big, splashy production numbers. This is the kind of show that leaves a cast of high school thespians with fond memories to last a lifetime.
5. Spring Awakening
"Parents from my hometown were scandalized when we did A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum so watching them white-knuckle through a performance of Spring Awakening would have been priceless."
—Hayley Levitt, TheaterMania regional editor
Like Hairspray and Grease, the characters in this show are completely age-appropriate for an adolescent cast. A musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind's controversial and dark 1891 play, Spring Awakening follows a group of fin-de-siècle German teens as they navigate the pressures of school, society, and sex. Few musicals would be as immediately relatable to the school age performers as this one. Duncan Sheik's score also gives young vocalists plenty of opportunity to rock out.
"When Rent arrived, I was among its first converts. As a young man listening to the cast album nonstop, I would have been thrilled to belt 'Seasons of Love' on my high school stage."
—Andy Lefkowitz, TheaterMania managing editor
Following a colony of bohemians and heroin addicts squatting in Manhattan's East Village, this show is likely to only be attempted by the avant-garde of the high school theatrical community. Rent pushes both vocal and thematic boundaries. Oh, but what fun would it have been to perform as a 16-year-old…if only for the shock value it would have delivered to our grandparents. MTI has licensed a school edition for years now; we can only hope that some daring high school directors and performers are putting it to good use.
7. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
"Having lip-synched 'Wig in a Box' in the mirror many times (and been mistaken for Michael C. Hall on occasion), I know I would have rocked the worlds of my classmates and sergeants at my all-male military high school when I stepped onstage as Hedwig. Just try and tear me down."
—Pete Hempstead, TheaterMania deputy editor
Originally created off-Broadway by John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig has become Broadway's favorite East German transsexual rocker. This is especially true following the show's successful Broadway debut two seasons ago. We just know that there are plenty of 16-year-old boys and girls out there ready to take on this juicy role. Never mind that so much of Hedwig's story is about midlife ennui: That's called acting, and we believe America's high schoolers are up to the task.
Though no one in the editorial department was up for the idea of playing Elphaba in their time machine version of Wicked, we all agreed: There were at least 10 girls in each of our drama clubs who would have. Based on Gregory Maguire's popular novel, this twisted version of The Wizard of Oz is the ultimate in terms of teen girl empowerment. How many millions of talented young women (and men) have perfected their renditions of "Defying Gravity" at home in front of a mirror? Now is the time to show them off with a full production. The school gymnastics teams could even make a cameo as flying monkeys.
- Fun Home
- Rock of Ages
- Alison Bechdel
- Spring Awakening
- Hedwig and the Angry Inch
- New York City
- John Cameron Mitchell
- The Producers
- Mel Brooks
- Something Rotten!
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