Mamma Mia!, Disney’s Frozen JR., Clue, and Check Please received top billing in their respective categories for the most–produced shows during the 2021–2022 school year. A category for short musicals is new to the survey this year.
Conducted every year since 1938, EdTA’s annual survey of the plays and musicals most frequently produced in America’s schools shows what resonates with students (teens), their teachers, families, and communities. The results represent a snapshot of school theatre industry trends, with responses from EdTA-affiliated schools as well as many non-affiliated schools. And in the 2021-22 school year, a trend back toward live, in-person productions was evident. COVID-19 safety protocols still had an effect on school theatre, though not as severely as the previous two years.
In fact, 77% of respondents reported they planned a “normal” theatre season – that is, the same number of productions they would have presented in a pre-pandemic school year. It’s encouraging to report that 91% of those planned productions completed their runs with less than 10% of planned productions cancelled due to COVID-19. (Interestingly, a small percentage, 4.6%, reported they even expanded their plans for the theatre season.) Just over 93% of respondents indicated that they presented all scheduled performances, and only about 12% had to postpone a performance due to pandemic-related causes.
"Theatre is making a comeback in schools."
“The encouraging takeaway from this year’s play survey is that theatre is making a comeback in schools around the country,” said Matt Curtis, EdTA’s Content and Marketing Director. “While many schools indicated that box office returns have taken a powerful and lingering hit due to limitations like socially distanced seating or a community’s hesitation to return to a live audience, teachers have shown that they were able to plan and execute theatre successfully with students, largely in-person, during the 2021-22 school year.”
Tried-and-true titles mostly dominated the musical categories. Mamma Mia! knocked The Addams Family out of the number one spot for most-produced full-length musical, sending it to third. MTI’s newly developed All Together Now! – a musical revue released specifically to be produced as a fundraiser for school theatre programs – came in at second place. The only other new title to break into the top 10 was The SpongeBob Musical at fourth place in its first full year of availability to school programs.
While Clue remains at the top for the second consecutive year, A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues its now-32 year run of appearing in the top 10 most-produced full-length plays. Our Town, which remains a perennial favorite since the dawn of this survey, came in again this year at number 10 in the category. Puffs made the biggest climb in the category moving from number 10 last year to number two this year.
Playwrights Don Zolidis and Jonathan Rand continue to dominate the list of top 10 short plays. Rand’s Check Please consistently tops the list and ranked number one again this year.
Overall, high school theatre participation is on the rise. EdTA reports more than 15,000 new Thespians were inducted into the International Thespian Society in May 2022. This high number of new Thespian inductees bodes well for presence and power of #TheatreInOurSchools and the positive effect it has on students’ success in and outside of the arts.
EdTA is the parent organization of the International Thespian Society, the middle and high school theatre honor society that has recognized more than 2.4 million students since 1929, and Dramatics, which initiated the annual play survey. To see the results of this survey running from 2015-2020, National Public Radio kept an interactive database incorporating all the EdTA play survey results at npr.org.
Here are the complete top 10 results for each category surveyed:
- Mamma Mia! – by Catherine Johnson, Benny Andersson, and Björn Ulvaeus (Music Theatre International)
- All Together Now! – by various composers (Music Theatre International)
- The Addams Family – by Andrew Lippa, Marshall Brickman, and Rick Elice (TRW)
- The SpongeBob Musical – by Kyle Jarrow, Tina Landau, and various composers (Concord Theatricals)
- Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Linda Woolverton (Music Theatre International)
- You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown – by Charles M. Schulz, Clark Gesner, Michael Mayer, and Andrew Lippa (Concord Theatricals)
- Little Shop of Horrors – by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (Music Theatre International)
- Into the Woods – by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine (Music Theatre International)
- (tie) Disney’s The Little Mermaid – by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Glenn Slater, and Doug Wright (Music Theatre International)
- (tie) Disney’s Newsies – by Alan Menken, Jack Feldman, and Harvey Fierstein (Music Theatre International)
- Disney’s Frozen JR. – by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez, and Jennifer Lee (Music Theatre International)
- Roald Dahl’s Matilda: The Musical JR. – by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin (Music Theatre International)
- Disney’s The Lion King JR. – by Elton John, Tim Rice, Will Van Dyke, Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Roger Allers, and Irene Mecchi (Music Theatre International)
- Disney’s Beauty and the Beast JR. – by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Linda Woolverton (Music Theatre International)
- (tie) Annie JR. – by Charles Strouse, Martin Charnin, and Thomas Meehan (Music Theatre International)
- (tie) Disney’s High School Musical JR. – by David Simpatico and various composers (Music Theatre International)
- (tie) Disney’s Moana JR. – by Opetaia Foa‘i, Mark Mancina, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Susan Soon He Stanton (Music Theatre International)
- Into the Woods JR. – by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine (Music Theatre International)
- Disney’s The Little Mermaid JR. – by Howard Ashman, Glenn Slater, Alan Menken, and Doug Wright (Music Theatre International)
- Seussical JR. – by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty, and Eric Idle (Music Theatre International)
- Clue – by Sandy Rustin, Hunter Foster, and Eric Price (Broadway Licensing)
- Puffs – by Matt Cox (Concord Theatricals)
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream – by William Shakespeare (public domain)
- Almost, Maine – by John Cariani (Broadway Licensing)
- She Kills Monsters – by Qui Nguyen (Concord Theatricals)
- 12 Angry Jurors – by Reginald Rose (Dramatic Publishing)
- Alice in Wonderland – by Lewis Carroll (various licensing companies)
- Radium Girls – by D.W. Gregory (Dramatic Publishing)
- Peter and the Starcatcher – by Rick Elice and Wayne Barker (Music Theatre International)
- Our Town – by Thornton Wilder (Concord Theatricals)
- Check Please – by Jonathan Rand (Broadway Licensing)
- 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse – by Don Zolidis (Broadway Licensing)
- The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon (One-Act) – by Don Zolidis (Broadway Licensing)
- (tie) 13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview– by Ian McWethy (Broadway Licensing)>
- (tie) Law & Order: Fairy Tale Unit – by Jonathan Rand (Broadway Licensing)
- Bad Auditions by Bad Actors – by Ian McWethy (Broadway Licensing)
- (tie) Cut – by Ed Monk (Broadway Licensing)
- (tie) Our Place – by Terry Wayne Gabbard (Dramatic Publishing)
- (tie) Oz – by Don Zolidis (Broadway Licensing)
- (tie) This Is a Test – by Stephen Gregg (Dramatic Publishing)