This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Dramatics magazine.
Sound the foghorn: The Addams Family has arrived.
A new musical about America’s gloomiest family—dead relatives in the yard, torture chamber in the basement, a zombie for a butler and a giant squid for a pet—tops the 2014-15 edition of our annual survey of productions in United States high school theatres. With music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and a book by Marshall Brickman, based on the iconic cartoon characters created by Charles Addams, the show premiered on Broadway in 2010, starring Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth as darkly devoted spouses Gomez and Morticia.
After a three-year national tour the musical flew into the educational theatre market like a bat out of… you know where.
Jim Hoare, TRW’s vice president for licensing, said he knew he had a school theatre hit on his hands well before the national tour ended. “The tour generated the biggest notification request list we’ve ever seen,” he said. “I could tell where the tour was in the country just by looking at where the requests were coming in from high schools to be notified when the show became available.”
Amy Jordan’s Denison (Texas) High School did the first school production in the spring of 2014 and the show was generally released for the 2014-15 school year. It speedily racked up more school productions than last year’s survey winner, Shrek: The Musical, while leaving the perky princesses of Legally Blonde and Cinderella in the dust. Longtime champ Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has fallen out of the top ten, for now; ditto for recent hits Hairspray and Thoroughly Modern Millie, as directors seek fresh material. But lest anyone think the old classics are dead, such Golden Era gems as Anything Goes and Guys and Dolls are enjoying revivals on the high school stage.
For each of the past seven years, either John Cariani’s Almost, Maine or A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been the top non-musical full-length play in the survey. This year it was Almost, Maine, with Shakespeare close behind, followed by several other perennials: You Can’t Take It With You (making its seventy-seventh appearance on the severty-eight-year-old list), Twelve Angry Men, Our Town, The Crucible, and Arsenic and Old Lace.
The 2014-15 survey was conducted online for the first time. More than 1,140 of the roughly 4,300 schools affiliated with the International Thespian Society participated, a substantially higher response than in past years, when the survey reported with titles handwritten on cards.
Survey History on NPR
National Public Radio has compiled the entire seventy-eight years of our play survey results into an interactive database that allows you to track the popularity of top titles through the decades.
Top 20 Musicals
1. The Addams Family – book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa (TRW)
2. Shrek: The Musical –book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, music by Jeanine Tesori (MTI)
3. (tie) Legally Blonde – book by Heather Hach, music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin (MTI)
3. (tie) Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella – original book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, new book by Douglas Carter Beane, music by Richard Rodgers (R&H)1
5. Little Shop of Horrors – book and lyrics by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken (MTI)
6. (tie) Anything Goes – book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, music and lyrics by Cole Porter (Tams-Witmark)
6. (tie) Into the Woods – by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine
6. (tie) Guys and Dolls – book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser (MTI)
8. (tie) You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown – book, music, and lyrics by Clark Gesner (Tams-Witmark)
8. (tie) The Wizard of Oz – various adaptations from L. Frank Baum
8. (tie) Hairspray – book by Mark O’Donnell and Thomas Meehan, music and lyrics by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Scott Wittman (MTI)
11. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – book by Linda Woolverton, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice (MTI)
12. (tie) The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee – book by Rachel Sheinkin, music and lyrics by William Finn, additional material by Jay Reiss (MTI)
12. (tie) Footloose – book and lyrics by Dean Pitchford, book by Walter Bobbie, music by Tom Snow and others, additional lyrics by Kenny Loggins (R&H)
14. Into the Woods – book by James Lapine, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (MTI)
15. (tie) Grease! – book, music, and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, additional songs by John Farrar (Samuel French)
15. (tie) Once Upon a Mattress – book and lyrics by Marshall Barer, book by Jay Thompson and Dean Fuller, music by Mary Rodgers (R&H)
15. (tie) Seussical – book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, book and music by Stephen Flaherty (MTI)
18. (tie) Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s Mary Poppins – book by Julian Fellowes, music and lyrics by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M> Sherman, additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (MTI)
18. (tie) The Music Man – book, music, and lyrics by Meredith Willson, book by Franklin Lacey (MTI)
20. (tie) Bye Bye Birdie – book by Michael Stewart, music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Lee Adams (Tams-Witmark)
20. (tie) The Sound of Music – book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II (R&H)
20. (tie) Thoroughly Modern Millie – book and lyrics by Dick Scanlan, book by Richard Morris, music by Jeanine Tesori (MTI)
Top 20 Full-Length Plays
1. Almost, Maine – by John Cariani (Dramatists Play Service)
2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream – by William Shakespeare (public domain)
3. You Can’t Take It With You – by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart (Dramatists Play Service)
4. Twelve Angry Men– by Reginald Rose (Samuel French, Dramatic Publishing)2
5. Our Town – by Thornton Wilder (Samuel French)
6. The Crucible – by Arthur Miller (Dramatists Play Service)
7. Arsenic and Old Lace – by Joseph Kesselring (Dramatists Play Service, Samuel French)
8. (tie) Alice in Wonderland – various adaptations from Lewis Carroll
8. (tie) Romeo and Juliet – by William Shakespeare (public domain)
10. Harvey – by Mary Chase (Dramatists Play Service)
11. (tie) Much Ado About Nothing – by William Shakespeare (public domain)
11. (tie) The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 – by John Bishop (Dramatists Play Service)
11. (tie) A Christmas Carol – various adaptations from Charles Dickens
11. (tie) Radium Girls – by D.W. Gregory (Dramatic Publishing)
11. (tie) The Curious Savage – by John Patrick (Dramatists Play Service)
11. (tie) The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) – by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield (Broadway Play Publishing)
17. (tie) Steel Magnolias – by Robert Harling (Dramatists Play Service)
17. (tie) The Odd Couple – By Neil Simon (Samuel French)3
19. (tie) Twelfth Night – by William Shakespeare (public domain)
19. (tie) The Diary of Anne Frank – by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett (Dramatists Play Service)
19. (tie) Charlotte’s Web – by Joseph Robinette (Dramatic Publishing)
Top 10 Short Plays
1. Check Please – by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts)
2. 10 Ways to Survive the Zombie Apolalypse – by Don Zolidis (Playscripts)
3. This Is a Test – by Stephen Gregg (Dramatic Publishing)
4. It’s Not You, It’s Me – by Don Zolidis (Playscripts)
5. Check Please, Take 3 – by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts)
6. 13 Ways to Screw Up Your College Interview – by Ian McWethy (Playscripts)
7. (tie) Hard Candy – by Jonathan Rand (Playscripts)
7. (tie) The 9 Worst Breakups of All Time – by Ian McWethy (Playscripts)
9. (tie) The Actor’s Nightmare – by Christopher Durang (Dramatists Play Service)
9. (tie) Superheroes – by Ian McWethy (Playscripts)
9. (tie) The Brothers Grimm Spectalulathon – by Don Zolidis (Playscripts)
1. Includes both the Broadway version and one adapted from television.
2. Includes productions of Twelve Angry Men, Twelve Angry Women, and Twelve Angry Jurors.
3. Includes both male and female versions.