Popular High School Musicals

The Shows Go On: Most Popular High School Musicals

School musical auditions will soon be upon us, which means directors are finalizing this year’s show selections. There’s no doubt that each year’s production leaves a lasting impact on all involved, after all, you can’t just erase thousands of hours of running lines and mastering  choreography.

The Musicnotes team got to talking about our most memorable productions, and noticed quite a few of us, from all over the country, had performed in the same shows during our school days. That got us wondering: what are the most popular high school musicals of all time? Well, a quick internet search pointed us to this article, which compiles 75 years of data from Dramatics magazine to determine each decade’s most performed plays and musicals.

So, what is the most popular high school musical of all time? That recognition goes to “Bye Bye Birdie,” the teenybopper Tony winner, which landed in the top five from the 1960s all the way through the 2000s.

Other perennially popular productions include classics from theatre’s golden age. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” made the list for 40 years straight, taking the #1 spot through the 1960s and 1970s, and falling to just #2 in the ’90s and 2000s. More musicals that have stood the test of time include the Frank Loesser 1950 Tony Award-winning favorite “Guys and Dolls” (peaking at #1 in the 2000s) and the enduring, endearing classic “The Music Man,” which made the list through the 1980s.

In addition to the classics, recent years have seen an influx of schools performing Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” “Hairspray,” “Into the Woods” and “Seussical,” as amateur licensing became available.

Wondering how your favorite musicals stack up? Is your school’s 2016 production on the list? We’ve detailed the rankings of two dozen of history’s most popular high school musicals below.

2010s

  1. Beauty and the Beast
  2. Into the Woods
  3. Grease
  4. The Wizard of Oz
  5. Seussical
  6. Little Shop of Horrors
  7. Hairspray
  8. Guys and Dolls
  9. You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
  10. Thoroughly Modern Millie

2000s

  1. Guys and Dolls
  2. Grease
  3. Little Shop of Horrors
  4. Bye Bye Birdie
  5. Once Upon a Mattress
  6. Beauty and the Beast
  7. Into the Woods
  8. Seussical
  9. Oklahoma!
  10. Fiddler on the Roof

1990s

  1. Bye Bye Birdie
  2. Oklahoma!
  3. Guys and Dolls
  4. Once Upon a Mattress
  5. Grease
  6. Little Shop of Horrors
  7. Fiddler on the Roof
  8. The Music Man
  9. Anything Goes
  10. Godspell

1980s

  1. Bye Bye Birdie
  2. Oklahoma!
  3. Guys and Dolls
  4. You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown
  5. Grease
  6. The Music Man
  7. Once Upon a Mattress
  8. Fiddler on the Roof
  9. Godspell
  10. The Sound of Music

1970s

  1. Oklahoma!
  2. The Music Man
  3. You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown
  4. Bye Bye Birdie
  5. Fiddler on the Roof
  6. Guys and Dolls
  7. The Wizard of Oz
  8. The Sound of Music
  9. Godspell
  10. Li’l Abner

1960s

  1. Oklahoma!
  2. South Pacific
  3. Brigadoon
  4. Bye Bye Birdie
  5. The Music Man
  6. The Wizard of Oz
  7. Annie Get Your Gun
  8. Ask Any Girl
  9. The Sound of Music
  10. Meet Me in St. Louis

-Source: NPR analysis of Dramatics Magazine annual surveys

No matter what show your school is performing this year, you can count on Musicnotes.com to have you covered when it comes to audition pieces. Click here to see some of our top audition selections and click this link to read some general musical audition tips.

Do you have your audition piece already picked out? Do you know which show you’ll be auditioning for? Share your stories in the comments section below!

Leave a Reply

5 comments

  1. Zach Klein

    I just found out that I got Harold hill

  2. Kelly Handler

    I was in Seussical last year and I really want to be in The Wizard of Oz.

  3. caitlin fenton

    got casted at mortica addams in the addams family

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