The traditional nativity school production was probably a regular annual event for most of us born pre-1990, but as schools have become more understanding about the multi-cultural nature of the UK, productions orientated around one single religion have become a thing of the past in most non-Christian primary and secondary schools.

This means that the scope for Christmas performances, which most parents and students have come to enjoy and expect, has vastly widened for modern schools, allowing teachers almost complete flexibility when catering their production to their students.

A small primary school may be best suited to a production of Toad of Toad Hall, whereas a cast of 50 will probably appreciate a modern musical that everybody can sink their teeth into; it’s all about striking that balance between a popular play and one which will work for the size and skills of your cast.

So if you’re hoping to showcase an inclusive play before the end of term, explore these fresh and crowd-pleasing productions for this year’s rousing show, we guarantee your students won’t be bored with these classic and modern selections.

Seussical: The Musical

Perfect for those who are either young enough to appreciate the Dr Seuss series or just slightly old enough to consider it nostalgic! With a varied cast merging all of the Dr Seuss characters, the play can be tailored to your cast, with cameo roles and minor parts for any students who’d prefer not to be in the limelight.
Music is an integral part of Seussical the Musical (obviously!) and the original plays on Broadway and the West End utilised a full orchestra, with every instrument imaginable having the potential to be worked throughout the play. This is therefore an ideal play if you have a large drama and music department keen to get involved.

Stage and Set Design:

With a large cast, comprehensive stage lighting should be utilised with side spots just as important as front lighting for giving the entire cast coverage. If you’re really keen on staging this play but don’t have the luxury of sophisticated lighting, then a flood can be used to evenly light the whole performance area. Personal microphones will also be required to ensure the cast isn’t drowned out by the musical instruments.

An Inspector Calls

Despite the fact An Inspector Calls was first performed in 1945, the play remains popular with school children for the dramatic and sinister twist! (Incidentally the play has also been used as the GCSE English Literature text – so this is a great head-start!) With scandal, loose morals and a shocking and unexpected ending, An Inspector Calls will delight secondary school children and their parents (who may fondly remember the play from their own school days). As a single scene play with 6 characters (including the unseen Eva Smith and the small part of a maid), An Inspector Calls is an ideal play for small casts hoping for larger roles – useful if you’re thinking only a few keen students would like to participate in the production.

Stage and Set Design:

As a 3-act drama, An Inspector Calls can be performed in a drama studio, school hall, or any other space large enough to hold an audience. As a play which lets the actors do the talking, complex stage systems aren’t necessary and simple spots and Fresnels for ambience can be enough to create a beautifully lit performance – just ensure that you practice some voice projection with your cast!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Fresh off the printing press, Mark Haddon’s popular novel was transformed into a play in 2012 and has reaped a number of awards since debuting at the Royal National Theatre. Secondary school and sixth form students will love this current play and as the main character of the play, 15 year old Christopher, is thought to have Asperger’s syndrome (implied however not established) this is a play that will open students’ eyes to autism spectrum disorders. The cast is small (10 with a lead character) so this is a play best reserved for small drama groups.

Stage and Set Design:

This is a play which is ideal for the more sophisticated stage systems – a great choice if you’re potentially looking to market your facilities to prospective students. The world through Christopher’s eyes is complex and confusing and in the stage adaptation this is represented through shapes and squares, making gobos (shapes that fit before optics) a great lighting choice for thrilling your audience.

The Lion King Musical

The Lion King is as popular with 20-somethings as it is with children who can barely talk; this is one Disney classic that has successfully become a film from everyone’s childhood. Consequently this is a great play for large casts of primary school children with a tendency for short attention spans, as most of them will know the lyrics, characters and back story!

A Lion King adaptation is likely to require a creative costume department (or creative parents!) to achieve the bright and bold animal embellishments, but the finished result will be worth it – tap into this fabulous play while its popularity is roaring.

Stage and Set Design:

For a primary school cast, the best way to perform the songs is probably to have the original soundtrack playing – this helps the little ones along a little and is more realistic than enlisting a full-scale orchestra! A good sound-reinforcement system will keep the sound clear for every audience member and lighting can be kept simple; just ensure you have enough well-positioned spots to illuminate the whole stage – a necessity when large-cast musicals are being performed.

The choice of suitable plays is infinite, but we think these fresh, current and gripping plays are perfect for intriguing your cast and audience. If you would like any more information about improving the sound, lighting or stage area in your school or college, then please get in touch with our team at PG Stage, or view our case studies to see a full range of our educational projects.

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