Open Forum

Cheap Musicals

  • 1.  Cheap Musicals

    Posted 08-27-2019 09:01
    Hello everyone,
    My budget was cut by $1,000 this year.  What are the cheapest musicals to put on in your experience? 

    Sara Giambalvo
    Vocal Music Director, Theatre Teacher, Theatre Manager
    Herculaneum High School, Senn-Thomas Middle School

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  • 2.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 08-27-2019 09:18
    "How to Make a Musical" from Dramatic Publishing!  This is my favorite yet!  We still did costumes because we did a Hipster take on it, with earth tones, plaid, and wayfarer glasses on everyone, but it was still relatively affordable because I found most of everything I needed at Goodwill, sunglasses at Oriental Trading and just popped out the lenses. It only calls for a few characters but I added a pretty full ensemble of "students" and it worked really well, I think I ended up with about 25 cast in all. The music is unique, the characters are stereotypical and exaggerated, and my kids loved it. It actually helped two of my supporting cast members really shine. And....It educates about musical theatre, which was great because it was only the second musical our school had performed. I even reached out to Marc Bohler for staging advice and he was a great help too! Definitely worth a look!

    Analiese Hamm
    ECHS Drama Director
    Statenville GA

  • 3.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 08-28-2019 05:40
    What kind of shows have you done in the past? What is your current budget? What is your normal attendance and what is your seating capacity?

    Possibly just charge $1 more per ticket and keep on as in the past.

    Toni Thomas
    English Teacher, Theatre Director
    West Branch MI

  • 4.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 08-28-2019 08:43
    We did Charlie Brown, and The Adams Family in the past. They went REALLY well.   We have $3000 between the musical and the play.  The issue is that we always do the play first and we do not make much off of it.  That is a good idea though to ask for more money on the ticket price.  I am also looking at possible fundraisers but $1,000 is a lot to raise for such a small school.(400 students in the high school).

    I am looking to find out which companies can license show for the least expensive amount and which shows require little to know set and costumes.  I know it is a tall order!  I just thought i would get some ideas.

    Sara Giambalvo
    Herculaneum MO

  • 5.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 08-29-2019 07:51
    ​Check out Emma. a Pop Musical  at Playscripts.   Comes w/ accompaniment tracks. It's silly but our kids and audiences  enjoyed it.   I have 22 matching uniform skirts! LOTS o parts for girls and some nice solo work for  5 or 6 girls and 3 or 4 guys.

    Nell Lynch

  • 6.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 08-28-2019 09:00
    Edited by Ginny Butsch 08-28-2019 09:00


    Anything from Pioneer keeps us in the $500-700 range for Royalties & Scripts.  I've had great success with:

    Secret Garden
    Meet Me in St. Louis
    Mirror Image

    Your a Good Man Charlie Brown is also very cheep

    Maria Stadtmueller
    St. Augustine School
    Kendall Park, NJ


  • 7.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 08-28-2019 13:40

    I'm sorry to hear that your budget was cut, especially in this day and age when we are all advocating for equal financial representation in high schools. I'm assuming your budget cut affects royalty costs, as well the technical support of your musicals?

    I'm curious (if you can disclose…?). What was the budget amount from which it was cut? What was the reason given? Were there cuts to other departments'/activities' budgets too, sports for example?

    I wanted to share with you, and anyone in the situation of having a low tech budget to work with, a couple of things:

    First, you can read about the nationwide budget crisis for high school technical theatre, and what we can do about it, at:

    Second, you can see a great example of a solution, where a high school tech theatre department teamed up with the school's robotics club, at: (Scroll down to the last entry on the page, "…collaboration and finances".) It doesn't necessarily have to be a robotics club, any related club will do, perhaps a woodworking club, or a computer club for instance – a STEM and/or CTE oriented club is best. After all: Tech Theatre is STEM Behind the Scenes.

    Beth Rand, EBMS
    Educational Lighting Designer
    School Theatre Operations Coach


    - HIGH SCHOOL THEATRE OPERATIONS ONLINE COURSE ( - NEW! INDEPENDENT STUDY for those who don't have time to join a cohort!
    Westminster, CO

  • 8.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 08-28-2019 14:22
    I know the rights are not as cheap as others, but 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee doesn't cost much at all. One unit set that just basically needs things that schools already have and your costumes can basically come out of closets. The only costume we bought was for Chip that was more than $10- which was baseball pants and a baseball tee.

    Playscripts has a ton of musicals with like modern pop music that seem pretty easy to do, but I haven't done them so I can't comment on how cheap they are.

    Jaclyn Marta
    Moline IL

  • 9.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 08-29-2019 10:10
    Hey Sara, write to me directly at

    I have a free musical but it's not arranged.   I have several songs with vocal and piano sung, but would just need someone to put all of it to sheet music.  Possibly your budget could be directed to hire an arranger?    I need a production to get this up and running and was looking for a school to do it for free.   THE LOST PLAY OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE is the title.

    Leon Kaye
    Playwright for the Ages

  • 10.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 09-01-2019 12:36

    Can you provide some clarification? Is the $1000 only for rights and scripts or is that you entire production budget?

    Crit Fisher
    Lighting/Sound Designer
    New Albany High School

  • 11.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 09-01-2019 19:11
    Aside from the rights, Godspell can be done on a very low budget.  We expanded the cast to 45 and they can do their own costumes.  Very few props.  Set can be anything you'd like depending on where you set it.  Small pit.  You won't sacrifice quality as the book and music is incredible.

    Laura Russo
    Teacher/Director of Theatre Arts
    School District of The Chathams
    Chatham NJ

  • 12.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 09-03-2019 09:29
    In reference to Godspell... how did you expand the cast to 45???? The music in that show is wonderful, but the cast is small for our school.

    Sara Giambalvo
    Herculaneum MO

  • 13.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 09-03-2019 11:42
    Everyone who is not singing a solo is in the ensemble singing, dancing, acting in all of the group numbers and parables and is on stage the entire show.  We are essentially expanding the Disciples.  I did this in a production in 1998 and it was very successful. Many schools do this.

    Laura Russo
    Teacher/Director of Theatre Arts
    School District of The Chathams
    Chatham NJ

  • 14.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 10-24-2019 12:10
    I am not sure which would be the cheapest, but I know this site has a lot of plays for kids, you might find something here to fit your budget!

    Heather Carrington
    Pinawa MB

  • 15.  RE: Cheap Musicals

    Posted 10-25-2019 07:35
    I just suggested these on another thread, but you may wish to look at Sing Down the Moon or Perseus Bayou. They're both licensed through Dramatic Publishing and are MUCH cheaper than the big name shows.

    Cassy Maxton-Whitacre
    Theatre Department Coordinator
    Fishersville VA