Musicals for Middle Schools

Mary Gray • December 2022Musical Theater • December 15, 2022

It all started when my kids were around ten years old and wanted to audition for a musical to be put on in a town near ours. At that time, I was a professional singer/songwriter, and I had also written some short stories and a novel. I volunteered to help with the show and soon realized the songs in the show were not very good, and the script was heavy on a “narrator” and a few leads plus a chorus that only appeared once.

I thought I could write a much better musical than that, and so I did, basing it on the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale, which I titled The Mystery of the Midnight Dancers. I talked our town’s superintendent into letting me, my husband, and some friends put on the musical in the middle school my son was attending. A lot of kids auditioned, and, of course, I had written in lots of speaking roles for princesses (twelve of them!), silly princes, a fairy godmother, a cobbler, crazy townfolk, etc. The songs were simple, in keys easy for kids their age, and with a good amount of slapstick comedy.

That was 28 years ago. Since then, I’ve written twenty more musicals, all of them performed in that same school. And in the past fifteen years my musicals have been performed all over the United States, Canada, Australia, and lots of other English-speaking countries. When COVID hit, everyone stopped performing for a couple of years, but we are beginning to see a comeback and are hoping to entice more schools and youth theater groups to put on musicals geared to middle school performers.

There has been a trend in recent years for middle schools and even elementary schools to attempt to produce a Broadway show. I know the kids pressure music teachers and directors to do a show they love from watching the movie a million times, but I think everyone should resist that pressure. The songs for Broadway musicals were written for professional singers and few kids have that kind of vocal range. All the songs in my musicals were written specifically for young people to be able to sing. I also have seen that it’s helpful for boys whose vocal range has lowered somewhat due to puberty to have alternate keys available.

I think it’s important for young theater groups to have affordable shows with simple sets, expandable casts, and videos to help with production ideas. While I had nothing else better to do during COVID, I started a blog with production advice for young actors and their directors and producers.

If you can get past the pleas of your students to do Frozen, you will find that more of them will have a good experience being in a musical written expressly for their age group. The audience is primarily made up of relatives, friends, and school mates who haven’t come just to see a Broadway show performed by kids and will be amazed to see how well the kids perform in a show more appropriate for young performers.

Mary Gray is the author/composer of the musicals at, the director of Easton Children’s Theater, and the author of the blog, 

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