Blog: Lets Get Kids on Stage - Jnr Musical Adaptations

Finding the perfect show for productions featuring junior performers can be tricky! Much of the musical content out there is either inappropriate or much too complicated thematically, or, the show doesn't feature enough roles to give everyone a fair shot at participating. With these concerns frequently being mentioned by our friends in the industry who work with younger performers, we set out to create a list of some of the Jnr musical adaptations currently available that we think are worth considering for your next show. We hope something on this list inspires!


Aladdin

This is a great show if you have a strong dance cohort and choreographer and would like to include a large number of performers. Central to this show are themes of trust, friendship and that ultimately, it is always what's on the inside that counts the most.


Alice in Wonderland

Take your young performers on a magical and exciting journey through Wonderland as they follow Alice's curiosity which leads her on a wonderful, albeit at times scary, adventure. Roles are plentiful in this show so this is a great one when you are looking for something that many can perform in together. Themes revolve around what it means to grow up, finding your own identity and understanding your curiosities.


Beauty and the Beast

This is a great story with which to teach important lessons of transformation and tolerance, acceptance of personality over looks and the importance of doing both what is right and what is needed. With plenty of opportunities to adapt the cast size to feature as many performers as necessary, this is a good, hearty musical that also gives you an opportunity to teach your young performers a bit about Broadway musical theatre history as this was the first Disney musical produced on Broadway, a move that changed the face of Broadway and introduced a new, wider audience to the Great White Way.


Bugsy Malone

Particularly good for older young casts, this is a show that may be tackled by high schoolers or even slightly younger aged students. In fact, many of the roles are written for this age. Though a large cast, it is definitely a male heavy cast so this is something to keep in mind when selecting the show. This is a slapstick, prohibition era show about gangs in New York. There is violence within the show but ultimately, it is about forgiveness in the end.


Drowsy Chaperone

As a man sits at home listening to a soundtrack of his favourite old musical, it begins to come to life around him, and thus, the stage is set for the hilarious send-up of the Jazz age musical.The show features 10 leads plus the ensemble and as a musical comedy, definitely gives room for you to show your young performers all that this genre can be. Recommended for high school aged performers.


Fame

Fame is a fantastic show to do with young performers, particularly those in middle or high school who are approaching the same age or are the same age as the characters themselves. This show is bittersweet - it is hilarious at times, devastating at others, but ultimately, for young performers who really want to work in the arts, or at least continue their studies in it for the next few years, these characters and their stories will be inspiring and relatable. It is a show about pushing yourself, about commitment, dedication to yourself, dedication to your craft and to your friends/team. It also highlights many of the issues facing young people and provides a safe and open environment in which to discuss them. A strong dance core here will only better the show, even if not essential.


Frozen

Especially good if your natural leads are female identifying, this is a great show that celebrates sisterhood, leadership, self-confidence, tenacity and independence. Thanks to the ensemble roles there is large opportunity to grow the cast out to be quite sizeable and there are so many wonderful songs in the musical! Plus, as one of the more modern films from the Disney franchise, kids love it so you'll be very popular!!


Godspell

The original Godspell was the first major musical theatre work from Grammy and Academy-Award winner, Stephen Schwartz, and it wowed audiences around the world. With a score full of chart-topping songs, it's sure to be a hit with everyone! Godspell is a great show to teach young performers about kindness, tolerance and love, preaching acceptance and respect through an eclectic blend of songs. With very few technical requirements, this is show is incredibly adaptable to different spaces, budgets and abilities.


Guys and Dolls

Based on the award-winning musical comedy classic about rolling the dice and falling in love under the lights of Broadway, this is a fantastic light-hearted piece for a junior cast. Set in new York City and filled with an ensemble of exciting characters, Guys and Dolls is a fun piece that can get a large number of performers involved. There's even the opportunity to expand the cast if needed, adding Hot Box Girls, gangsters, missionaries and city dwellers to the already expansive team. The greatest thing about Guys and Dolls is the fun costumes - who doesn't want a chance to dress up as a 1950s gangster?


Hairspray

We think that if you have the kids of the right age with which to do this show, this is a brilliant show to take on as it provides so many opportunities to teach and to learn in a fun way! As a period piece, teaching kids about the era of the 1960s including the fashion, the music, the tv shows, the technology, etc could be a really smooth way of also introducing the show's most important themes, the culture and cultural division caused by segregation and racism that existed in the 1960s. This is a great show to include some fun choreography if that is an option for your young performers. Also important to this show are themes of self-belief, self-confidence, of staying firm to your own belief system and of staying loyal to your friends. Please only consider this show if you can meet the casting requirements with respect to the race of all characters being portrayed by actors who best reflect their experiences and identities.


Into the Woods

Be careful what you wish for...In this musical retelling of the classic Brothers Grimm fables, all your favourite fairytale characters come to life: Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the evil witch that no fable is complete without. Into the Woods features a lot of lead roles with minimal dancing, creating a lot of great opportunities for young performers. 

This is a great show to showcase a medium-sized ensemble of talented young artists!


Legally Blonde

We love what this musical stands for and for adults, we are obsessed with it! For junior performers, we think that there are both pros and cons. On the pro side, this show is about an empowered woman who, to steal a line from the show, proves that "being true to yourself never goes out of style." The character of Elle proves that loyalty to yourself, your friends and your beliefs always has to come first and that success is always the direct result of hard work. On the con side, we wonder whether the college and boy struggle is not just a little too advanced for very young casts. We have also heard and read complaints about the inclusion of the Bend and Snap and Whip it Good (both involving a corresponding physical gesture) that may make the musical unsuitable in the eyes of some more conservative directors. Personally, we will that provided all these themes, and dance moves if you feel it necessary to explain, come with an explanation, then it is a great musical to do!


Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins is the perfect reminder that in life, the key to expanding your world is simply your own imagination. The show focuses on the importance of family and family values, respect, awe, amazement, wisdom, knowledge, hard work and of course, a sense of adventure. Mary Poppins herself stands as a reminder that you can make anything you really want to happen happen. These lessons are great morals for young performers and the story is a classic for the generations - one that many will enjoy! If you have strong dancers, Step in Time is a phenomenal opportunity for a big number. This is a great musical for junior productions!


Newsies

Newsies is all about standing up for those who are generally silenced, giving a voice to the voiceless and reminding everyone that they can control their own destiny. Adaptable to cast size, this is a great show and popular in the younger demographic of theatre lovers thanks to the catchy songs, incredible dance numbers...and heart throb Broadway leads. Traditionally this show is very dance heavy so this is something to consider prior to choosing the show. It is also worth noting that the majority of the cast is male, with very few female roles.


Once on this Island

If your performers are fans of The Little Mermaid, they'll love this theatrical adaptation! Once on This Island tells the story of a young peasant girl who rescues and falls in love with a wealthy boy from the other side of her island. The musical touches on themes of love, resilience, and strength and prejudice. 

Once on This Island is almost completely sung-through, so there's never a dull moment in this magical musical. This is a great show for any-sized cast, as the story will be just as effective. The set and costumes are minimal, yet extremely bright and fun! The show also calls on its performers to work on their movement abilities, as the ensemble turns into trees, animals, and even the weather to help tell this incredible story.


Seussical

I must admit, this isn't a show that I have yet gotten to see but as a fan of Dr Seuss, I feel that it could be great for young performers...and would provide them with an opportunity to explore his literary canon in depth all in the name of research. This show has 17 roles plus the ensemble. Here is the show synopsis provided by MTI:


"Transporting audiences from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus, the Cat in the Hat narrates the story of Horton the Elephant, who discovers a speck of dust containing tiny people called the Whos. Horton must protect the Whos from a world of naysayers and dangers, and he must also guard an abandoned egg that's been left in his care by the irresponsible Mayzie La Bird.  Although Horton faces ridicule, danger and a trial, the intrepid Gertrude McFuzz never loses faith in him.  Ultimately, the powers of friendship, loyalty, family and community are challenged and emerge triumphant!"

Shrek

With great opportunity to get a large cast involved of mixed abilities, Shrek is a fun, funny and warm hearted show about friendship, honour, love, kindness, pride and how being different can make you great. Most of this can be heard just in one song from the show - Freakflag - and it continues to ooze from there! Shrek is a wonderful comedy that can be fun for the whole family to see together.


Disney's Descendants

This is a newer one to us but one that we thought may just be perfect for your young performers...and one that we would like to come along to see! Here is the summary as described on the MTI website:

"It is present-day, and in the kingdom of Auradon, all of Disney’s beloved heroes and royalty are living happily ever after, safe from the terrifying villains and troublesome sidekicks they have banished to the magic-free Isle of the Lost. That is until Ben, the benevolent teenage son of Belle and King Adam (The Beast), offers a chance of redemption for the troublemaking offspring of the evilest villains. Mal, Evie, Jay and Carlos – the children of Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Cruella De Vil, and Jafar – are welcomed to Auradon Prep to attend school with the children of their parents’ sworn enemies. Now entering a completely foreign world and way of life, the four Villain Kids have a difficult choice to make: should they follow in their parents’ wicked footsteps or learn to be good?"



There are so many other shows for you to consider for your junior musical One of the best sites that we found for checking the availability of rights and of available junior adaptations was MTI, Click on the link above to check them out for yourself.

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