There are few things better in life than a big, bold, beautiful musical. The kind that makes the audience leap to their feet at the closing the number, and leaves everyone in that post-show glow for hours afterward.
To that end, we’ve collected a list of some favorite show-stopping musicals that are perfect for community theaters. Check them out – and if you have other recommendations, be sure to comment below.
Here’s to the musical!
Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brien
That sweet transvestite and his motley crew did the time warp on Broadway in the 25th anniversary revival. Complete with sass from the audience, cascading toilet paper, and an array of other audience participation props, this deliberately kitschy rock ‘n’ roll sci-fi gothic is more fun than ever. 7m, 3f.
The Secret Garden by Marsha Norman, Lucy Simon, Frances Hodgson Burnett
Orphaned in India, 11 year-old Mary Lennox returns to Yorkshire to live with her embittered, reclusive uncle Archibald and his invalid son Colin. The estate’s many wonders include a magic garden, which beckons the children with haunting melodies and the “Dreamers,” spirits from Mary’s past who guide her through her new life. This Tony Award-winning musical tells a compelling tale of forgiveness and renewal. 12m, 10f, 1b, 1g.
Side Show by Henry Krieger, Bill Russell
Based on the true story of Siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton who became stars during the Depression, this Tony Award-nominated show is a moving portrait of two women joined at the hip whose extraordinary bondage brings them fame, but denies them love. Told almost entirely in song, the show follows their progression from England to America, around the vaudeville circuit and to Hollywood on the eve of their appearance in the 1932 movie Freaks. 13m, 9f.
Hands on a Hardbody by Doug Wright, Amanda Green, Trey Anastasio
For 10 hard-luck Texans, a new lease on life is so close they can touch it. Under a scorching sun for days on end, armed with nothing but hope, humor, and ambition, they’ll fight to keep at least one hand on a brand-new truck in order to win it. Only one winner can drive away with the American Dream. This Tony Award-nominated musical is centered on an ensemble cast, perfect for any community theater. 9m, 6f.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas by Carol Hall, Larry L. King, Peter Masterson
This happy-go-lucky view of small town vice and statewide political side-stepping recounts the good times and the demise of the Chicken Ranch, known since the 1850s as one of the better pleasure palaces in all of Texas. Governors, senators, mayors, and even victorious college football teams frequent Miss Mona’s cozy bordello until that puritan nemesis Watchdog focuses his television cameras and his righteous indignation on the institution. 13m, 14f.
Blood Brothers by Willy Russell
A woman with numerous children to support, surrenders one of her new born twins to the childless woman she cleans for. The boys grow up streets apart, never learning the truth but becoming firm friends and falling in love with the same girl. One prospers while the other falls on hard times. A narrator warns that a price has to be paid for separating twins: the lives of the blood brothers, who die on the day they find out they are related. 5m, 3f.
Chess by Benny Andersson, Richard Nelson, Time Rice, Bjorn Ulvaeus
The pawns in this drama form a love triangle: the loutish American chess star, the earnest Russian champion and a Hungarian American female assistant who arrives at the international chess match in Bangkok with the American but falls for the Russian. This rock opera shows romantic rivalries, competitive gamesmanship, super power politics, and international intrigues. This ensemble cast will bring in audiences of all ages. 9m, 2f, 1 b or g.
La Cage Aux Folles by Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Herman, Jean Poiret
After twenty years of un-wedded bliss, Georges and Albin, two men partnered for better-or-worse get a bit of both when Georges’ son (fathered during a one-night fling) announces his impending marriage to the daughter of a bigoted, right-wing politician. Albin and Georges run a drag nightclub in St. Tropez, where Albin is the “star” performer. Georges reluctantly agrees to masquerade as “normal” when he meets the family of the bride-to-be. But Albin has other plans, with hilarious results. 7m, 3f.
Perfect Harmony by Andrew Grosso, The Essentials
This musical comedy is about the greatest a cappella group in high school history, the Acafellas. It’s also about their classmates and female counterpart, perennial runners up, the Ladies in Red. Through song and story, we see these students grapple with the weighty issues of truth, love, and what constitutes appropriate choreography for Nationals. As the story unfolds, we learn not just about these students, but also about the true nature of harmony. 5m, 5f.
Rock of Ages by Chris D’Arienzo
It all takes place on Sunset Strip in Hollywood during the 1980s. Aqua Net, Lycra, lace, and liquor flow throughout the venues. It all seems like perfection until German developers sweep into town with plans to turn the fabled Strip into just another capitalist strip mall. Can Drew, the next big thing, Sherri, the small-town girl, Stacee Jaxx, the sex machine performer, and the gang save the strip before it’s too late? Only the music of hit bands Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and more hold the answer. 7m, 10f.