Show Me the Romance

No cherubs. No doilies. No crap.

The changing face of high school musicals

I wrote over 4,000 words for Broadway High on Monday, and with a clearer hold on the novel as it’s taking shape, I’m re-evaluating my choice to use Guys and Dolls as the performance in the story. Currently, the forerunner to replace it is my personal favorite, Hello, Dolly! but in my research to see which of these is more overused (according to Time Magazine, Guys and Dolls is) I’ve also discovered something that I kind of suspected but never really knew: musicals at the high school level are evolving into grand spectacles of their own.

Experts seem to agree that revitalized interest in music theater among young people is partly due to the emergence of the “new family musical” in the mid 1990’s and 2000’s (Beauty and the Beast, Wicked, The Lion King). Most recently, the kindling interest caught fire with Disney’s High School Musical franchise.

In 1999 (the year I graduated from high school), the first chapter of the Cappies was founded–Tony Awards for the high school performance set. Since then, they’ve grown and now have something like 14 chapters across North America. There still isn’t a chapter in the Shenandoah Valley, but maybe there will be someday.

Now high schools are tackling Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Urinetown, and even one brave school near Chicago put on Rent a couple years ago. (Ha…can’t see Rent being performed at Broadway any time soon, but you never know). I just read an article about a school in Seattle whose big-top performance of Barnum cost $90,000 dollars to produce!

Part of me wishes Kim Tate and Holly Dickerson at Broadway High School had that kind of budget to play with, but another part of me is proud of what we did (it was Kim Tate and Scott Smith back then) and what Kim and Holly continue to do. It’s all possible with the support of parents, the community, and the sheer determination of kids fighting to produce a show that will transform cardboard walls and a budget auditorium into March magic.

So whether I go with Hello, Dolly! or Guys and Dolls, here’s to hoping I can do justice to a school that brings the glittering toil of music theater to a little country town far from the maddening crowd.

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