The Most Popular Musicals and Plays for Younger Theatrical Groups

the cast of SHREK THE MUSICAL using TheatreWorld's Tranquil Woods backdropEvery year, the Educational Theatre Association polls Directors from schools nationwide. One of the facts that they share from their research is which productions were the most popular over the previous year. This can help you to plan your next show and helps us all to gauge the pulse of the contemporary theatre community. In a recent issue of the Educational Theatre Association’s magazine, Dramatics, (if you are a Director, Producer, or Set Designer who isn’t familiar with this publication, we highly recommend it) they share the most recent results of their survey with us. There are a lot of familiar plays and musicals on the list, many of which you may have already tackled with your troupe. In the musicals category, the biggest news is that BEAUTY AND THE BEAST has been dethroned as the number one show. In the Plays category, Shakespeare’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM won out. Without further ado, here are the top theatrical productions by category.

Top Musicals




Sixth place (2 way tie): INTO THE WOODS, LITTLE SHOP OF HORROS


The cast of the WIZARD OF OZ with TheatreWorld's Black and White Prairie Farm backdropNo real surprises here. SHREK is a relatively new release and everyone from Directors to audiences love the story and score. Classics such as WIZARD OF OZ and GREASE are longtime favorites that will likely show up on lists like this for years to come. One thing to watch out for next year is that INTO THE WOODS will likely move up. Disney is planning a full length cinematic adaptation, to be released in coming months, that will all but certainly help to bring this twisted fairy tale to the forefront. These shows all have a diverse set of scenic needs, but can be shared according to your exact vision with the many resources that are available.

Top Full Length Plays


Second place: ALMOST, MAINE

Third place: OUR TOWN



Seventh place: THE CRUCIBLE



As usual, Shakespeare dominates the high school play category. With a collection of well-known works that tie into regular curriculum, not to mention a lack of licensing fees, the entire Shakespearean catalog is ideal for high school-level productions. THE CRUCIBLE and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ERNEST are two classics that we love and are happy to see that they are still popular with Directors around the country. We work with a good amount of university and high school level Directors who feature both musicals and plays during their production seasons, in order to provide a well-rounded theatrical program for their students.

Each and every show on this list is a great option for younger casts and tech crews. From contemporary storylines to classic literary works, there is a production that suits every troupe on this list. Looking ahead, we predict that many of these shows will stay on the list for 2014. With new shows like MARY POPPINS and THE ADDAMS FAMILY being released recently, there will also likely be a couple of new names. We would love to hear about what you are planning for the remainder of 2014 and 2015. Feel free to let us know what your troupe will be up to in the comments section.

MARY POPPINS Backdrop Collection Now Releasing!

The rights to MARY POPPINS are officially available via Music Theatre International. Based on a combination of the original novel and Disney’s cinematic adaptation, the theatrical medium was penned by Julian Fellowes, with the score coming from the much-acclaimed Sherman Bothers, Richard and Robert. The Sherman brothers retained all of your favorite musical numbers from the movie, while Fellowes added in a little English charm of his own.  Since the show opened in 2006, it has graced over 2,000 theatrical venues throughout the world. Now, you can share this popular tale on your stage. Our Creative Team began developing our package of MARY POPPINS backdrops this summer in anticipation of the release. We are pleased to announce that our package is releasing right now and is ready to support all of your supercalifragilisticexpialidocious needs, scene by scene.

Grand Victorian Row Homes Backdrop

Grand Victorian Row Homes Backdrop

The opening scene of the show features everyone’s favorite chimney sweep, Bert, taking a stroll down Cherry Tree Lane, home of the affluent Banks family. Our Grand Victorian Row Homes backdrop was developed to assist in setting this, and other, key scenes in the production. Featuring cheerfully colored and architecturally correct Victorian era housing, this drop gives you a hint of the stylized interpretations of MARY POPPINS, while still maintaining a realistic feel. Aside from the opening of the production, this drop could easily be used to support any of the other scenes in the script that take place at the Banks’ residence.

Victorian Park Backdrop

Vistorian Park backdrop

No package of MARY POPPINS backdrops would be complete without a proper park. In Act I, Mary brings the Banks children to their local park, where they first meet Bert. Our Director’s Roundtable recommends using your actors that will become dancing statues for the musical number, Jolly Holiday in place of set pieces along with our Victorian Park backdrop to set this scene. If you are seeking a realistic portrayal of the show, then this is the only drop that you will need for your park scenes. If you want to be a bit more stylized, the Victorian Park can be switched out for our Daisies and Flowered Grass backdrop for the performance of Jolly Holiday, as many Directors have decided to adjust their sets during the musical number to better mimic the cartoon sequence from Disney’s movie. As for the park scenes in Act II, our lifelike Victorian Park is precisely what the script calls for.

Victorian Bedroom Backdrop

Victorian Bedroom stage and event backdrop

Our Victorian Bedroom backdrop was also developed to accommodate multiple scenes in MARY POPPINS. Designed in tandem with our Grand Victorian Row Homes, this backdrop accurately depicts the interior of a Victorian era home with a combination of pink and cream hues. The amount of furniture that was painted into the drop is limited by design. This allows you to utilize a single backdrop for every scene that takes place inside of the Banks residence. Your choice of set pieces will transform this interior into a parlor, living room, and bedroom as needed throughout the script, while keeping your budget in mind. If you have a different vision for the Banks home or would like to change between backdrops for each scene that takes place there, we invite you to search our collection of interior backdrops. It contains scenic options such as a Victorian era parlor, as well as a wealth of unique mansion interiors.

Bank Interior Backdrop

stage and event event featuring a traditional bank

As is a theme with MARY POPPINS, your stage will play host to Mr. Banks’ workplace in both acts. To accommodate these scenes, our Creative Team toiled to develop a scenic option that embodies the opulence and wealth that Fellowes intentionally wrote into the book for the show. Laden with shining marble, shimmering gold, and a gorgeous chandelier, our Bank Interior backdrop provides the vast majority of the imagery necessary for both scenes. Simple set pieces, such as a desk and chair, are all that are needed to support the portions of the storyline that take place in the bank.

Olde Time Candy Shoppe Backdrop

Our soon to be released Olde Time Candy Shoppe backdrop will take you straight to Mrs. Corry’s magical store for your production’s rendition of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Designed to accurately portray an early 1900’s candy shoppe, this drop will give your cast all of the scenery that they need to purchase their “ounce of conversation.” Stay tuned, as our Creative Team is poised to release the final drop in our MARY POPPINS collection very soon. While we love this drop for this scene, many Directors choose to seek out scenic elements reminiscent of a European street, such as our Old World Town Square or Victorian Street With Snowdust. This is done in order to accommodate the scene discussed here and the one that precedes it featuring the infamous Bird Woman.

London Rooftops Backdrop

London Rooftops backdrop for Mary Poppins

Our London Rooftops backdrop supports one of the most recognizable scenes in MARY POPPINS. Inspired by imagery from touring productions, and given a substantial TheatreWorld twist, this drop depicts a stylized vision of London’s skyline, complete with an abundance of chimneys and a truly gorgeous full moon. Many Lighting Directors opt to focus several different colors of stage lights on the drop and switch between the hues as the cast performs Step in Time. With your chorus decked out as chimney sweeps alongside Mary, Bert, Jane and Michael, the scenic needs of this scene are relatively simple to meet.

With so many settings, Directors have a myriad of options when it comes to selecting the right backdrops for MARY POPPINS. Truthfully speaking, there is no “right” choice. While our Creative Team has developed a show package that spans all of the key scenes, it is your vision that will ultimately dictate your scenery. We hope that this article helps you to begin tackling set design. Regardless of how you picture the show, TheatreWorld has just the backdrop that you are in search of.

Choice Musical Theatre Productions for Young Casts and Audiences

Many Directors who work with young casts, or share their productions with school-aged audiences, find themselves wondering which script is “right” for their next production. In many cases, the end decision is to take advantage of a production offered in a Theatre for Young Audiences, or TYA, collection. Often times, Directors can find the same TYA storyline offered from two or more rights holders. This is because many of these scripts are based on fairy tales that come from the oral tradition. Storylines that have been in existence for hundreds of years are not blatantly subject to copyrights. Individual rights holders, such as Rodgers and Hammerstein or Music Theatre International, develop scripts for each fairy tale theme and then apply copyrights to their version. This can be a blessing for Directors with younger casts and audiences. As they say, the more the merrier.

Right now, the TYA collections offer a variety of age-old tales. The productions can often be shared with smaller casts, shortened musical numbers, and easily attainable sets. We have collected a list of some of the top general fairy tale themes for Directors who are in search of their next show.


stage backdrop featuring an olde world toy shoppePINOCCHIO is a story that children love. The storyline reinforces necessary values such as honesty and the importance of family,   and makes them fun! This production can be shared with as few as ten actors and chorus members, or can easily be expanded to accommodate a larger cast. The musical numbers are easy for younger actors to learn and do not require the vocal range of a seasoned veteran. Thus, PINOCCHIO is a great option for both young casts and for younger audiences to sing along with. The scenic elements can range from a small collection of PINOCCHIO backdrops and basic set pieces, to full on Broadway-style sets. Troupes in smaller venues can take advantage of backdrops to set all of the key scenes  from Geppetto’s workshop, to olde world exteriors, and ultimately the whale’s stomach. Most productions run just over an hour, so the scenic requirements can be tapered down according to your preferences and budget. PINOCCHIO is available for licensing by both MTI and Rodgers and Hammerstein.


scenic backdrop featuring a stone castle with moatThis is another storyline that Directors can license from both MTI and Rodgers and Hammerstein. While there are several iterations of the tale, all of the scripts promote the values of acceptance and remaining humble. It can be pulled off with as few as five cast members, but can also accommodate up to twenty actors, if you have a larger troupe. The scenic needs for THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES provide Directors a little more leeway than some shows. You can select from a variety of medieval backdrops to source imagery for both interiors and exteriors. Whether you choose stylized backdrops or those that are more architecturally correct, depends upon your vision for your stage. If you prefer to mix things up a bit, many Directors have opted to set this theatrical production in the Middle East, affording you even more scenic options for your production.


scenic backdrop featuring a stone castle baclonyIf you are looking for a classic fairy tale theme, then RAPUNZEL might just be for you. All versions feature catchy, kid-friendly musical numbers, along with a healthy dose of laughs. Most often set in medieval times, Directors and Set Designers have a myriad of possibilities when it comes to scenery. Your go-to options include a mix of castle and palace backdrops and forest and woods scenery. Within these categories there are literally thousands of selections available to the theatrical community. If you prefer to put a modern twist on the story, Rodger and Hammerstein’s script includes a hair stylist which has led many Directors to design their stages with imagery that is a bit more modern. After all, RAPUNZEL can let her hair down in 2014 just as well as she could in the days of old. If you are keeping your options open, this is yet another fairy tale theme that is also available for licensing from MTI.

This list represents three of our favorite fairy tale themes from the Theatre for Young Audiences collections. There are a ton of other choices for theatre Directors looking for fairy tale themes. From LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD to THE MAGICAL ADVENTURES OF MERLIN, theatrical professionals can search out the script that best fits their production goals with ease. Just like the shows that we mentioned here, most other fairy tale themes are easy to set with your preferred medieval, and castle and woodland backdrops. Directors in search of a more contemporary production for younger casts and audiences can also search MTI’s Junior Collection. These shows come from the Disney catalog and feature scenery and musical numbers borrowed directly from Disney’s popular movies. If you are presenting shows in a smaller staging environment, you can select Cabaret and Black Box sized backdrops for your stage. They may be smaller in size, but they are still packed with all of the top-notch imagery that you have come to expect from TheatreWorld.

New Backdrops Now Releasing for Fall Stage Shows and Special Events

Over the past several months, our Creative Director, Designers, and Scenic Artists have spent countless hours coming up with backdrop designs that will help to define upcoming production seasons. We have looked over our inventory and surveyed the landscape to ensure that we can provide Fantasy castle towers backdrop“sought after imagery” for the 2014 and 2015 theatrical, dance, and special event production cycles. It made for an exciting summer here at TheatreWorld, and we are happy to share the fruits with you today.

Our Team designed and painted enough new backdrops to update 25 popular theatrical show and dance themes. In some instances, we Grand Victorian Row Homes Backdropdesigned a single drop that would improve our ability to provide scenery options for a specific production. When it came to THE NUTCRACKER, MARY POPPINS, and THE ADDAMS FAMILY, our Creative Team designed entire show packages. A summer spent knee-deep in scripts, research, and sketches might not sound like fun to everyone, but it is what gets our Creatives up in the morning.

So What’s New?

Designs Galore

brownstone-a-scenic-backdrop-blog-imageA new production season is best welcomed with new imagery. With this in mind, our team set out to add to our available options for as many show themes and event categories as humanly possible. To beef up our offerings, our team developed a series of exteriors that transforms your production area into everything from a flower-covered meadow to a vintage Black and White Cornfield. We also spent a good amount Vistorian Park backdropof time researching the architecture of the Victorian and Baroque eras. The building style of these time periods provided the basis for over a half a dozen new backdrop designs. Just in time for the fall and holiday production seasons, we will have Victorian and Baroque: parlors, ballrooms, and exteriors available for your productions and events. All in all we have designed, and will officially release, over forty mountain-meadow-backdrop-blog-imagenew drops in the next six weeks. Many of these designs are already painted, dried, and awaiting the chance to support your productions. Take a moment to visit our Latest Backdrops page to get a glimpse of what our Artists have been up to. We will be adding new designs weekly, so feel free to check back soon for even more imagery updates.


Score One for The Little Guy

Wheatfield BackdropOne major push that we have been on, since before summer began, is to increase our number and selection of backdrops in differing sizes. Our 20’ x 10’ Cabaret Series drops and 25’ x 15’ Black Box Series received a
significant increase in both amount of designs and number of overall drops. With more schools, community dance programs, and Castle Chambers backdropquaint event venues hosting productions in need of a higher level of artistry, we just had to answer the call. Theatrical and Dance groups with smaller staging areas and Planners that want to spice up a venue with lower ceilings now have access to a growing selection of backdrops with a myriad of designs. Everyone deserves to be able to support their Log Cabin A Scenic backdropproductions and events with the same style and visuals that larger groups have access to and now they can.

We would like to wish everyone the best of luck in the upcoming seasons. If you already know what you have planned, it is never too early to reserve your drops to ensure availability. We are looking forward to partnering with you to support your scenic needs during these very busy seasons. We can’t wait to hear your ideas and to see the productions that you have planned for your community.

Mike Mathews Elected Interim Artistic Director of Spanish Lyric Theatre

Spanish Lyric Theatre Logo

We are proud to announce that our Creative Director, Mike Mathews, has been offered and accepted the role of Interim Artistic Director for the Tampa, Florida-based Spanish Lyric Theater and SLT Productions. A professional, non-Equity musical theatre company embarking on their 56th season, Spanish Lyric Theater is the nation’s oldest Latin-based theatrical group and the longest-running theatre in the greater Tampa Bay Area. They have been the area standard for Broadway-style productions and a variety of stage shows in Central Florida since 1959. It is a great honor for Mike and one that he is very much looking forward to.

MIkeMathewsMike is well established in the theatrical community here in Florida. Having run the Salerno Entertainment Group since 2003, Mike has played the roles of Director, Set Designer, Performer, Mentor, and Chief-Cook-and-Bottle-Washer time and again. The Salerno Entertainment Group has organized and managed a multitude of touring musicals, as well as Las Vegas-style performances, and continues to do so to this day. Mike also finds time to rekindle his love of singing and acting several times a year, taking on roles in touring musicals presented by Stages Productions. It is these experiences that led the Board of Directors over at Spanish Lyric Theater to tap Mike when their current patriarch and Artistic Director, Rene Gonzalez, opted to step down.

Rene GonzalezBefore we continue, we must thank Rene for his years of dedication to both SLT Productions and the theatrical community in the Tampa Bay area. Mr. Gonzalez has dedicated time to both throughout his career  and has made an impact on countless lives and careers during his tenure. His work in and representation of the Latin Community in the Greater Tampa Bay area has impacted the cultural climate of Central Florida. His influence in the theatrical community has spread the craft  and diversified the productions offered to the community with his presentation of Spanish language productions and culturally rich Latin-themed stage shows and musical performances. Please join us in wishing Mr. Gonzalez the best of luck and prosperity in his retirement.

SLT Productions has a lot to look forward to moving forward. While details are currently being pounded out as Mike works with the current Board of Directors, we can assure you that there are plenty of productions to come. We cannot share any finite details today, but expect to see fresh Broadway musicals and Hispanic-themed productions, as well as other forms of productions from SLT Productions in the very near future. A heavy focus on utilizing Latin actors and stage crews, Spanish language scripts and historic venues is to be expected in the upcoming production season. Mike is looking forward to tackling this new project and helping to ensure that the history and culture of the Spanish Lyric Theater and SLT Productions are around for generations to come. He has a fantastic group of professionals to work with. They are truly a testament to the Tampa Bay area, transcending the theatrical community with their focus on Latin culture.