Although creating experimental theatre may be your passion project, you’ll need to produce a few showcases that appeal to a broad range of audiences. One of the smartest options to ensure you have a sold-out theatre is by offering a musical or play in your season that works as an entertainment vehicle for children, teens, and adults alike. 

We present a few elements to consider when choosing your content, as well as some offerings that will surely appeal to the masses. 

Elements to Consider About Content:

Before you announce your next musical or play, there are a few elements to think about if you’re looking to appeal to a broad base. Things include:

  • Show Duration – How long is the show you’re planning to produce? Our attention spans grow with age, so make sure you’re offering content that smaller kids or restless teens can sit through. Consider shorter shows if you’re appealing to a very young demographic – ranging from 60-90 minutes. Try to cap off at 120 minutes for teenagers. Most younger people won’t want to sit through anything for over two hours. 
  • General ThemesUniversally acclaimed content has lessons for everyone. That being said, stray away from shows with incredibly dark themes, or shows geared specifically towards smaller kids, where themes are instead spoon-fed in the dialogue. 
  • Language – You never want to surprise unsuspecting parents with harsh language if they’ve brought their kids. Make sure you’re producing a clean show if you’ve got young people in the audience. 
  • Age Recommendations – Most pieces of theatre have age recommendations and warnings for a reason. Do your research and rely on the experts to tell you who, exactly, this work is meant for. 
  • Subtext – Many musicals and plays have adult subtexts and jokes that won’t be appropriate for younger kids. That being said, a lot may go over their heads if they’re especially young. You’ll need to make a judgment call. 

Four Shows to Consider:

Beauty and the Beast

Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice

Beauty and the Beast is the classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial French town, and the Beast, who is a young prince trapped in a spell placed by an evil enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. If not, he’ll be stuck as a beast forever. 

Pros: Beautiful costumes and scenery, lessons about love and acceptance, catchy tunes

Considerations: Runs long, some scary points (the Beast may be frightening for younger kids)


Music by Alan Menken
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Lyrics by Jack Feldman 

Set in New York City in 1899, Newsies tells the story of Jack Kelly and his ragtag team of newsboys as they make a meager living selling newspapers on the streets. But when the prices of papers are hiked and the newsies are hung out to dry, there is nothing left to do but protest for their rights. Led by Jack and newspaper reporter Katherine Plummer, the Newsies form a union and organize a strike against the greedy publisher of the New York World

Pros: Themes of resilience, teamwork, and determination, compelling dance and song, historical elements

Considerations: Mature themes, runs long, mild cursing 

Once Upon a Mattress

Music by Mary Rodgers
Book by Dean Fuller and Jay Thompson
Lyrics by Marshall Barer

King Sextimus is unable to speak due to a curse. Meanwhile, his terrible wife, Queen Aggravain, has taken over control of the kingdom. In an attempt to keep Prince Dauntless single, she has decreed that only the princess that can pass her test may marry her son. And, no one else in the kingdom may marry until Prince Dauntless does. Enter Winnifred the Woebegone. She instantly catches the attention of Prince Dauntless, and in the end, is able to pass the Queen’s supposedly impassable sensitivity test. But when the Queen still tries to prevent Prince Dauntless from marrying, Dauntless must learn to stand up for himself and his kingdom. 

Pros: Plenty of silly moments, catchy tunes, strong female leads, relatively short, keeps audiences engaged

Considerations: Mild language, adult subtext 

SpongeBob SquarePants the Musical

Arrangement by Tom Kitt
Book by Kyle Jarrow
Conceived by Tina Landau

The musical adaptation of Nickelodeon’s long-running animated sitcom, SpongeBob SquarePants the Musical is set in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom. There, we find the yellow sea sponge SpongeBob and his quirky circle of friends and neighbors. SpongeBob’s pleasant existence is interrupted when it is discovered that Mt. Humongous, a nearby volcano, will erupt within the next 48 hours and completely obliterate Bikini Bottom. SpongeBob, trying to prove to himself and the world that he is not just a simple sponge, resolves to save the day when everybody else has given up all hope.

Pros: Compelling enough for adults and easy for kids to understand, timeless, silly, relatively short

Considerations: Could be scary for young viewers, sometimes crass 


Need more help? On The Stage’s Guide to Selecting Titles can assist in finding the perfect musical or play for your cast – whether you’re a group of 10 or 50; want something serious or comedic; or want to show off your sopranos or altos. 

If you’re looking to elevate your theatre experience for yourself and your audiences, book a personalized demo today with On The Stage.

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