There is nothing quite like musical theater. It can give us great joy or make us sad. And it can address issues that are not so comfortable and leave a mark on us, encouraging us to do and be better at understanding situations.
One of the things that you will notice when you go to the theater is the number of people in the cast. It can seem endless, especially in shows like West Side Story or The King and I, where the cast list is extensive, to say the least.
But not every show has a large cast listing. Some require fewer people to perform, and that’s why I’m going to take a look at some perfect musicals for small casts.
Is Putting On A Musical Something You’d Like To Do?
If you are thinking of putting on a musical, there are some things you need to know. You are going to need plenty of resources, and that is only half of it. I have had the experience. Twice. So, what resources do you need to put on a musical?
That is the first consideration. Believe me; this is not going to be cheap, no matter how small the cast list is. The costs will mount up very quickly.
- Printing (tickets, flyers, etc.)
And those are the practical things. What about if you have to pay certain key individuals?
- Stage Manager.
- Lighting Manager.
- Lighting Operatives.
- Sound Engineer.
- Musicians (if there are musical songs).
- Makeup Artist.
- Costume Dresser.
- Prop Master.
You may do some of them yourself, of course. But you can’t possibly do them all, even if you know how.
You may find that you will get volunteers. I found that people love to be involved in theater and not just to sing and dance and act. But you have to be lucky to get people to volunteer who know what they are doing. That’s a different thing.
They may be very willing and volunteer to do it for free. But can they actually do what is needed? In some cases, they will, but maybe not in others.
Theater, Small Room, Concert Hall?
What sort of venue are you going to use? That will usually be decided by two things:
- What audience size do you hope to get?
- Does the work you are performing require a smaller room for the intimacy of the production?
I won’t go into the rest of the things to consider, as I am sure you are getting the picture. And on top of that, you need time. Time for rehearsals. Getting all the cast together when needed. This is not the West End or Broadway. People involved will likely have jobs, responsibilities, and families to consider.
Have I Put You Off Yet?
I hope not, because although it can be a potential nightmare, it is one of the great experiences. To see it all come together and to hear the applause and feel the appreciation. It takes some beating.
A Small Cast Often Wins
That is my opinion, and I have been through both small and large casts at the Amateur Dramatic level. Managing a large cast can be a logistical nightmare. And an expensive one. The smaller cast was easier to manage, and people were not so uptight with each other.
And it can be just as good as the bigger productions. And it will be less expensive in just about every way, especially in the number of non-performers required.
If you are going to have a smaller cast, then the quality of the acting, and singing (if there is any), needs to be good. In big productions, a certain lack of ability can be buried in the size of the company and the production.
Not so with the perfect musicals for small casts. The actors are a little exposed. Therefore, they have to be pretty good.
When Should You Choose a Small Cast Musical?
Musicals that are scaled-down and less involved can have some significant benefits. You will be able to use smaller theaters. Or even use smaller rooms for the small productions that many theaters have. That will reduce the bill for the venue dramatically.
Some theaters like to have a break from the ‘big productions.’ They will often let the theater out to smaller productions for a lower price to give some of their staff a short break.
Advantages in Every Aspect
For starters, an advantage of small cast theatrical performance is reduced costs, manpower, and everything else that I listed above. Also, they are easier to live stream. In our high-tech world, it’s possible to stream your musical live on social media sites. Probably not possible with a large cast.
Therefore, we can see there are potential advantages. But what are some good small cast musicals and plays out there?
Well, let’s have a look. To define a “small cast,” I have limited it to ten. But as you will see, most are way below that number.
Marry Me A Little
- Cast of 2
This is an interesting piece that will have plenty that you will be familiar with. For a start, the lyrics and the music have all been written by Stephen Sondheim. It uses songs from his better-known musicals as the soundtrack.
The setting is a clever idea. It is the story of two lonely people in New York who both share their desire for love. But they do so from their own one-roomed apartments.
The interesting thing about this relationship is that they are both aware of the other’s existence. But despite their loneliness, they never get the courage to speak with each other. Although, they do wonder what it would be like if they did meet.
It is a one-act small cast musical, so there are no major scene-changing responsibilities. It is easy to create the illusion of the two apartments, which reduces the problems of production.
Another interesting element to this musical is that there is no dialogue. All the communications are performed through Sondheim’s music and lyrics.
- Cast of 3
This is a musical that combines plenty of nostalgia. It gives us snapshots of the dreams and hopes of three friends from Texas as they get older.
It starts with them as teenagers and cheerleaders through sororities, getting married, and becoming housewives. Also, it deals with their liberation as women and people as they get older.
The Turbulent 60s
It is set in the turbulent 60s and 70s and rejoins them as they reconnect with each other in the 80s. Funny and lighthearted, yet very poignant, and probably represents a lot of women’s lives during that period.
The message is that despite all they have done, they find out that throughout the changing times, they have always had each other. And in a fast-changing world, that is all they can rely on.
The score is expertly written by David Kirshenbaum. If you are not familiar with the name, he is the man responsible for the great score of the film “The Summer of ‘42”.
If you happen to have three good women actors, then there couldn’t be a better musical play for them to undertake.
The Mad Ones
- Cast of 4
This is an interesting slant on a fairly common theme for books, plays, and musicals. But, it comes in a slightly different package. Having to make choices and not knowing which way to go can conjure up all kinds of dreams and hopes. And that is what this musical does.
It is about a high-school graduate and highly intelligent lady, Samantha Brown, on the point of leaving home. But will she go to University as her mum wants? Or maybe she will follow her own path.
Plenty of songs in this 90-minute small cast musical. It requires at least one strong, experienced performer and a couple of good backups to make it work.
- Cast of 7
This is a musical that might raise a few eyebrows along the way. It isn’t what you would call shocking, and most audiences won’t be concerned. However, in some more conservative areas, it may not be a sound choice.
It tells the story of a broken family just trying to gain some semblance of normality and pick up the pieces. It is lighthearted in many ways as it takes us through all the love and the pain that these situations create.
It’s mostly sung, and so it needs at least two strong voices. A good option with plenty of grit and some good powerful songs along with it. Certainly, one to consider if you have a modern liberal-minded audience.
The Last Five Years
- Cast of 2, one man and one woman
Producing a musical with only two cast members can make life simpler in some ways. But, there are also some other considerations.
As I have said, the two actors must both be at the least very competent. Preferably very good. With only two, there is nowhere to hide; you are in the spotlight at least half of the time.
An Interesting Approach
This is a slightly different approach to the traditional love story. The woman tells the story of their relationship from the end. The man from the beginning. Therefore, the two characters don’t share the stage at the same time. They are together in only one brief moment in the whole reproduction.
There is little required for a set, so that keeps it simple. But, what you do need are actors who can deliver powerful performances and hold the audience in what can be a very emotional musical.
I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change
- Cast of 4
This makes a great small cast musical for college groups or amateur dramatic societies with young people. It is rather adult in its nature as a performance, but it is great fun and gets plenty of laughs.
The theme is perfectly encapsulated in the title. It is a take on individual relationships and includes some great songs, some of which you will recognize.
Six To Choose From
That is six musicals written for smaller casts. They all have something very interesting to say. And they are all presented in different ways. That means they will fit into most small companies’ ideas and budgets. Of course, there are other possibilities and notable extra to mention.
Next To Normal
- Cast of 6
This might be described as a pop-rock musical. It won’t be for everyone as it deals with some difficult subjects. One is mental illness and the effects it can have on a family.
Dealing with issues like anxiety, loss, and depression is never easy. They need powerful performances but must be handled with sympathy. One of those perfect musicals for small casts, if you have the cast to carry it off.
Closer Than Ever
- Cast of 5
This is a well-put-together and creative musical that takes us on a journey. It looks at the struggles that we all face in modern life, where things sometimes seem so much harder than they used to.
The story is told by a series of characters, one following the other. If you have limited resources, this is a good musical to look at.
What Was The Inclusion Criteria For This List?
I wanted to include a variety of themes where possible. And where the themes are commonplace, have them approached in a slightly different way.
Some musicals can be lighthearted and a bit of fun. As well as those that are much more serious and tackle difficult subjects. Those can be the ones where you can make an impact if you have the cast to do them.
All of them offer great opportunities for companies that want or need to put on small cast productions.
Are You New To Producing Musicals?
Maybe you have tried one or two, or it is your first attempt. But, even if you know what you are doing, you may find some of these options useful.
This is a guide to help just about everybody. Directors, Stage Managers, Producers, and even Actors will all benefit. It covers some of the issues that can sometimes be overlooked, including costume, sound, and lighting.
One of the most difficult aspects I found was getting the sound right. You can’t leave it until the dress rehearsal. Just like everything, it has to be planned, and the right equipment located and practiced with.
For those on a smaller budget, this is a book that explains how to cut a few corners but still produce a great show for lighting and sound.
You may need your own lighting if the venue does not supply it. In that case, both the ADJ Products, Encore FR50Z, LED Fresnel Spot/Wash Light, and U`King Stage Lights will help.
Interested in Musical Performances?
We have you covered. Take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Audition Songs for Altos, the Best Audition Songs for Basses, Audition-Friendly Pop Songs for Baritones, the Best Duet Karaoke Songs, and the Best Songs About Change for more musical ideas.
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Perfect Musicals for Small Casts – Final Thoughts
It hasn’t got to be a big-budget musical performance to draw attention or produce a great result. Leave that to the Sir Andrew Lloyd Webbers of the world.
You can still make a big impact with the right cast, the right venue, and, most importantly, the right work to perform. Small Cast Musicals are one of the ways, and they can be so much easier to produce.
Until next time, the show must go on.