Musicals: Musicals with small pit orchestras
I received quite a deal of replies on this. Thank you very much for
expertise. Here are the responses:
you're a good man charlie brown
something's afoot (spoof on agatha christie's 10 little indians)
man of la mancha (i did it with piano, a few winds, bass, percussion,
and arranded most of the string parts for satb chorus... having a
trumpet would help)
almost any show can be scaled down if you have a great pianist who
knows when to lay out.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum can be done with
limited numbers - one flute, 2 clarinets, a couple trumpets, bass,
Little Shop of Horrors requires drums, bass, guitar, and piano
Schoo House Rock can be done with just drums, bass, guitar, and piano.
We face a similar problem. Maybe you've already thought of this but
used some of the Rodgers and Hammerstein shows which have the
arrangement. That is complete in itself but I usually add some extra
instruments such as bass, percussion, maybe a woodwind or two and a
two. Kind of depends on the show. The two-piano arrangement gets all
parts covered and the addition of the other instruments adds color and
when you want it. R & H will rent the two-piano accompaniment and
permit you to rent a few extra individual parts.
I think there are a few other shows which have two-piano accompaniment
versions available. "My Fair Lady" comes to mind.
Having a two-piano accompaniment with the addition of rhythm and some
instruments for color has been pretty successful for us.
i have been conducting pit orchestras for the past 10 years and have
most work with the resources i had available. our pit physically is
so i have worked only with 2 flutes, 2 clarinets, trap set, 2 trumpets,
trombones and 2 keyboards - one synthesizing the strings (no room for
strings in this pit because of size restrictions) and the other to fill
the spaces in missing parts. i did the string keyboard and directed
has worked well.
but for small pit bands, how about the fantasticks.
we used the above instrumentation for: carousel, sound of music, my
lady, camelot, fiddler on the roof, pippin, and oklahoma. i think you
do a lot now with synthesizers....
hope this is of some help.
Have you looked into "Once On This Island?" It can be done with 4
2-3 percussion, and a synth. We did it this year and loved it!!
I have at home a listing of the top XX musicals, and almost uniformly
small orchestras are in the Rock musicals like "Little Shop." Any of
standard musicals will use the standard New York pit orchestra, the
which was long mandated by union regulations as well as the size of
I played trumpet in "Mysteries of Edwin Drood" with piano, percussion,
trumpet, clarinet, flute, bass, and maybe one or two other instruments.
It worked fine, although the score calls for many more insts. I don't
know if this was an actual reduction or they just omitted the extra
"The Fantasticks" has the smallest orchestra, of course, but it also
the smallest cast. I think "Charlie Brown" has just a combo. I don't
think that "A Little Night Music" has a big orchestra, either, but I'm
We usually have room for between 11 and 13 players in our pit. We do
standard musicals (such as the Rogers and Hammerstein chestnuts), and
simply leave out some of the instruments. Various people "cover" for
instruments, playing their cues, when possible. We have a great pianist
fills in what's missing. We don't use a synth, because there are only
few people in our neck of the woods who know how to play synth, and
seem always to be busy. Now, of course, there are new services, such
"Orch-extra," (See Music Theater International), which fill in the
parts via a computer hook-up to a sound system. It even responds to
tempo changes, somehow. We don't do that either because we don't have
necessary equipment. But I guess it's getting popular.
3 shows come to mind. Shows with smaller pits usually have smaller
casts also. They are Dames at Sea, this can easily be done with 2
pianos and rhythm section; Your a Good Man Charlie Brown can be done
with rhythm section; and Something's a Foot which can be done with a
Actually, most musicals can be done with piano, bass guitar or string
(I find the first better because of volume) and trap set. Depending
the show, a wind instrument or two would add color..
Your A Good Man Charlie Brown is a good musical that has the option of
small pit (if my memory serves me correctly, there is full orchestral
combo orchestrations). I think that the combo orchestration has
Flute, Drum, and Bass. We did it (Jr. High) with piano, flute, and
This is to the person asking about musicals with small orchestras,
message I have unfortunately deleted. (N.b., theater people refer to
orchestra as "the pit." Musicians uniformly resent and feel insulted
that terminology. Not a matter of political correctness, just common
This is pulled from a "List of Best Known Musicals" I happen to have.
picked out the shows with fewer than 20 specified in the orchestra.
pickings are pretty slim, and some may not be suitable for high school
production. Some may have special needs difficult to fill in a high
production, like harp, classical guitar, or rock-capable musicians who
Of Thee I Sing
Bye Bye Birdie
Babes in Arms
Guys & Dolls
Man of La Mancha
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Little Shop of Horrors
There's always "You're a good Man, charlie Brown", "The Fantasticks",
and "Godspell". "The Boyfriend" is also a good one--especially if you
can find a banjo player--we did it with piano, drums & banjo. If you
have a decent pianist, you can get away with any musical as long as you
can throw in a bass and drums.
The first thing that popped into my head is the wonderful "You're A
Man, Charlie Brown." If there's a problem, it's that it also features
small cast. The upside is that it's a smart, charming, off-beat and
timeless piece of material.
Go on Google and learn about its recent revival, and if you choose
original cast recording, by all means get the earlier one from the 70s.
Amazon has them in stock. Good luck.
"The Boyfriend" is quite good, requiring about 11 or so, and much of
cast is supposed to be high-school age or so. (MTI) It's an hommage to
1920's musicals, so don't expect much depth, but it's a show I've
to do again for decades.
"Working" Piano, bass, drums, second keyboard if desired.
"Little Shop" Same as above
"Leader of the Pack" Basic Rock band, 2 guitars, bass, drums, etc.
"Diamond Studs"--Country & western band with banjo.
suds....week plot....but requires 1 keyboard, rhythm guitar, bass
and drums. all 60's and 70's songs. Do not recall who composed suds.
1. Fantasticks: no chorus
2. Robber Bridegroom: Bluegrass band
I hate to even say this, but you could use synth strings instead of
strings, and hire only winds/perc.
Two of the top of my head:
Little Shop of Horrors is rhythm section only -- drums, piano, bass,
Once On This Island is 7 instruments: soprano sax, piano,
flute/alto flute, guitar, bass, drums.
"Time and Time Again" is a fun musical, 50's setting, that we did
well with a limited pit. I do most of my musicals without a pit,
piano, so others I have done would work too. Snoopy or You're a Good
Charlie Brown both fair nicely to small or no pit. Time and Time Again
available through Samuel French I believe. The kids and the audience
enjoyed this one.
The obvious choices are things like, "Godspell," "Little Mary
Sunshine," "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," and ANY musical revue
such as "Rodgers and Hart, a musical celebration," or "Red, Hot, and
Thank you for all your responses.
Luxemburg/Casco High School
512 Center Dr.
Luxemburg, WI 54217
920-845-2336 ext. 434