It’s spooky season, and if you’re looking for plays and musicals to frighten, horrify, and creep you out, you’re in the right place. Below you’ll find 10 scary plays from our own Theatrefolk library and 10 terrifying Broadway and off-Broadway musicals featuring scary creatures of all sorts, including ghosts, aliens, demons, and mutants.
Introduce these plays and musicals to your students, read them as a class, and check out performances of them (many have filmed or movie versions to stream or purchase, or promotional clips to view on YouTube). You can also use the reading response worksheet as a resource, found at the bottom of this page. Have fun… if you dare!
From our own Theatrefolk catalogue, here is a selection of plays that are perfect for middle and high school students to study and perform. Livestream and Zoom options are available for most productions, and there are tons of opportunities for diverse casting choices. Whether you’re looking for a classic tale, a murder mystery, a scary comedy, or an all-out gorefest, we’ve got what you need!
1. Ashland Falls by Steven Stack
A creepy, challenging play-within-a-play filled with twists, turns, drama, and intrigue. A mysterious new play director comes to Herbert Hoover High, where the on and offstage drama is about to make way for real-life revenge. Each student actor plays two vastly different roles, which makes this a great choice for senior drama students.
2. The Bottom of the Lake by Steven Stack
The only thing that goes better together than chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows is summer camp and ghost stories. This play combines ghost stories, urban legends, comedy, and more, and has tons of great roles for female-presenting student actors.
3. Close Encounters of the Undead Kind by Jeffrey Harr
A creepy collection of three plays that can be performed together or separately, featuring a terrifying teen support group, a Halloween that proves to be anything but boring, and a teen with an… unusual boyfriend.
4. Gothic Ghost Stories by Lindsay Price
You’ve arrived early at Peveril House for the annual New Year’s Ball, and the family is eager to tell you some stories. Of course, with all the spiritual energy in Peveril House, the stories of choice are always ghost stories. With 49 characters, there are roles for everyone in your drama department, with doubling and tripling options for a smaller cast production.
5. Grim and Gruesome Grimm, adapted by Mrs. Evelyn Merritt from Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
A flexible and bloody adaptation of the classic Grimms’ fairy tales. Featuring decapitation, dismemberment, cannibalism, and a body count that keeps on growing. Lots of options for flexible casting and cast size, and various show lengths.
6. Hamlet, Zombie Killer of Denmark by Chris Stiles
King Claudius plans to turn Denmark into the land of the undead and Hamlet must stop him! This adaptation blends the classic Shakespearean text with new lines written in iambic pentameter.
7. The Haunting of Chip Lake Lodge by J. Robert Wilkins
A group of teens show up to the wrong location for their prom and things get worse from there, including mysteries, hauntings, curses, and giant rats. A spooky play for a small group of student actors.
8. Horror Movie 101: Failing Can Be Deadly and Horror Movie 102: Failing Just Got Deadlier by Steven Stack
Two hour-long plays that are horrifying and hilarious. The teens in St. Claire keep getting killed while violating the rules of horror movies — so much so that a second play had to be written! Opportunities for double and triple casting, and the scenes can be performed together or as standalone pieces.
9. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, adapted by Lindsay Price from Washington Irving
This is the classic tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman in a 30-minute run time, perfect for large groups of student actors.
10. Shuddersome: Tales of Poe, adapted by Lindsay Price from Edgar Allen Poe
(Free Classroom Study Guide available!)
Ghosts. Ghouls. Soul Suckers. Spectres. Shudders. Who better to bring the classic tales of Edgar Allen Poe to life… or death? This play has lots of opportunities for creative movement, costuming, and theatricality, and can be customized to fit the running time and casting choices you need.
If you don’t see what you need here, there are lots more in our online catalogue. Just search for terms like “scary,” “horror,” “Halloween,” or “ghost” and you’ll find a plethora of plays to haunt you! Or reach out to our Play Concierge for specific recommendations!
The following shows have appeared either on or off Broadway, many of them also appearing on the West End. Many of these musicals now offer youth editions, written especially for high school students to perform. Some of these shows are based on films, books, and comics, which can be interesting to compare and contrast with clips from the musical.
1. The Addams Family: A New Musical, book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Ellis, music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Charles Addams’ creepy, kooky, and altogether ooky family comes back to life onstage. When Wednesday Addams falls in love with Lucas, a “normal” guy, she begs her father Gomez to keep it a secret from his wife, Morticia. When the Addamses and Lucas’ family come together for a family dinner, chaos ensues.
2. Beetlejuice, book by Scott Brown and Anthony King, music and lyrics by Eddie Perfect
Lydia Deetz and her father Charles move into a new house that is haunted by the previous owners, Adam and Barbara Maitland, who aren’t ready to give up their home despite being newly deceased. The Maitlands enlist the help of the bio-exorcist ghost Beetlejuice to help them get rid of the Deetzes; however, Beetlejuice has his own agenda. Based on the 1988 film starring Michael Keaton.
3. Carrie: The Musical, book by Lawrence D. Cohen (based on the novel by Stephen King), music by Michael Gore, lyrics by Dean Pitchford
Carrie White has been bullied by practically everyone in her life, from the popular kids at school to her fanatically religious mother. When she is pushed too far (pig’s blood, anyone?), Carrie gets her revenge. The musical version of Carrie has an interesting history, originally premiering in 1988 and becoming a Broadway flop, then being revamped for off-Broadway in 2012.
4. Evil Dead: The Musical, book and lyrics by George Reinblatt, music by Christopher Bond, Frank Cipolla, Melissa Morris, and George Reinblatt
Based on the Evil Dead movie franchise, this rock musical was first performed in Toronto before moving to an off-Broadway run at New World Stages. Five college students discover an evil book in the basement of an abandoned cabin in the woods and read it, unleashing unspeakable horror that turns everyone into demons one by one. Productions often feature a “splatter zone” where audience members get doused in stage blood.
5. Jekyll & Hyde, book by Leslie Bricusse (based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson), music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Frank Wildhorn, Leslie Bricusse, and Steve Cuden
Brilliant Dr. Jekyll attempts to cure his father’s mental illness, but inadvertently creates himself an evil alternate personality named Mr. Hyde. Mr. Hyde terrorizes London, and Dr. Jekyll must find a cure to control him before he takes over permanently.
6. Little Shop of Horrors, book by Howard Ashman, music and lyrics by Alan Menken
Shy floral shop worker Seymour finds a mysterious plant that looks like a Venus flytrap. He names it Audrey II after his co-worker Audrey, who Seymour is secretly in love with. Seymour discovers that his plant feeds on blood, and as Audrey II quickly grows, it demands to be fed more and more. Based on the 1960 film The Little Shop of Horrors.
7. The Phantom of the Opera, libretto by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe (based on the novel by Gaston Leroux), music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Charles Hart, additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe
A series of increasingly frightening incidents occur at the Paris Opéra House, which are blamed on the “opera ghost” or “O.G.” The opera ghost is revealed to be a mysterious, disfigured musical genius living in the catacombs under the theatre. He falls in love with soprano Christine Daaé and as his love turns to obsession, will stop at nothing to make her his forever. As of 2023, Phantom is the longest-running show on Broadway, opening in 1988 and closing in 2023.
8. The Rocky Horror Show, book, music, and lyrics by Richard O’Brien
The stage musical came first! The film version has achieved cult status, but the stage version premiered in 1973 on the West End and has been revived all over the world ever since. Newlyweds Brad and Janet take shelter from a rainstorm in the home of mad scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter. With catchy songs like “Time Warp,” the show feels like a light-hearted homage to vintage sci-fi and B movies. However, the “horror” aspect of the title is appropriate as mysterious and murderous events occur throughout the night.
9. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, book by Hugh Wheeler, music and lyrics by Steven Sondheim
Benjamin Barker is transported to Australia for a crime he did not commit. Fifteen years later, he returns to England, and vows revenge. Reinventing himself as barber Sweeney Todd, he kills his customers with his shaving razor and sends their bodies to his downstairs neighbour Mrs. Lovett, who disposes of them in a most sinister fashion. Based on the 1970 play Sweeney Todd by Christopher Bond.
10. The Toxic Avenger, book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro, music and lyrics by David Bryan
Tromaville, New Jersey has been turned into a toxic waste dump. Nerdy Melvin Ferd the Third vows to clean it up and put a stop to whoever is responsible for leaving the drums of toxic goo everywhere. Melvin is attacked by goons, who toss him into a vat of toxic waste and leave him for dead. What they didn’t anticipate was Melvin transforming into a huge green mutant with a melted face, muscled body, and monstrous determination to save New Jersey. Based on the 1984 film of the same name.