Fish, Faith, and Dinner for Five Thousand: Spring Musicals for Children's Choir

Looking for a musical for your children's choir to do this spring or summer?

There are dozens of children's musicals out there, with topics ranging from Creation to the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, Noah, Moses, Esther, Jonah and everything in between.

Most are based on a familiar Bible story, though set in a more modern context.

Some include production notes with ideas for set design, staging, and costumes. Others can be put together in less time with a smaller group of children.

I tend to look at the quality of the music first - something that's singable and in a good range - then, I look for meaningful text - a story line based on scripture with sound theological teaching.

I did a little searching to see what I could turn up this year - here are a few spring/general musicals worth considering:

Spring Musicals for Children's Choir

1. In the Image (2016)
Mark Burrows
Cast size: 13+

Summary: Mark Burrows' fantastic and inspiring new children's musical, In the Image, features a group of children who have just experienced the story of The Creation. And now they're starting to wonder what it really means to be created in the image of God. Through humorous, earnest exploration, the children discover that being created in the image of God isn't about physical appearance. It's about creativity, faithfulness, responsibility, community, and the ability to find the good in things. (30 minutes)

Listen to the full musical and see a copy of the music and script here.

2.  The Tale of Three Trees (1997)
Tom Long & Allen Pote
Cast size: 10+

Summary: This is incredibly strong! Based upon an American folk tale, this musical tells the story of Jesus' life in a timeless way. The music is easy enough to be performed by children, yet profound enough to appeal to performers of all ages. May be performed as part of a worship service or as a standalone program. (18 minutes)

Watch a full performance here.

3. Table for Five... Thousand (2009)
Tom Long & Allen Pote
Cast size: 11+

Summary: Unforgettable melodies and poignant lyrics abound in this inspiring musical based on the account of Jesus feeding the five thousand. Found in all four New Testament gospels, the story reveals how one young boy with five loaves of bread and two fish, along with his apparent willingness to share, led to an event so startling that members of the crowd wanted to proclaim Jesus as King. The musical remains true to the Biblical accounts while underlining the theme that the most humble among us - especially children - can do great things with God's help. (25-35 minutes)

Watch a full performance here.

4. Nic at Night (1996)
Kathie Hill
Cast size: 16+

Summary: This delightful play-within-a-play cleverly weaves the Gospel of John account of Nicodemus with the mystery of rebirth and renewal. Discover the mystery! Nic at Night includes the resurrection medley "The First Lord’s Day" making it perfect for Easter or anytime you want to creatively share the plan of salvation. (45 minutes)

5. Oh, Jonah! (1987)
Allen Pote
Cast size: flexible (8-10+)

Summary: A frolicking, fun-filled children's and/or youth musical based on the Old Testament story of Jonah that carries a serious message about responsibility. Diverse in musical styles, it is immediately appealing - especially the whale's song! (30 minutes)

6. What's Up, Zak? (2009)
Kim Ingram & Joe Milton
Cast size: 12+

Summary: Based on Luke 18-19, this musical is a fun and heartwarming exploration of the Bible story we all know and love. The familiar tale of Zaccheaus is relived as one rich but lonely tax collector casts his ego aside and climbs a tree for just one glimpse of Jesus. No gimmicks; just funny, lively songs that introduce a town bustling to prepare for a visit from a V.I.P - Very Important Prophet! The leaders of Jericho decide to throw a parade to welcome Jesus. But the people who need love the most, the lowly beggars and the tax collectors, are not invited to the party. (40 minutes)

7. Elijah! (1997)
Mark Patterson
Cast size: flexible (8-10+)

Summary: Charming and witty, this superb children's musical captivates the heart through its memorable melodies and humorous dialogue creatively telling the story of Elijah. From his confrontation with Ahab and Jezebel through his journey in the desert, Elijah shows his faith in the God who provides. Concluding with one of the most dramatic moments in the Old Testament, Elijah asks God to send down fire upon the altar at Mt. Carmel. There, the people of Israel see the power of the true and living God. (35-45 minutes)

8. 100% Chance of Rain (1972/revised)
Walter S. Horsley
Cast size: flexible (8-10+)

Summary: The story of Noah and the Ark incorporates lilting, singable melodies, infectious humor, and theologically sound text. The show ends with the promise of "100% chance of love!" (22-30 minutes)

See Spring musicals intended for young children here.

Related post: Spies, Shepherds, and Starry Nights: Christmas Musicals for Children's Choir

Write Your Own Musical

Of course, an alternative is to create your own musical by adding songs, anthems, and instrumental music to a spoken play or skit. You can even write your own simple narration (or identify someone in your church who has this gift) based on the text of the music you choose.

This can be as simple as you'd like and gives you the ability to really tailor something to your church and the resources you have available. Here are a few good places to start:

Choose a format. Your children’s choir program could be a standalone, hour-long event on a Sunday afternoon, or a shorter (15-20 minute) program in the middle of a Sunday morning service. You might also choose to do a midweek program (Wednesday night, say), when families are already used to coming for rehearsals.

Add variety. Choose some of your choir’s favorite anthems and songs from the year and add in a few instrumental pieces, solos/duets/trios, opportunities for congregational singing, and a piece for handbells, if you have a children’s handbell choir. If your church is small with limited resources, consider using orchestral accompaniment tracks for an added special effect. If you have a capable instrumentalist (or several!) - flute, trumpet, saxophone, violin, oboe, etc. - consider adding an instrumental obbligato on a few familiar pieces.

Use visuals. Plan some sort of processional (a hymn or repetitive anthem that the choir can sing as they process in or a handbell processional - here’s a free one for 16 bells). Have children reenact a familiar Bible story during a particular anthem. Use banners, streamers, handbells, etc. Have the children create art, banners, or other props to use during the program.

Do you do a Spring musical with your children each year? Have you ever created your own?

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