1. Death of a Salesman
This is by far one of our most loved shows. There's so much depth and hurt along with big characters that draw you in. Willy Loman is the ultimate American archetype of hope, narcissism and failure. With a strong lead actor, this show can be incredibly powerful.
2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
While we did mention this one in our Top 10 Male Ensemble Plays for High School, it still merits mention here. R. P. McMurphy wouldn't be much without his team of fellow patients. But as their fearless and wild leader, McMurphy fights the good fight against the ultimate hag, Nurse Ratched. Many a Best Actor awards has been won by a McMurphy.
3. The Diviners
Ahhh, this is a dreamy one. The costumes, the accents, the characters, oh my! This is another favorite of ours. It's a beautiful look into a family and how a tragedy they've suffered has rippled through multiple lives. Aptly named C. C. Showers is a layers, complex lead man.
4. The Grapes of Wrath
This is a fabulous book-turned-play. Both versions of the story are led by Tom Joad, a pitiful protagonist leading his family to freedom and possibly more harm. It's a gorgeous, salt-of-the-earth story with plenty of potential for a strong male lead.
5. Unexpected Tenderness
Who could ever forget the grandmother's "Roar" monologue?! Goodness, that one always gets me. This period play set in the 1950s shows a tumultuous marriage and the way it shapes their children. Roddy, the abusive father, swings through the emotional spectrum from enraged to pitifully helpless. It makes for an incredible role when a strong actor takes it on.
6. To Kill a Mockingbird
This classic, both in book and play form, has touched countless people. The themes of family, race and law are still very topical today and make for a poignant look at how the three intertwine. Atticus Finch is at the center of a web of plots and creates a powerful figure in his family, the community and the courtroom.
7. The Elephant Man
True story, historical piece and costume heaven all in one. The Elephant Man is a striking piece and leaves a particularly sharp empathy with its audience. Physical acting is high priority here, but when it's done right, the role of John Merrick can be inspiring.
8. Of Mice and Men
This one was also on the Top 10 Male Ensemble Plays for High School, but the characters still require noting. Both George and Lennie make for great leads, depending on how you cut and stage the show. The story is both George's and Lennie's as one requires an incredible depth of power and empathy and the other a need to blend into his character without becoming a caricature. So technically both men are great leads, and when both are equally powerful, it makes for a fabulous show.
9. The Man of La Mancha
This piece is a triple threat: book, musical and stage play. And the imaginative and possibly mad Don Quixote has created huge shoes to fill. Both hilarious, endearing and noble, DQ requires a full 360 degrees of acting potential from his actor.
10. Golden Boy
While we haven't seen this show performed in several years, it's still with us. A down-on-his-luck violinist decides his only option to keep his and his family's head above water is to use a talent he's not proud of: boxing. It's a dark period piece about balancing love, passion and family. Golden Boy requires a natural athlete as well as a gifted actor.