No one — not a dictator, not a politician, not a celebrity, not an influencer — is in possession of more power than a high school theater director. For a small community of theater kids, the director is the one person whose approval you crave most in the world, above their parents, friends, and even above God. And no decision is more likely to impact the trajectory of the high school theater kid’s year than what musical the director chooses to do next year.

Marji Eldreth, the music teacher at the Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington, Delaware, is no doubt well aware of this. That’s why she’s keeping her students in daily suspense this semester by revealing, by process of elimination, which musical the school will perform next year. Every day, she takes a logo of a musical off her piano and rips it up in front of her classroom, explaining why it didn’t make the cut this year. (“I love this show. It’s an awesome show. We’re just not going to do it at school next year. I’m going to disappoint a lot of people…it’s Ragtime.”) And she documents the whole dramatic elimination process on TikTok, for her 24,000 rapt followers to witness.


Reply to @nan.tuckette #theatre #theatre #cabcallowayschoolofthearts #ComeDanceWithMe #broadwaymusicals #eliminationday #reveal #ripthemusical #education #music #musicteacherstiktok #broadway

♬ original sound – Marji Eldreth

The appeal of watching a high school theater director slowly reveal which show her students will stage is difficult to pinpoint. After all, barring having family members or friends enrolled at her school, few of Eldreth’s followers presumably have any investment in what musical a Delaware performing arts school will be performing next year, nor will most of them be watching the finished production (though Eldreth did put up her school’s last production, a rousing rendition of Mamma Mia!, on YouTube).

Eldreth’s videos appear to strike a chord among current and former theater kids, who are intimately acquainted with the sensation of waiting, with bated breath, to see how their casting fates will play out next year (consider for instance, if you’re an alto, and the show’s lead is lyric soprano alone — you’re SOL, baby). User @mattsilar sums up the appeal thusly: “Every day my For You page says: you don’t know this lady, you don’t know this school, you don’t know these students. But you do care what musical they’re doing next year. You care so much, like people cared about the pug with the bones.”


Why am I SO invested?!? #theatrekid #tiktok #musicals #voiceteacher #actingcoach

♬ original sound – mattsilar

The amount of engagement generated by Eldreth’s videos has also spawned similar trends from other high school musical theater directors, eager to take their power trip — ahem, sorry, the special bond they have with their students — nationwide.

This week on Don’t Let This Flop, Rolling Stone‘s podcast about internet news and culture, co-hosts Brittany Spanos and Ej Dickson discuss Eldreth and High School Musical TikTok, as well as Spokane-style pizza, Britney Spears’s pregnancy (and Lindsay Lohan’s rumored pregnancy), and why on Earth Al Pacino carries around a Shrek phone case.

DLTF is released Wednesdays on all audio streaming platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Stitcher and more.

DLTF is released Wednesdays on all audio streaming platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Stitcher and more.