Music & Lyrics by Benji Goldsmith
Book & Lyrics by Jonathan Karpinos
Additional Book & Lyric Material by Meg Sturiano

The Average Achievers follows Lenny Lansing, the newest member of the junior class at the mind-bogglingly prestigious Akron Heights High School (“Where Everyone Overachieves!”). When AHH's stringent requirements, the pressures of standardized testing, and the specter of college become more than he can take, Lenny forms unlikely friendships with four of his classmates, and together they become "Average Achievers." Engineering a way to boycott their most onerous classes, the Average Achievers revel in their newfound freedom, discovering authentic passions along the way. But their plan succeeds in unexpected ways, and Lenny has to wrestle with what he really wants to achieve.

Benji and Jonathan at a talkback for the show in 2015

Production History

In the fall of 2007, Jonathan Karpinos and I were commissioned to write an original musical for Acting Manitou, a summer theater camp in Oakland, Maine. Both of us had worked at Acting Manitou that summer—I worked as a musical director and Jonathan as a teaching artist. Because we were writing for young actors in a camp setting—and because I was a sophomore in high school at the time!—we set out to create a show that could speak to teenagers as well as adults.

Since then, the show's credits include:

  • A 70-minute One-Act version (world premiere) at Acting Manitou in August, 2008, directed by Ben Steinfeld (then called The Averageachievers Club)

  • A full-length staged reading presented at the June Havoc Theater in February, 2009, directed by Ben Steinfeld

  • The titular song "The Average Achievers" was featured at National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s Songwriters Showcase in October, 2009

  • A three-week workshop at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in February, 2010, directed by Kate Galvin

  • A full production at Hunter College High School (Benji's alma mater) in March, 2015, directed by Meg Sturiano (at which point Meg, who has always been supportive of the show, joined our writing team)

The Acting Manitou production, August 2008

The Acting Manitou production, August 2008

The University of the Arts workshop, February 2010

The University of the Arts workshop, February 2010

What inspired the show? A sense that the promise of college in America and the process of applying to college—along with the pressures that those processes create—are unsustainable. A faith in young people, combined with a nagging feeling that education can steer us away from becoming who we’re meant to become. A desire ourselves to find a more "average" way of life and not constantly trying to excel at everything. And, of course, contempt for poorly written word problems.

Below are a few sample songs from the show. Enjoy!

The Average Achievers at Hunter College High School, March 2015

© Benji Goldsmith 2019