- 8Top Broadway Shows Teens Love(+ 3 Off-Broadway)
- Tips for Discounts
- Pin it for later!
The most common question I’m asked by parents visiting New York City is, “What Broadway shows should I see with my teen.”
It’s a a good question. Theater tickets can be expensive these days, even off-Broadway. And if you see only one play while you’re in the city you want it to be memorable for all the right reasons. So choosing a show does require some careful thought.
My family loves theater. We go to see plays for all of our birthdays and at the holidays and whenever we see a good deal on tickets for something on our want-to-see list. We’ve seen nearly a dozen shows since last October to make up for theaters being closed for a year and a half.
This is a round-up of Broadway and off-Broadway shows that Teen Traveler and her friends have liked and loved. I hope it will give you a sense of what appeals to the sensibilities of kids in the 12-16YO range. And maybe I’ll steer you toward some wonderful shows you would not have thought of.
8Top Broadway Shows Teens Love
(+ 3 Off-Broadway)
On Broadway – Musicals
Into the Woods
Into the Woods is Tween Traveler’s and my favorite play of all time. It’s Steven Sondheim at his best, which is saying something. The story is clever, the characters are perfectly drawn, the script and the songs are brilliant.
In the first act, Cinderella, Jack (of the beanstalk), Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, two charming princes, a witch and a baker and his wife go into the woods in search of their happily ever after. In the second act we get to see what happens after the happily ever after.
This rendition of the play is excellent, with creative staging and sophisticated puppetry. It’s a limited run that ends in January 2023. The run keeps getting extended, but I wouldn’t wait to see if it that happens again.
Come From Away
I recommend Come From Away to families visiting NYC more than any other show because it reliably pleases tweens, teens and adults.
The sets are minimal and almost everyone plays two characters: a town person and a plane person. The characters are sketched out quickly and well. The music moves the story along and the show has amazing energy.
It’s probably the most positive story that could possibly come out of the tragedy of 9/11. I envy the Come-from-ways who were sheltered from the full-brunt of the events for a few days and I understand their distress when they finally get to come home. There are single lines that conjure all the emotions of those days in a powerful way for people who lived through it.
I truly love this play but I can’t watch it without a handkerchief handy. Teen Traveler commented to me that her generation likes it because they enjoy the story and it helps them appreciate the enormity of 9/11. But it has the distance of history for them and they don’t find it nearly as emotional. This cast recording has heavy rotation phone.
An updated telling of a Greek myth set to a 1930s jazz-inflected score might not be the first thing you would take your kid to see, but NYC teens absolutely love Hadestown. Teen Traveler has friends who haven’t seen it yet but know all the songs. She describes this play as “awesome” and it gets constant play on her phone, too.
We had no idea what it was about when we got tickets; but several people with teens had recommended it to us as something parents and kids both like.
It’s story of Orpheus and Eurydice set in Great Depression. The staging is interesting. Hermes, the narrator, looks like a Harlem jazz club band leader in a silver lamé suit. The band is on stage during the show and there is only one set. Persephone is glamorous and resigned to her below-ground fate. Hades has a voice like Barry White. The music pulls you along.
We really hoped it would end differently than the original myth, but Hermes understands human nature too well for that to happen. If your kids don’t know the story you might want to give them a synopsis.
If you are looking for the razzle dazzle of Phantom or The Lion King, or want the happy ending of a Mama Mia, this might not be the play for you. But if you want something interesting, well-done and not your typical musical, hop on the train to Hadestown.
We saw the opening number performed on the Tony awards and thought it was really fun. On the weight of that, we high-tailed it to TKTS and got tickets.
I can’t say that Beetlejuice is going to be a classic Broadway show that people will see for decades to come. But it’s clever and entertaining. And it has exactly the kind of dark humor and sarcasm that tweens and teens really get a kick out of.
They tweak the story from the movie a bit, but make key nods to it, including the giant snake, which is pretty impressive, and the Harry Belafonte tunes.
You’re seeing this show because your teen or tween will like it. it’s not the all-ages pleaser of the above three plays, but there’s enough in it to make you feel it was an evening well-spent. Teen Traveler didn’t download the whole cast recording but there are a handful of songs from it that she still listens to two years after seeing it.
Alex Brightman, who originated the title role, has rejoined for the cast. This is an incentive to get tickets sooner rather than later because he’s great at the whole being dead thing. And given the buzz and Tony nod he’s gotten for this role there’s no telling when he might be lured away to a new show.
Teen Traveler saw this play without us so I only have her review to go by.
She describes Wicked as a modern teen melodrama with witches and flying monkeys (the two rival witches start out as best friends and at one point have a crush on the same boy).
She didn’t downloaded any music from the show; not even “Gravity,” so it’s safe to say it doesn’t make her top-ten. But she really enjoyed seeing it. She says it’s a “safe choice” with older kids, tweens and teens because “it’s light and fun and the music has a pop sound.”
Planning a trip to New York City?
Read all my other posts about NYC with kids and teens
On Broadway – Dramas
Harry Potter & The Cursed Child
This play has impressively cool sets and special effects that wowed us. The staging is a prime example of the magic Broadway can conjure when a show has serious money behind it.
It’s also a moving play that pulled us along for the full two nights. Plus, the time-travel element allows favorite Harry Potter characters —even dead ones—to make an appearance.
In my opinion, and Teen Traveler’s, The Cursed Child is not a children’s play. It deals with middle-age angst, complicated life choices, teen identity, living in the shadow of a parent’s legacy and more nuanced issues that will go over the heads of anyone under 11. Given that this is a very pricey ticket and a two-night commitment, think twice before bringing your youngest Potter fans.
We saw the show on two consecutive nights. You can see matinee and evening show on the same day but it’s a lot of theater, especially if you do try to take younger fans.
And yes, it’s okay to wear your Hogwarts apparel. Teen Traveler (then 13) wore muggle-wear on the first night but when she saw others, she donned her Ravenclaw robes and headband for night two.
Little Shop of Horrors
I’ve seen Little Shop of Horrors in its original run down on the Bowery (the original Skid Row), on Broadway and in its latest incarnation in a theater just west of the Broadway district. And I have to say the B-horror-movie kitsch and black humor work much better on a smaller stage.
Alan Menken and Howard Ashman wrote the music, lyrics and book, Letting loose a gleeful dark side before going on to resuscitate Disney’s animation business with the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and more. My teen thought the show was very funny and highly entertaining. She downloaded the cast recording as soon as she got home and listened to nothing else for a few weeks.
Though it’s off-Broadway the tiny cast is stellar and it hasn’t been an easy ticket to get. If you can score seats definitely go.
Blue Man Group
We were offered free tickets to this and I took them because I was curious to see what kids think of Blue Man Group these days. I can guarantee this mix of music, comedy and performance art will be like nothing your kids have seen before.
It can be a very loud show. But Tween Traveler stuck noise-muffling headphones on and had a ball. Afterward she wondered how the heck she would describe it to her friends at school on Monday.
The show’s theater that sits on the border between Greenwich Village and the East Village, pretty far off Broadway. These are quintessential and historic NYC neighborhoods and have a lot of great, cheap restaurants. So take time to explore them before or after the show.
Read my full Review Should Your Take Your Kids to Blue Man Group?
The Play that Goes Wrong
This comedy has been running for a while and it’s easy to find inexpensive tickets. Even if you want to see a big musical, consider seeing this as well.
Teen Traveler was laughing so hard when we saw it that I’m surprised she could breathe. The Play That Goes Wrong begins as an Agatha-Christie-type parlor murder. But it soon devolves into an old-fashioned physical comedy with windows that stick, doors that open when they shouldn’t and a corpse that moves itself.
If you go, make sure that you’re in your seat a good 15 minutes early. Things start to “go wrong” before the play even starts.
Aladdin is currently at home in the New Amsterdam, right on 42nd Street. It’s a historic theater that The Disney Co. did a predictably stellar job restoring. It’s an added bonus to seeing whatever play Disney is showcasing there at the moment.
Teen Traveler was never a huge fan of the Aladdin movie (Jasmine’s sartorial style just didn’t appeal at all). But she liked this show more than she thought she would.
The many big production numbers are hard to not like and they throw in a flying carpet, some pyrotechnics and a lot of confetti for good measure. They also added songs not in the original movie to make it fresh for the audience.
In the vein of Peter Pan, Annie and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, Aladdin is a Broadway show made for kids. Tween Traveler thinks 8-12YOs are the ideal audience. But, she says, “Anyone would like it.” It obviously isn’t her top recommendation if you’re just taking teens to a show. But it could be a good choice if you have both a teen and a younger child and need a play that both can enjoy.
The Music Man
I loved watching Hugh Jackman sing and dance his way through the Music Man, a play that’s known to be one of his favorites. And Sutton Foster keeps time with him every step of the way.
This is amazing production, but Teen Traveler thought it was just okay. For her this 1950s musical with an unlikely romance, an even more unlikely happy ending and classic show tunes is not as innovative or interesting as the more modern shows that she loves.
If you, like me, find Hugh Jackman irresistibly charismatic, see it because you want to and the teen you bring along with you will like it well enough.
But it is one of the most expensive and hard-to-get tickets on Broadway right now. So if your teen is really not keen on classic musicals, consider something with more all-ages appeal. Or leave them home and have Hugh all to yourself.
Overheard From Friends
Six has garnered eight Tony nominations and is particularly popular with teenage girls. It’s the only show on Broadway with an all-female cast and all-female band. It has the strong Broadway-meets-pop sensibility fueled by costumes created by a designer who worked with the Spice Girls. It’s not Teen Traveler’s scene at all but it offers a good dose of girl powe and it’s a good pick for for teens and tweens who generally prefer pop music to show tunes.
Hamilton is still a hot and expensive ticket—one we haven’t managed to get our hands on yet. But we’ve heard some teens say that once you’ve seen the play on Disney+, the actors doing the show live can’t quite live up to the original cast. So it’s dropped lower on our want-to-see list.
Whether or not you seek out tickets probably depends on how ardent a fan you and your teen are and how big your budget is. This and Music Man are two shows I never see discounted.
If you are an ardent fan, follow up your night at the show with a walking tour through Hamilton’s lower Manhattan, including his Federal Hall, Fraunces Tavern and Bowling Green.
Dear Evan Hansen
Dear Evan Hansen had been a reliable teen pleaser pre-Covid, but Teen Traveler hasn’t had any interest in it, even with Gaten Matarazzo from Stranger Things joining the cast this summer.
The play tackles serious issues including teen suicide. With teen anxiety and depression on the rise in the post-covid era I’ve heard some parents say the show hasn’t aged well. I’m happy my young theater goer prefers plays that are more escapist. If you are considering getting tickets make sure your teen or tween knows the story.
Tips for Discounts
As expensive as box office tickets are for Broadway shows there are ample opportunities to find discounts. It’s easy to find inexpensive tickets to some shows and almost impossible for others. You’ll find more discounts in mid-fall and deep winter than in the peak tourist months during the summer and between Thanksgiving and New Year. Here are some sources I’ve used to get a break on ticket prices.
• TKTS tickets are always exactly half-price and in my opinion they get the best seats of any discount dealer. For Beetlejuice I got seats that were center orchestra, about 15 rows from the stage.
You have to go to one of two TKTS booths in Manhattan and buy tickets for the same day (or the next day for matinees) and there are no guarantees of what they’ll have on any given day. I tend to keep an eye on TKTS live via the website or app to see what shows are showing up consistently. I’ve seen many of the show listed here in the TKTS feed at one time or another.
If you have a few shows you’re interested in and can get to the booth promptly when it opens you have a good shot at tickets you want at a 50% discount.
• The Playbill website offers discounts, generally of 30%-40% on select plays. They are usually new shows in previews or and long-running plays (which are often the plays tourists know and want to see).
We’ve taken advantage of the preview discounts a lot over the years. The risk is that you’re seeing shows that haven’t been reviewed yet. We’ve seen some stellar plays with actors who are household names. We’ve also seen a couple of clunkers (some of these also with household names).
It’s always worth checking to see what they have listed. This week it has discounts for Come From Away and Tony-nominee A Strange Loop, among other things.
The advantage of Playbill is that they provide a discount code you take to the show’s regular ticket vendor (like Ticketmaster) and from there you can choose your seats like any other ticket buyer.
• Today Tix offers roughly the same discount as Playbill but on a wider range of shows. I’ve bought tickets this way once or twice but it’s not my favorite. For one thing, while they let you choose orchestra, mezzanine or balcony they don’t tell you what seats you have until after you’ve completed the purchase. Tickets I’ve gotten from here have been in the very back of the orchestra, way over to the side or in the rear mezzanine.
If you want to be sure of getting tickets to a specific show, want to save a little and aren’t picky about your seats then TodayTix might be the best option. But I prefer to use TKTS or Playbill when I can.
• I’ve only started using Seat Geek for Broadway tickets recently. It’s a verified reseller and tickets can sell at a discount or premium to face value, depending on demand. It’s the way to find seats to shows that you just can’t get tickets to otherwise.
But some shows use Seat Geek as their main ticket venue and they’ll discreetly lower prices on slower days. For a Wednesday matinee in early November I got $99 orchestra seats to Hadestown for $69.
Stub Hub works in a similar way to Seat Geek, but for a recent show Stub Hub sold me and someone else a reseller ticket for same seat, which makes me fairly cautious about using it again.
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Photos courtesy of the shows, via Trip Advisor. Feature Photo and Aladdin via Pixabay.