- 13 Top Broadway Shows Teens Love
- 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 are 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.
Teen Traveler and her friends are big fans of Broadway musicals. They’re starting to appreciate dramas and quirky off-Broadway theater, too.
This is a round-up of ongoing shows that the Teen Traveler and other NYC teens we have liked and loved. I hope it will give you a sense of what appeals to the sensibilities of kids in the 12-18YO range. And maybe I’ll steer you toward some wonderful shows you would not have thought of.
13 Top Broadway Shows Teens Love
On Broadway – Musicals & Dramas
After seeing Josh Groban play the title character in Steven Sondheim’s musical Sweeney Todd, it’s become Teen Traveler’s favorite currently-running musical and her all-time second favorite play (#1 is Into the Woods).
She and her dad managed to snag tickets for what is one ot the hottest Broadway shows this summer. She says she had trepidations about seeing it, given the plot is about a murderous barber and his pie-making neighbor, Mrs Lovett. And the New York Times reported heavy blood splatter.
She’s obviously happy she saw it. She reports that it’s not nearly as bloody as the Times reported, and she loved the elaborate sets, big ensemble and full orchestra, a rarity on Broadway these days.
The music is full of the complex layering and clever turns of phrase Sondheim is known for. Mrs. Lovett is a wonderful female-comic role when it’s done well (Teen Traveler says Annaleigh Ashford nails it). She thought the dialogue was very witty and especially loved the many dark puns.
Teen Travelers recommends it for high schoolers, who will like the black humor, the dialogue and the music.
The ending is worthy of a Shakespeare tragedy, there’s some stage blood and a good deal of murder. She cautions against taking kids under 13. I would give middle-schoolers the gist of the story before you attend this tale, so they know what to expect.
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.
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.
Harry Potter & The Cursed Child
The Cursed Child has impressively cool sets and choreography 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. 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.
They’ve condensed the New York show so that you can now see it as a single play rather than two consecutive ones, which makes tickets way more affordable. But it’s still a very pricey ticket. Think twice before bringing your youngest Potter 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.
MJ the Musical
I saw a 45-minute version of MJ: the Musical at an event I went to this fall. You have to take the dramatized story of Michael Jackson’s rise and fall with a grain off salt. But the dancing is the reason you go anyway. I was very aware that I was watching someone imitating Jackson rather than the icon himself. But the choreography is energetic and highly appealing.
I think this falls into the category of musicals parents want to see that teens will like. Your kids will know more of the music than you might expect. And they might actually know more of the Jackson 5 hits, which is now classic wedding and prom tunes, than Michael’s solo stuff. And they’ll like the dancing.
Teen Traveler saw this play without us. She described 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 download 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.”
Merrily We Roll Along
Merrily, another Sondheim classic, is running this fall and winter with Daniel Radcliffe and Jonathan Groff. We’re going to try very hard to get tickets because, you know, Sondheim, Radcliffe, Groff.
It follows three friends over 20 years of their lives as one evolves from a composer to a successful Hollywood producer, leaving his friends behind him. It’s an expensive and hot ticket, as you can imagine. and I think will be fine for all ages, 11YO and up.
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Read all my other posts about NYC with kids and teens
Many off-Broadway shows these days have big name stars and high production value and tickets can be as in-demand for popular off-Broadway shows as on-Broadway. And sometimes you’ll see something headed to Broadway before it gets there.
Don’t feel like you’re skimping on a great theater experience by looking beyond Times Square for a great play. The only you might be missing out on are the high ticket prices. Some off-Broadway tickets can be expensive but nowhere near the prices you’ll pay for the big musicals.
The Play that Goes Wrong
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.
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.
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.
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. It’s great for visitors with little or no English because there’s no dialogue at all.
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?
Little Shop of Horrors
Before writing the music and lyrics for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and other feel-good Disney hits, Alan Menken and Howard Ashman wrote Little Shop of Horrors, a musical based on a bad 1950s horror movie about a people-eating plant bent on world domination.
My Teen and several others we know loved the black humor, bad botanical puns and catchy songs. She downloaded the cast recording as soon as she got home and listened to nothing else for a few weeks.
I first saw the show when I was about her age, in its premier run down on the Bowery (the original Skid Row). I saw it on Broadway, too where they had to make it a bit bigger and splashier.
I have to say I love the latest run, in a theater just west of the Broadway district. The B-horror-movie kitsch, and exaggerated physical comedy work much better on a smaller stage.
Give one of the songs a listen with this video.
Though it’s off-Broadway the tiny cast is stellar and it hasn’t been an easy ticket to get. Jeremy Jordan is doing an encore stint as Seymour for the summer. If you can score seats definitely go.
Overheard From Friends
These are plays we haven’t gotten to yet or are not our cup of tea. But they’re popular and should be on your radar, too.
A friend saw this new musical comedy with 13 and 16YO boys. They all loved it and the older one in particularly laughed throughout. The action kicks off when the protagonist, Maizy, leaves her home, Cobb County, to find a way to save the community’s corn harvest and her wedding day. As you can see, it’s quite a pun-filled journey.
She told me the crowd really got behind the silly humor and the songs and were on their feet long before it was even over. It’s definitely an escapist, feel-good kind of show (which we can all use right now).
The three pop musicals just below are likely to appeal mostly to girls, so it’s great to have an option like Shucked (or Little Shop or Play That Goes Wrong) that appeals across genders. I think it could be the sleeper hit of 2023.
Shakespeare’s wife rewrites Romeo & Juliet and decides Juliet isn’t silly enough to kill herself over some guy. Instead, she escapes to Paris to become a club kid and find herself. & Juliet is a jukebox musical full of pop hits Max Martin has written for everyone from Katy Perry and Britney Spears to Justin Timberlake and Bon Jovi.
It previewed in November and should easily run through the summer. The word on the street is that the script is funny, the dance numbers are “Larger Than Life” and the whole play has been making audiences “Roar” during it’s run in London. It will give Six a run for its money. We know several teens hankering for tickets.
Six 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 my teen’s scene at all, but it offers a good dose of girl power and it’s a good pick for teens and tweens who generally prefer pop music to show tunes.
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 summer and in December. 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. I’ve always gotten center orchestra seats and no more than halfway back. Once I even got front row center!
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.
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 discounts are usually for new shows in previews and long-running plays.
It’s always worth checking to see what they have listed. 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.
• Seatplan is an interesting and worthwhile website to checkout. They offer discounts for select shows. But better still for several popular plays they have photos of the stage from different sections so you get a very real sense of the view you’d be paying for.
• 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 because they don’t tell you what seats you have until after you’ve completed the purchase. And I’ve gotten some pretty mediocre ones.
• 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.
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 orchestra seats to Hadestown for $69.
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Photos courtesy of the shows, via Trip Advisor. Feature Photo and Aladdin via Pixabay.