Check out the trends that appeared throughout Broadway shows this season

From broad themes like rock music to hyper-specific details like rainstorms on stage, this season's Broadway shows had lots of fun common threads to spot.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

It’s a gift that every Broadway musical, play, and concert offers a one-of-a-kind experience. The theatre is a dynamic place, but sometimes, Broadway minds think alike. Looking at the productions in the 2023-24 Broadway season, both grand and granular connections come to light.

Themes, musical styles, narrative approaches, and even special effects appear within multiple shows that are otherwise entirely unique. As the 2023-24 season approaches its grand finale with the Tony Awards on June 16, New York Theatre Guide looks back at trends big and small that played out on Broadway. If you liked one show that exhibits a particular trend, you might find your next favorite show in this roundup.

Get Broadway tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

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The 2023-24 Broadway season: Facts and stats

How many new shows have you seen? What’s next on your must-see list? Relive the season in a flash with these quick stats about the Broadway shows that premiered in the past season, which ran from April 28, 2023 and April 25, 2024. Click on the link to each show name below to get tickets.

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39 shows opened on Broadway this season.

There’s always something for everyone on Broadway. Want to walk out humming the songs, new or familiar? You’re covered. Want to walk out discussing the twisty plot? Done.

A total of 39 shows opened on Broadway in the 2023-2024 season. That tally includes 15 new musicals, six musical revivals, 10 new plays, five play revivals, and three specials. Three of these productions transferred from London’s West End, England's theatre hub akin to Broadway.

This number is on trend with past years: Approximately 35-40 productions open each Broadway season.

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It was a banner season for women.

Metrics have meaning. In the spring alone this theatre season, a dozen female directors staged 16 shows, including new works, revivals, and shows that premiered in past seasons and are still running. Sixteen shows feature a script, music, lyrics, and/or source material written by a woman. Ten have a female choreographer. Individually and together, those stats are record-breaking.

Read more about the women-led shows on Broadway this spring.

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Stars shone bright on Broadway.

Broadway has an appreciation for celebrities on stage. This season's productions brought close encounters with an array of bright stars. Here's a quick rundown of this year's A-listers on stage — some of whom you can see right now.

2023-24 Broadway trends

Like classic rock or musical adaptations of novels? Multiple shows have you covered on each of these fronts and more — giving you plenty of options for shows you might enjoy. Check out more common themes in Broadway plays and musicals this season, and click on the link to each show name to get tickets.

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Rock music on Broadway

Classic rock is a music genre that always keeps the beat and never gets old. Three rock-flavored shows, each with a distinct and vibrant sound, opened on Broadway this season.

The new play Stereophonic follows a fictional 1970s rock band on the cusp of superstardom making their next album. The revival of The Who's Tommy turns the British rock group’s 1969 concept album and movie spinoff into a story of trauma, celebrity, and self-reckoning.

Finally, The Heart of Rock and Roll uses the Huey Lewis and the News catalog to tell the 1980s story of a couple of die-hard dreamers — and as a bonus, two Huey Lewis songs ("The Power of Love" and "Back in Time") also appear in this season's Back to the Future musical, adapted from the 1985 film.

Learn more about the rock musicals on Broadway this season and get tickets.

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Jukebox musicals of all genres

Jukebox musicals, in which an artist's existing songs tell a story on stage, are a theatre staple. The Heart of Rock and Roll, with Lewis's catalog, is one. Hell's Kitchen uses old songs and new showtunes by Alicia Keys in a musical inspired by the 16-time Grammy winner’s life. Illinoise transforms Sufjian Stevens’s concept album into a dance-driven coming-of-age musical.

The first jukebox musical to premiere this season was the Britney Spears show Once Upon a One More Time, about fairytale princesses rewriting their stories.

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Page-to-stage adaptations

Musicals have always looked to literature for inspiration. This season’s literary boom featured so many books-turned-musicals that Broadway seemed like a Little (Not) Free Library. Four new Broadway shows began as novels that also became movies before being musicalized.

These bestselling titles from various decades include F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 Jazz Age classic The Great Gatsby, S. E. Hinton’s 1967 novel The Outsiders, Nicholas Sparks’s 1996 love story The Notebook, and Sara Gruen’s 2006 historical romance novel Water for Elephants, set in a circus.

Learn more about how bestselling books became Broadway blockbusters this season and get tickets.

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Coming-of-age awakenings

Stories of young people on journeys of self-discovery and enlightenment are rich and evergreen. That theme beats at the heart of several shows.

  • The Outsiders: 14-year-old Ponyboy Curtis tries to free himself from a dead-end gang rivalry.
  • Hell's Kitchen: New York City teen Ali looks for love and tests the boundaries of her independence.
  • Illinoise: Shy Henry recalls romance found (and lost, and found).
  • The Who's Tommy: A traumatized young man goes on a trippy journey and discovers pinball — and himself.
  • The Wiz: Teenage Dorothy comes into her own in this all-Black adaptation of The Wizard of Oz.

Specific 2023-24 Broadway trends

The doubles (and triples) are in the details. Did you notice any of these specific commonalities between this season's Broadway shows? Discover how eye-catching elements pop up in various different stories — click on the link to each show name to get tickets.

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Power houses

A house that becomes a sort of living character is a whole new form of real estate. The early-season play Grey House featured a haunted cabin, while The Wiz includes a witch-killing Kansas abode. Appropriate’s Southern estate harbors toxic secrets, and I Need That had the kind of clutter-packed home you'd expect from a hoarder.

And in Paula Vogel's Mother Play, subtitled A Play in Five Evictions, the idea of home looms large. Changes in housing parallel the central family's changing status, financially and interpersonally.

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Memory serves

Characters who bridge the past and present by reflecting on what’s come before are all over Broadway. Memory-play elements appear in musicals and plays alike.

  • Lempicka: The title painter looks back from 1970s Los Angeles to her life, loves, and work in 1920s Paris.
  • Water for Elephants: Elderly Jacob Jankowski flashes back to the 1930s when he found love – in more ways than one – in a traveling circus.
  • The Notebook: From the current day, salt-of-the-earth Noah recalls his decades-spanning, life-changing romance with Allie.
  • The Great Gatsby: Long Island mystery man millionaire Jay Gatsby looks back from the 1920s to his wartime romance with Daisy.
  • Merrily We Roll Along: The relationships of three ambitious friends come into sharp, heart-shattering fashion as the story runs in reverse from the 1970s to the 1950s.
  • Mother Play: A daughter, Martha, recalls life with her beloved brother, Carl, and their difficult mom, Phyllis.
  • In the now-closed Harmony and Prayer for the French Republic, characters looked back across decades to the era of the Nazis' rise.

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Cars on stage

Automobiles are four-wheel symbols of status — and, in one case, a time machine. Cars figure prominently into the plots of Back to the Future: The Musical (a time-traveling DeLorean), The Great Gatsby (a shiny roadster involved in a fatal hit-and-run), The Outsiders (a Corvette that signals the divide between the haves and have-nots).

Two cars feature in Lempicka: an onstage one is a dancing platform for the model Rafaela, and another, a Bugatti, is depicted in the late titular artist’s self-portrait. Dancers also use their bodies to represent a car in Illinoise.

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Buckets of rain

Rain on stage is a time-tested attention-getter, which explains why several actors get soaked this season in their shows. An actual downpour soaks main characters Allie and Noah during a sweethearts’ kiss in The Notebook. Rain also pours down on rival gangs as they fight like cats and dogs in The Outsiders. Meanwhile, scenic magic in The Great Gatsby makes it look like it's raining as the title character reunites with long-lost love Daisy.

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Accent on aging

Getting older isn’t always easy. The impact of aging plays out in three shows set partly in nursing homes. In The Notebook, elderly Allie reckons with dementia, while in Water for Elephants, Jacob Jankowski reflects on his younger self's circus experience and considers running off on a new one. In Mother Play, aging matriarch Phyllis struggles to recall her two children, Carl and Martha.

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Give it a shot

One way to break the fourth wall is to serve the audience a free shot. They’re doing that at An Enemy of the People (Linie Aquavit) and Cabaret (cherry schnapps) and off Broadway at The Twenty-Sided Tavern (Malört). Cheers!

Keep up with the latest trends on Broadway by checking out a new show. Get Broadway tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

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