The best Broadway shows for teenagers

From shows about everyday teenage life to fresh stage adaptations of popular high school literature class books, plays and musicals for teens come in all forms.

Caroline Cao
Caroline Cao

At age 13, I first dove into theatre through a common gateway: Rent. I lip-synced Adam Pascal’s rendition of “One Song Glory” for a presentation in my middle school theatre class to both amazed and baffled looks. As a millennial growing up in conservative Texas, Rent offered a stepping stone into the theatre and queer communities.

In recent years, today's teenagers – and nostalgic adults – have seen themselves reflected in teen-centric shows like Be More Chill, Percy Jackson, and Heathers. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for plays and musicals for teenagers: They may tackle teenhood, elicit high school memories, or adapt common school literature. Growing pains also make killer 11 o’clock numbers.

Below, check out current Broadway shows for teenagers, and get tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

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Merrily We Roll Along

The original 1981 premiere of Stephen Sondheim's musical may have flopped, but it made some memorably ambitious choices: reverse-chronological storytelling and the casting of high schoolers and young adults to play 40somethings.

Today's critically acclaimed, Maria Friedman-directed Merrily We Roll Along revival casts adults (Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe, and Lindsay Mendez as three ill-fated friends), but Merrily remains a cautionary tale for teens and high schoolers to be wary of when they stray from their dreams.

Lonny Price’s The Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened documentary captures the bittersweetness of the adult original cast reflecting on their short-lived spotlight in the original Merrily.

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Hell’s Kitchen

Loaded with Alicia Keys’s best hits, Hell’s Kitchen charts the coming-of-age of 17-year-old Ali (Maleah Joi Moon), loosely based on Keys herself. Ali wants to escape her mother's stern supervision and enjoy what her beloved and musically thunderous Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood has to offer, especially a handsome drummer. Along the way, Ali also discovers a passion for music.

Hell’s Kitchen brims with mother-daughter tensions, Keys's passionate score, tenacious artists, and Camille A. Brown’s energetic choreography.

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& Juliet

A great jukebox musical understands that we sang pop mega-hits to ourselves because they made us feel powerful. Filled with hits from Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, Kelly Clarkson, and more, & Juliet is a fanfic-like sequel to William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. What if the teenage Juliet survives and takes charge of her own life?

One telling number is “Teenage Dream,” originally by Katy Perry and here sincerely sung by two middle-aged characters reveling in the joys of love. & Juliet invites young and old audiences — no one is too old to dance their cares away. .

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Six gets the impulse to project on historical figures, especially suffering royal women, whether or not you studied the ex-wives of King Henry VIII in high school. Composer/lyricists Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss fittingly reimagine those royals as pop stars, communicating their pain and comebacks through contemporary songs and goofy wordplay in a concert style.

Countless teens and young adults are already devotees of the bedazzled queens of Six (who are the stars of young people's TikToks and YouTube fan animatics) because they see themselves in the characters' hardships and aspire to their glamor and resilience.

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Kimberly Akimbo

Despite the specter of morality, Kimberly Akimbo is a joyous slice-of-life musical. Written by David Lindsay-Abaire and composer Jeanine Tesori, Kimberly (Victoria Clark) is a 16-year-old who lives with a condition that ages her body four times faster than normal and wants to make the most of her short life. For Kimberly, living life to the fullest means joining her Aunt Debra’s schemes, falling for a cute anagram-obsessed boy, and running away on a life-affirming road trip.

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The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby musical might not work as a CliffsNotes for your literature exams, but it promises a fascinating musical interpretation of the high school lit class staple. In the Roaring Twenties, the bootlegger Jay Gatsby seeks to win back the heart of his first and only love, the married Daisy. But the American Dream — Gatsby’s dream — is more elusive than he thought.

You might be interested in how this Broadway musical interprets the decadence and decay of the American Dream, or maybe you want to see swoon-worthy Broadway favorites Jeremy Jordan and Eva Noblezada as Gatsby and Daisy, respectively.

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The Outsiders

Speaking of American lit, S.E. Hinton’s 1967 novel The Outsiders has such a staying power in young adult literature due to its blistering portrayal of class, poverty, rage, and brotherhood. Adapting the novel and the Francis Ford Coppola film, The Outsiders musical is bringing the famous teenage gangs — the blue-collar Greasers and the wealthy Socs — to the Broadway stage.

Ponyboy (Brody Grant), a 14-year-old Greaser, narrates the violence and terror of their gang wars. Perhaps one of the scariest milestones Ponyboy has to undergo is acknowledging his empathy for the rival gang members who terrorize his brothers.

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Systemic inequality frequently forces all kinds of young girls to become educated not necessarily by school, but by lived experiences under white supremacy, misogyny, and queerphobia. With that in mind, composer/lyricist/bookwriter Shaina Taub’s Suffs is a stimulating musical about activism past and present. Taub’s musical tackles both the milestones and contradictions within the 20th-century fight for American women’s suffrage and the exclusionary practices within “progressive” movements.

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Mother Play

From Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel (How I Learned to Drive) comes Mother Play, which is geared to have the playwright's observatory bite — plus a starry cast. Matriarch Phyllis (Jessica Lange) wants her teenage children, Carl (Jim Parsons) and Martha (Celia Keenan-Bolger), to behave. That doesn't go as planned. Tina Landau's direction promises surreal, imaginative theatricality.

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Teeth is like a cross between Carrie: The Musical and Spring Awakening. Shame and sexual anxiety go hand-in-hand, especially when you have vagina dentata, a condition of teeth in the vagina (yes, it’s a folk tale). Reimagining the cult classic horror-comedy film, Teeth explores one teenager’s odyssey from pro-purity church girl to anti-sexual violence fighter. Composer/bookwriter Anna K. Jacobs (POP!) and bookwriter/lyricist Michael R. Jackson (A Strange Loop) teamed up to flesh out the horrors of extreme ideologies, be they purity culture or incels.

Check back for information on Teeth tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

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