How Broadway Is Striking A Chord With Millennial Audiences

by Kevin Studer
The Lion King/Broadway

Kander and Ebb’s 2006 musical, “Curtains,” says there’s “a special kind of people known as show people.”

That cannot be truer, but I feel in our day and age, too many people still think of Broadway as the old Ethel Merman-Cole Porter type stuff that does not necessarily appeal to a Millennial audience.

However, that could not be more wrong.

We live in an era where you can find almost anything on the Great White Way.

From hormone-raging teens to pill-addicted hallucinating mothers, to Mormons finding themselves in Uganda instead of Orlando, there is something for anyone.

Though, the best thing about theater is it does not just happen in New York. You can find theater companies and touring shows all around the United States.

If you want family fun or a trip down memory lane, there is always a Disney production around.

On Broadway right now is “The Lion King” and “Aladdin,” but other Disney productions include “Mary Poppins,” “Newsies,” “The Little Mermaid” and the upcoming “Frozen.”

Every Disney show is a spectacle of song and dance with big production numbers that will leave you in the same awe and amazement you felt when you first saw them on screen as a child.

For something a bit edgier, one might take a look at the 2007 Tony Award-winning musical “Spring Awakening.”

While the show is about German adolescents in the late 1800s, all of their thoughts are conveyed through modern rock music.

Songs from this show include “The Bitch of Living,” which focuses on sexually frustrated boys, and “Totally F*cked,” which happens when one of the boys is getting expelled from school and he knows there is nothing he can do.

This musical also jumpstarted the careers of “Glee” star Lea Michele, “Frozen” star Jonathan Groff, “The Newsroom” star John Gallagher, Jr. and “Pitch Perfect” star Skylar Astin.

In 2009, “Next to Normal” opened on Broadway and shined a special light on mental illness.

Diana (originally played by Alice Ripley, who won the Tony) has suffered from bipolar disorder and hallucinations since her son died 16 years prior.

Throughout the show, audiences get to take an inside look the dysfunction this creates for the family and how they all try to cope with it.

But, if you want to see something funny, by now you should have heard of “The Book of Mormon.”

From the creators of “South Park” and half of the songwriting team of “Frozen,” this musical can offend anybody and everybody. But, once you are aware of that, the hilarity ensues.

Audiences who cannot necessarily get to a theater do not have to worry.

Filming Broadway shows and showing them in theaters or on television is becoming more common.

From films turned into musicals, like “Shrek” and “Legally Blonde,” to Broadway hits like “Rent” and “Phantom of the Opera,” theater is being brought straight to your living room now.

Live versions of these shows can be seen on Netflix or bought on iTunes, and while you might get a different vibe from seeing these on the comfort of your couch, they still have all the magic of the stage production.

More and more stage shows are being adapted into films.

We have recently seen big shows like “Les Misérables” and “Into the Woods” come to the screen, but some Millennials might like a more indie-type film.

Enter “The Last Five Years.” This movie, which had a limited theater release, looked into the lives of Jamie and Cathy (Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick), who were together for five years.

The show takes an interesting path, as it follows Jamie’s story chronologically, but Cathy’s story is shown in reverse.

The two timelines only meet in the middle at their wedding.

The bottom line is Broadway is not what it used to be. Anyone can find something that interests them if they just look.

So, as George M. Cohan once wrote, “Give my regards to old Broadway and say that I'll be there e'er long.”