See all the West End musicals for millennials taking over London
This summer, The Other Palace’s studio space is home to brand-new musical Millennials - which, as the title suggests, is all about that much-discussed generation. The stage is shaped like an avocado (naturally) and the production is chock-full of millennials’ biggest concerns.
But you don’t need to actually have Millennials in your show title, or an avocado in your staging, to be a fantastic musical for Millennials. Also known as Gen Y, Millennials are defined as those born between the early 1980s and mid 1990s - sandwiched between Gen X and the current culture drivers, Gen Z.
If you’re a Millennial, you were born without the internet or social media but that technology gradually became a huge part of your life. Other tech changes were afoot too, as we went from CDs and VHS tapes to Discmans, DVDs, Blu-ray and finally through to the all-conquering Apple products like iPods.
Millennials also got hit with the economic crash as they entered the job market, and are likely worse off than their Boomer parents or grandparents. No wonder they have so much angst.
Thankfully, London theatre is full of shows to reflect that emotional turmoil and help you work through it, or to give you a much-needed respite from your generational woes. Here are some of the best musicals for Millennials that you can book for now.
Of course, we have to start with Millennials! This well-received musical, which recently extended its run, is the brainchild of writer/composer Elliot Clay. It’s in a song cycle format, following six characters as they navigate all the pitfalls of contemporary life. Speaking of pits: Andrew Exeter’s incredible immersive design includes a ball pit as well as beanbags, confetti, beach balls, a bubble machine and inflatable flamingos.
Hannah Benson’s immersive production - very much a millennial theatre trend - includes free drinks from &Soda and invitations to dance. The pop song playlist is also pure Gen Y, making this a nostalgic throwback show like no other. But Millennials isn’t just about aesthetics or culture riffs. It also digs into serious issues like work and financial challenges, stress related to housing and planning for the future, and anxiety around social interactions and relationships - offset by the joys of supportive friends. If you’ve ever been called a lazy snowflake, while juggling three jobs and a side hustle, then this is the show for you.
Book Millennials tickets on London Theatre.
Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s Tony Award-winning musical captured the hearts of millennials, with its deeply felt portrayal of mental health struggles like social anxiety and suicidal thoughts coupled with the invasion of the online world into our real lives. That makes it sound bleak, but it also has a very Gen Y sarcastic sense of humour.
The show centres on Evan, a teenager who writes himself a letter every day at the behest of his therapist. But when one of his missives is discovered on the body of a classmate who takes his own life, Evan finds himself part of a family’s grieving process - and gaining social acceptance from his peers, as a lie spirals out of control.
The creative production brilliantly illustrates how we constantly interact with screens now, and also digs into the strange contradictions of this tech-savvy generation: how we are all constantly connected, but, in some ways, more isolated than ever. Add in stirring songs and it’s a millennial must-see. Don’t delay, as the West End run finishes in October 2022.
Book Dear Evan Hansen tickets on London Theatre.
On the cheerier side, there’s no more glorious celebration of the music that millennials grew up with than & Juliet. We’re talking all the hits from pop guru Max Martin, like the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”, Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time”, Jessie J’s “Domino”, Katy Perry’s “Roar”, Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone”, Ariane Grande’s “Problem”, and Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”.
That banging soundtrack is in service of a fun twist on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which sees Juliet go off on her own adventure, supported by the Bard’s wife Anne Hathaway. The feminist reclamation is very millennial, as is the progressive representation - including queer and non-binary characters.
Millennials also grew up with clever riffs on Shakespeare in popular culture, like Baz Luhrmann’s enduring movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, making this revolutionary musical a perfect night out for Gen Y theatregoers and their friends.
Book & Juliet tickets on London Theatre.
Now bear with me. Yes, the original movie Heathers was pure 80s, so didn’t quite hit our millennials when they were adolescents. But it became a cult classic watch on video, meaning many Gen Y teens got their fill of rebel Winona Ryder and moody bad boy Christian Slater, plus the terrifying Heathers cabal. They also got their own version of this clique-busting high school movie format with Mean Girls.
The Heathers musical is the movie reborn for a new generation. It retains the film’s pitch-black comedy, but also deals seriously with pervasive problems like bullying, sexual assault and suicide - a clever tonal balancing act that is very Millennial. Opening up about such issues is definitely a newer phenomenon, and many of the show’s tougher moments should chime with a Gen Y audience.
But they can also have fun with the kitsch nostalgia of it all - dressing up as the Heathers clique, or adopting the show’s catchphrases. Angsty drama and fashionable cosplaying? That’s the Millennial musical sweet spot.
Book Heathers tickets on London Theatre.
No list of millennial musicals would be complete without Wicked. The epic show, which was first seen in the West End in 2006, was the entry point to musical theatre for many Gen Y fans, who felt like their teenage or early-twentysomething gloom was writ large in this emotional production.
So-called “wicked witch” Elphaba is the ultimate outsider, judged for her appearance and misunderstood by a callous society, but still determined to fight her corner. Power ballad “Defying Gravity” could be the millennial anthem. The show’s astute portrayal of women - from the complexity of competitive female friendships to the weaponising of femininity and the world’s nervousness about girls finding their strength - also rings true to this wave of feminists.
So, whether you want to wallow in the injustice, weep at the doomed love story, or share this paean to friendship with one of your lifelong besties, Wicked is the ultimate millennial musical: deeply felt, powerfully expressed, and with a good dash of defiance too. Don’t mock our avocado-eating - we will come for you.
Book Wicked tickets on London Theatre.
Photo credit: Millennials (Photo courtesy of production)
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