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Just Trying to Fit In: Broadway’s Most Relatable Teens

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |

From Cady in ‘Mean Girls’ to Lydia in ‘Beetlejuice’

As hard as it is to believe, back to school season is just around the corner. For teenagers, surviving in the world of high school can be a stressful and daunting experience, especially when you are just trying to fit in. Let’s face it: the uncertainty, hormones, the body changes and the need for acceptance while retaining your individuality that come with navigating adolescence can be overwhelming. As of late, Broadway has been brimming with musicals that feature characters wending their way through the high school experience and surviving the challenges of puberty. Through their trials and tribulations, we find a little relatability and a whole lot of hope.

Barrett Wilbert-Weed, Erika Henningsen and Grey Henson in ‘Mean Girls’ on Broadway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Barrett Wilbert-Weed, Erika Henningsen and Grey Henson in ‘Mean Girls’ on Broadway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Cady Heron in Mean Girls
Being the new girl at school is never an easy thing. Cady Heron has just moved from Kenya to Chicago, and acclimating to her new high school isn’t exactly going as smoothly as she hoped. Her primary hinderance comes in the form of “The Plastics,” the queen bees of the school who dictate who are part of the “in-crowd” and who are merely “wannabes.” What can Cady do to make her way to the top of heap? What sacrifices will she make, and who might she hurt along the way? Mean Girls poses the question “What is the price of popularity?”

Aladdin from Aladdin
“A diamond in the rough.” Didn’t we all feel a little bit like one when we were a teenager, a work in progress that would someday prove to be something more than how we were perceived by others? In the musical Aladdin, a poor, orphaned “street rat” is surviving by stealing and getting through the days by daydreaming that life will someday lead to something better. After a chance meeting with a princess, he begins to put his plan to find his inner diamond in motion. His success hinges upon the help of an all- powerful Genie in a lamp, but in the end, it his ownership of his own value empowers him to succeed, beat an evil sorcerer and win the hand of the princess.

Evan Hansen in Dear Evan Hansen
For those who are desperately trying to make a connection in high school, only to fall prey to social anxiety and self-esteem issues, it can feel a bit like standing on the outside of a window and looking in at the world. This is the plight of the title character in Dear Evan Hansen, an awkward teenage boy who has trouble making friends. Only when he concocts an imaginary friendship with a deceased acquaintance does he break his way out of his shell and begin making real connections. Finding your voice can be hard, and it sometimes requires a little creative invention to overcome your barriers.

Simba in The Lion King
Adolescence in the animal kingdom is no easier that surviving puberty in the human domain. Simba is a carefree lion cub who is made to believe that he is responsible for the death of his father during a wildebeest stampede. In fear, he runs away from home and launches into his teenage years, carrying the accompanying guilt. It isn’t until his childhood friend “Nala” crosses his path and pleads with him to come home and take his father’s place as the leader of the pride that Simba transitions from childhood uncertainty toward a more mature approach of personal forgiveness and healing. Sometimes it seems impossible to escape our past and our mistakes, but with maturity, we can learn how. 

Elsa in Frozen
Can you imagine entering your adolescence and knowing that heightened bursts of emotion and adrenaline result in your turning things to ice? Poor Elsa in the musical Frozen has this added burden that only seems to get worse as she gets older. She is judged harshly by others who look at her gift as an abomination. At first, she crumbles under the pressure of this unfair judgment, but ultimately she learns to “Let It Go” and embrace the person she knows she is inside. Elsa proves that it isn’t until we no longer give others power over ourselves that we are truly free to embrace all the aspects of who we are, and use our gifts to their potential.

Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice
Poor Lydia Deetz. She has lost her mother, she has a callous father and obnoxious stepmother, she has just moved into a new home that is inhabited by ghosts who want her family out, and she is being stalked by a demon of the afterlife named “Beetlejuice.” That is a lot for any teenager to juggle. Depressed and missing her mom, Lydia finds unlikely friends in the ghostly former residents of her home, and works with them to try to drive her parents out. Talk about making the best of a bad situation, which is often the only thing you can do when life keeps throwing you curveballs.

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. His forthcoming book, Sitcommentary: The Television Comedies That Changed America, will hit the shelves in October, 2019. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at


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