Gateway Musicals: A list of Genre Shows to Introduce your Friends to Musical Theatre

Caleigh Derreberry

We’ve all been there. You ask your friend to take a break and blow off a little steam with you, but they turn you down because it’s “not their thing.” You tell them they’re being a square—you’re just trying to spice up the evening—and they pointedly tell you they don’t do things like what you’re offering. The argument escalates until they’re calling you an addict and you’re criticizing their conservative lifestyle. You cut your loses and attend the musical without them.

Some people refuse to see musicals on principle, citing the musical theatre genre as being one they don’t enjoy. For these people, it’s best to start them off with a gateway musical. These are musicals that utilize other music genres to tell a story, and are useful for getting people hooked on theatre before starting them on the harder stuff (like Sondheim). Introduce your friends to a musical written in the style of their favorite music genre—like the ones listed below—and before you know it they’ll be going to the theatre two or three times a week. 


If your conservative friend is a fan of bands like The Avett Brothers or The Decemberists, Once is the perfect musical to start off their descent into theatre. The musical’s blend of irish folk music and character-focused story will be a hit with any folk enthusiast. Besides, it’s an easy sell since they’ll probably already know the musical’s signature “Falling Slowly” from it’s stunt on the Billboard Top 100 a few years back.


Smooth choruses and a killer piano combine to form a look at the world of 1950’s newspaper operation in The Sweet Smell of Success. Written by A Chorus Line composer Marvin Hamlisch in 2002, this show makes it impossible for any jazz lover to deny how beautiful musical theatre can be. How can any jazz aficionado hate an art form that gives them songs like, “I Cannot Hear the City”?

Rock n’ Roll

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a perfect beginner musical for everyone who loves rock n’roll. The soundtrack’s upbeat take on the Broadway genre sounds identical to some of rock’s biggest singles. If that’s not enough to convince your friend, there’s a myriad of Hedwig covers from rock icons like Cyndi Lauper and Meat Loaf that should do the trick. Plus, there’s a kick-ass move adaptation.


Lots of musicals utilize country music to tell a story. Violet is a good first time musical to get Dolly Parton fans interested in the world of Broadway musicals. The show has a decidedly country feel, and the twang in Sutton Foster’s voice make it hard to tell if she’s a country singer or a Broadway star.


Heathers offers a series of disgustingly catchy songs to please pop lovers. It’s impossible to listen to “Candy Store” without the song getting stuck in your head. The fact the musical is an adaptation of the cult classic film of the same name should also help to convince your friend to give it a shot.


If you want an edgy, punk-esque musical to show your friend, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is the show you’re looking for. It’s the type of in-your-face music Green Day fans will love. Plus, it’s based on the life of  founding father Andrew Jackson, which will make it even edgier and more interesting in the eyes of punk music fanatics.


For rap lovers, In the Heights offers a unique way of looking at their favorite genre. Featuring a storyline that’s unmistakably in the musical theatre style and music that’s unmistakably not, this musical is the perfect way to show your friends how similar rap and musical theatre are. Fun, catchy, and touching, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece will make a musical fan out of every rap zealot.