The musicals definitely NOT for families

(L-R) Elise Zavou, Verity Thompson and Billie Bowman - Heathers UK Tour 2023 - Photo Credit Pamela Raith (2)
(L-R) Elise Zavou, Verity Thompson and Billie Bowman - Heathers UK Tour 2023 - Photo Credit Pamela Raith

When it comes to planning a family outing to the theatre, the aim is usually to pick a musical that leaves everyone humming tunes all the way home.

While there’s plenty of great musicals for families and children, there are also plenty of shows you best avoid taking the kids along with you.

Here’s a light-hearted look at some musicals that, while they might be masterpieces in their own right, could make for a rather awkward family night out.

Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening is a rock musical that dives deep into the tumultuous waters of adolescence, touching on themes of love, sexuality, and rebellion. While it’s a poignant exploration of the journey from youth to adulthood, it might prompt some questions from your younger ones that you’re not quite ready to answer during the interval.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street with Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford

Moving on, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street could be a close shave with discomfort for a family outing. Stephen Sondheim’s tale of a revenge-seeking barber who turns his customers into pies is brilliantly macabre. Yet, it might just turn your little ones off meat pies forever, not to mention haircuts. A word of advice: maybe save this one for a Halloween night without the kids.


Heathers takes us back to the halls of high school, but with a significantly darker twist than your average teen drama. This musical, based on the 1988 film, delves into the complexities of adolescent life, popularity, and the extreme measures some might take to fit in. With themes revolving around bullying, violence, and more mature content, it’s a show that offers biting satire and dark comedy. While it’s a hit for its catchy tunes and sharp wit, Heathers might be best saved for an audience that’s ready to navigate its deeper, more adult themes.

Avenue Q

Then there’s Avenue Q, a hilarious and irreverent musical that features puppets living in New York City. It’s like Sesame Street, but for adults. With songs like The Internet is for Porn and Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist, you might find yourself in a minefield of awkwardness with a younger audience. It’s a fantastic show, but perhaps more suitable for a night out with adult friends – or older teenagers who can appreciate the satire.

The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon West End 2018 company, credit: Johan Persson
The Book of Mormon West End 2018 company, credit: Johan Persson

The Book of Mormon, from the creators of South Park, is nothing short of a comedic genius, blending satire with show-stopping musical numbers. This Tony Award-winning musical follows two young Mormon missionaries sent to a remote village in Uganda, where their teachings and beliefs are challenged in the most unexpected ways. While it’s celebrated for its clever lyrics and engaging score, the show’s irreverent take on religion, culture, and the human condition might not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially for a younger audience. It’s outrageously funny but comes with its fair share of adult humour and themes.


Next up, we have Cats. Yes, it’s a classic. Yes, it’s by Andrew Lloyd Webber. But let’s face it: explaining to your children why grown adults are prancing around in leotards and faux fur, singing about their nine lives, can be a tad challenging. The plot (or the lack thereof) might leave you more perplexed than a cat chasing its own tail. It’s a spectacle, no doubt, but perhaps one that’s better suited for a night out with friends who won’t ask too many questions.


Lastly, Chicago offers a dazzling spectacle of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery, and treachery—all those things we look for in a family-friendly outing, right? While the show is a masterpiece with show-stopping numbers, the themes might be a bit mature for the younger members of your family.


Set in the seedy Kit Kat Club in 1930s Berlin as the Nazis are rising to power, Cabaret offers a chilling look at the political upheavals of the time through the lens of nightlife and personal freedoms. With its iconic music and complex themes, including politics, sexuality, and anti-Semitism, Cabaret is a masterpiece of musical theatre that provides a stark reminder of history. However, its mature themes and dark undertones might make it more appropriate for an audience that can grasp the historical context and appreciate its depth.

More on: Features

About the author: Rachel Wise

UK based freelancer journalist Rachel contributes regularly to Stageberry with features and interviews from the hottest new shows and stage stars.