The Influence of Musicals: From Broadway to TikTok


In recent years, musicals like “West Side Story,” “…Tick, Tick Boom!,” and Disney’s “Encanto” have resonated deeply within popular culture. At Boise State University, the impact was tangible during Hamilton’s historic three-week run, culminating in a special student-only performance in December.

These productions, celebrated on social media platforms with trending TikTok sounds, have not only garnered Grammy and Academy Awards but have also redefined the reach and relevance of musical theater. Experts from Boise State, including a music professor, a student, and Hamilton’s “And Peggy” cast music director, discussed how these musicals shape contemporary culture, even for those unfamiliar with the genre.

“Musical theater is a unique niche,” explained Lily Ling, Hamilton’s music director. “Whether it’s the hip hop of Hamilton or the pop-centric Disney shows, each production is rooted in the tradition of musical theater.”

Dr. Jeffrey Seppala, Boise State’s assistant professor and musical theater director, highlighted the psychological aspect of musical enjoyment: “Previous experiences significantly influence future perceptions of enjoyment. It’s like acquiring a taste for sushi or any new food.”

Social media, particularly TikTok, has democratized access to musicals. Dr. Seppala noted, “Hamilton capitalized on this social media phenomenon, generating immense buzz through its uniqueness.”

Hamilton’s fusion of hip-hop and rap demonstrated the genre’s universal appeal. “It’s transformative,” Ling observed. “Similar to ‘Rent,’ which revolutionized theater with its portrayal of HIV struggles, Hamilton tells stories in unconventional ways.”

Musicals excel in portraying extraordinary journeys, from “Rent’s” exploration of marginalized lives to “The Lion King’s” tale of redemption. “A musical allows performers to convey deeper emotions than speech alone,” Seppala explained. “It transports the audience to profound emotional landscapes.”

For sophomore theater major Michelle Montanus, theater is about collective experience and celebration.

“It’s art. Any form of art is a celebration,”

she reflected on the communal nature of theater.

Ling emphasized the collaborative essence of theater: “It’s not just about performance. It’s about lighting, costumes, and technical elements—all harmonizing to create an immersive experience.”

Ultimately, whether through TikTok trends or Broadway sensations, musicals continue to unite diverse audiences in celebrating shared narratives and emotional journeys. They remain a testament to the power of collective storytelling and artistic collaboration in modern society.