The term “Off-Broadway” refers to theaters in New York City that are smaller than Broadway theaters, typically having a seating capacity between 100 and 499.
Some of the Off-Broadway productions have successfully made their way to the Broadway stage. Hamilton is a notable example. Off-Broadway transfers to Broadway definitely help certain productions reach a wider audience, gain more popularity, enjoy sold-out performances and win awards and nominations.
While most Off-Broadway productions have yet to make their complete transfer to Broadway, some of the Off-Broadway musicals have gained a cult status. This article mentions only a few Off-Broadway musicals that are worth checking out (and should have moved to Broadway).
Dogfight made its premiere at the Second Stage Theater in 2012. The musical tells a story about Eddie Birdlace, a marine heading for Vietnam, and Rose, the girl who falls for him. The music and lyrics were written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the songwriting duo who would find more significant successes with movies such as Dear Evan Hansen and La La Land.
2. The Wild Party (Lippa version)
The Wild Party was based on a 1928 narrative poem of the same name by Joseph Moncure March. This version by composer and lyricist Andrew Lippa debuted Off-Broadway in 2000, starring Julia Murney, in the lead role as Queenie, and Idina Menzel. The Encores! Off-Center presented a concert version of the play, with Sutton Foster as Queenie.
3. The Last Five Years
The Last Five Years is a musical by Jason Robert Brown that explores the five-year relationship of a couple, told in chronological and reverse-chronological order. The musical debuted in Chicago, in 2001, before premiering Off-Broadway a year later. Its 2014 film adaptation divided critics and even fans of the musical and was a flop at the box office.
4. Altar Boyz
Altar Boyz is one of the longest Off-Broadway musicals of all time. The musical comedy, which premiered Off-Broadway in 2005, takes a satirical hit on the boy band and Christian pop music groups. Since then, there have been numerous productions around the U.S. and in other countries such as Hungary, South Korea, the Philippines, Finland, Japan, and Australia.
5. Road Show
One of Stephen Sondheim’s musicals, Road Show premiered Off-Broadway in 2008. It tells about two brothers who take on an adventurous journey across America. Before it debuted on Off-Broadway, Road Show first played in Chicago and Washington, D.C. After its Off-Broadway appearance, the musical made its West End debut in 2011.
6. Little Miss Sunshine
Little Miss Sunshine is a stage musical adaptation of the 2006 film of the same name. It made its first-ever appearance in San Diego, California, in 2011 before premiering Off-Broadway in 2013. The music and lyrics for the musical adaptation were written by William Finn. Stephanie J. Block’s performance as Sheryl Hoover earned her a Drama Desk nomination.
7. Now. Here. This.
Created by the same team behind the 2006 Off-Broadway musical [title of show], Now. Here. This. explores the deep topics that each of the four characters contemplates. It debuted Off-Broadway in 2012, running for seven weeks.
8. Tick, Tick… Boom!
This autobiographical musical by the late composer and playwright Jonathan Larson (famous for his Rent musical) premiered Off-Broadway in 2001, five years after his death. It was revived Off-Broadway in 2016.
9. Lucky Stiff
Lucky Stiff was a collaboration between composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens. It debuted Off-Broadway in 1988, playing for 15 performances, and made its West End debut in 1988. The 2014 film version of the musical received mostly critically negative reviews.
10. Zombie Prom
This musical tells about a high-school boy who returns as a zombie after committing suicide. It made its first-ever appearance in Key West, Florida, in 1993 before debuting Off-Broadway in 1996. Aside from a short film adaptation, Zombie Prom made its off-West End debut in 2009.