There are countless Broadway musical productions, but some are considered truly memorable in the viewers’ hearts and minds. Maybe it’s the unforgettable melodies and lyrics of the songs. Maybe it’s in the relatable storyline. Maybe it’s the top-rated cast or the high production value. Or maybe all of them!
Here are the Broadway musicals that are deemed the best – the ones that have influenced or helped in shaping the Broadway show business as we know it today:
1. The Phantom of the Opera
There’s no beating The Phantom of the Opera as the longest-running Broadway musical of all time! It officially debuted on Broadway on January 26, 1988, and is still running. Those who are not familiar with it and think it is an opera – no, it is not! Featuring Andrew Lloyd Weber’s timeless score, this stage musical is based on the 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux of the same name has been revived countless times in the U.S. and around the world and won seven Tony Awards.
When Hamilton debuted at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway in 2015, it enjoyed one of the most instant successes in Broadway’s history. The musical conceived and written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also played the titular role in both original Off-Broadway and Broadway productions) skyrocketed into mainstream fame faster than any of its predecessors. The combination of rap and song has contributed to the musical’s critical and commercial success. Hamilton’s popularity even prompted the U.S. Treasury to announce that the image of Alexander Hamilton (the country’s first Secretary of the Treasury and the inspiration behind the musical) would remain in the $10 bill after its initial plans to change it.
3. The Producers
Based on Mel Brooks’s 1967 movie of the same name, this hilarious musical premiered on Broadway in April 2001. Since then, it has run for 2,502 shows and won a record 12 Tony Awards. Like in the movie, the plot revolves around a theater producer and an accountant who, as part of scam, must come up with the world’s worst stage musical they can create.
4. The Book of Mormon
It seems highly unlikely that the creators of South Park would come up with a musical about the singing Mormon missionaries. But as you might expect from these creators, this musical comedy does have an irreverent character. Some of the scenes and lines might easily offend the sensitive members of the audience. But open-minded audience members will enjoy the gut-wrenchingly hilarious musical about two mismatched Mormon missionaries who attempt to preach in a remote Ugandan village. Since it launched on Broadway in 2011, The Book of Mormon has enjoyed a long, successful run, grossing over $500 million along the way.
5. Les Misérables
Also popularly known as Les Mis, it is a sung-through stage musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s 1962 novel of the same title. Set in 19th-century France, the main character, Jean Valjean, is sent to prison after stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. He tries to escape his criminal background after his release. Les Misérables is currently the fifth longest-running musical in Broadway history.
6. West Side Story
West Side Story is a modern-day take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It is a story about a blooming romance between two people from rival gangs in the Upper West Side of New York City. With music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics from Stephen Sondheim, the musical has tons of memorable songs, such as “Maria,” “I Feel Pretty,” “A Boy Like That,” and “Tonight.” Since it debuted on Broadway in 1957, it has enjoyed several performances and revivals. A 1961 film adaptation also became successful and won 10 Oscars, including a Best Picture award.
Wicked is based on a 1985 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which was itself inspired by The Wizard of Oz. It tells the story of Elphaba, the green Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz. Instead of being the villain in The Wizard of Oz, Elphaba is portrayed as a sympathetic character in this musical. She strikes up an unexpected friendship with Glinda the Good Witch.
If you’re looking for some “razzle-dazzle” in your next Broadway hop, look no further than the longest-running American musical in Broadway history, Chicago. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1975 and was itself based on the 1926 play of the same name. Set in 1920s Chicago, two female murderers are on a mission to capitalize their notoriety by becoming celebrities. The 2002 film adaptation, featuring a star-studded cast, won the Oscar for Best Picture.
9. The Lion King
The Disney animated musical film The Lion King enjoyed a massive box-office success following its debut in cinemas in 1994. Three years later, Disney Theatrical produced a musical stage adaptation of the movie and debuted it on Broadway. With stunning, Tony Award-winning costumes and direction and African-infused score by Lebo M in addition to the memorable Elton John/Tim Rice songs first featured in the movie, The Lion King became a roaring success. It also put Disney Theatrical on the Broadway map.
10. Fiddler on the Roof
Fiddler on the Roof is a story about the challenge of retaining old religious and cultural traditions as modern influences start to encroach on his family’s lives. Set in pre-revolutionary Russia, a Jewish peasant must marry off his three older daughters, who wish to marry for love. Since the musical debuted on Broadway in 1967, it has enjoyed several tours and revivals in Broadway, London’s West End, and elsewhere. A 1971 film adaptation starring Topol also became successful.