While you’re probably familiar with the classic musicals, many Broadway shows fail to make it. Only about a third of Broadway shows (roughly 40 new ones each year) make a profit. These facts make it even more impressive that some shows have been running for an incredible 30 years and counting!
A Tony Award alone does not promise a long run on Broadway. While Broadway’s most beloved shows have long since closed, others have noted commercial success and spent decades captivating the masses.
What are the longest-running Broadway shows of all time? We have the entire list!
The Phantom of the Opera (January 26, 1988- Present)
The music of the night has now been going on Broadway for 30 years and still going, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s massive hit about a young chorus girl who falls in love with the mysterious phantom of the Paris Opera is a love story for the ages. The musical was nominated for seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Music angels will undoubtedly continue to sing for many years to come.
The Phantom of the Opera became the longest-running Broadway show in history in 2006, with over three decades of performances under its belt. The New York show has grossed more than $1.2 billion since its debut, with total attendance nearing 19 million.
Total Performances: 13,370 and counting
Chicago- Revival (November 14, 1996- Present)
While the original Broadway production only ran for 936 performances, Chicago‘s only revival has been painting the town for more than two decades and is the longest-running American Broadway musical.
Total performances: 9,692 and counting
The Lion King (November 13, 1997- Present)
This show may be third on the list, but it is the highest-grossing Broadway show. “The Lion King” has been performed worldwide, but its main base at the Minskoff Theatre has been running for more than 20 years, earning six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Simba may become the ruler of Pride Rock, but “The Lion King” reigns supreme on Broadway.
Total performances: 9,302 and counting
Cats (October 7, 1982- September 10, 2000)
Who knew a musical about cats could become such a worldwide sensation? Andrew Lloyd Webber is the composer of this musical, based on T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” The broadway show captivated cat lovers everywhere and scored seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Cats was the longest-running Broadway show for nearly a decade, from 1997 to 2006. The jellicles have been translated into 15 languages and viewed by over 73 million people globally.
Total performances: 7,485
Wicked (October 30, 2003- Present)
Despite losing the Tony Award for Best Musical to “Avenue Q” and receiving mixed reviews from critics, “Wicked” has cemented its place in Broadway history. The tales about how the witches of Oz turned wicked and good have captured the hearts of women worldwide who want to be seen for more than their appearance. This one is likely to rise to the top of the longest-running shows on Broadway in the coming years.
Total performances: 6,836 and counting
Les Miserables (March 12, 1987- May 18, 2003)
Do you hear people singing? Singing the ticket sales song. That’s not how the line goes, but it should, given how long the original Broadway production of this musical ran. During Les Miserables‘ original Broadway run, Broadway could hear the French people sing for more than sixteen years; it has since been revived twice.
While the musical remained in second place on Broadway for the majority of its run, the London production is the longest-running West End show globally. Based on Victor Hugo’s novel, the French epic won eight Tony Awards, which include Best Musical.
Total performances: 6,680
A Chorus Line (July 25, 1975- April 28, 1990)
With this seminal work, choreographer/director Michael Bennett established himself as a trailblazer by having real dancers share their stories and crafting them into a magnificent musical about what we all do for love. The original production was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
A Chorus Line topped this list for most of its run until Cats surpassed it in 1997. It has inspired productions worldwide, including a Broadway revival in 2006 and two in London’s West End.
Total performances: 6,137
Oh! Calcutta! Revival (September 24, 1976- August 6, 1989)
Oh! Calcutta!‘s original 1969 production ran for only 1314 performances, making it the oldest show on this list. The public did not fully embrace this dubious, erotic review until it premiered seven years later. It is still the longest-running Broadway revue.
You can’t beat a good outlier. This musical revue, which premiered off-Broadway in 1969, included sketches about nudity and sex. This is a revival, and we’re still trying to figure out what kept it going for 14 years.
Total performances: 5,959.
Mamma Mia! (October 18, 2001 – September 12, 2015)
Another example of the jukebox’s power. This ABBA-composed classic is the longest-running jukebox musical. Now that we have two films in the franchise, we’re ready to say, “Here we go again on Broadway.” Anyone?
Oh, my! Mamma Mia!, which operated for fourteen disco-tastic years, was impossible to resist. Even though the ABBA musical premiered on Broadway just before the terrorist attacks of September 11, it was one of the few new shows to succeed, despite the subsequent challenge to attract tourists back to the city.
Total performances: 5,758
Beauty and the Beast (April 18, 1994- July 29, 2007)
The timeless story endured on Broadway for a long time as Disney Theatrical Productions’ first Broadway musical. It has since become a huge commercial success, having played in thirteen countries and grossing over $1.4 billion globally.
A timeless story, Disney Theatricals presents one of their iconic properties to the stage, and audiences go wild. Beauty and the Beast is about how love transcends appearances and how a family is what you make; it stayed on Broadway for 13 years.
Total performances: 5,461
Many of the titles on the following list of the longest-running Broadway shows may be familiar to you from your parents’ tape deck, Times Square billboards, or your collection of original cast recordings. Start spreading the word about the longest-running Broadway shows.