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The Top10 Best Broadway Musicals

Updated on July 14, 2014

There are so many ways to be entertained but there is nothing like experiencing a live musical. Lights, singing, colourful costumes and a memorable experience that one will never be able to fully explain unless you have been to see it for yourself. The set design in most of these are amazing and many of them have become movies too!

This list is not in order and these ones are considered to be the best musicals to date from Broadway. They were the longest running shows and made the most profit.

The Phantom of the Opera

This is Broadways longest running show and it opened in Her Majesty's Theatre on the 9th October 1986, with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman as the leading roles.

Andrew Lloyd Webber did the score. The music, scenery and special effects has turned this into the most popular Broadway show to date.

130 million people have seen this show and it has grossed over $5.6 billion dollars.

It has been produced in 150 cities in 29 countries around the world.

It was originally a novel written by French writer Gaston Leroux and was first published in 1909.

The story is about a beautiful soprano who becomes the obsession of a mysterious disfigured musical genius.

Songs from the Musical that are familiar:

Phantom of the Opera

Music of the Night

All I ask of You



Cats is a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber based on the book by T.S. Elliot called Old possum's Book of Practical Cats.

Cats first opened in the West End in 1981 and then Broadway in 1982.

The musical tells a story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night that they make called the "Jellicle Choice" where they decide which cat will ascend to the heaviside layer and come back to a new life.

The Broadway production ran for eighteen years and the original lead role was played by Elaine Paige and Betty Buckley.

Cats is the second longest running show and was also performed around the world.

In 1988 it was made into a television show.


Les Miserables

The Broadway production opened in 1987 and ran until 2003. It was the fourth longest running show in history, it won 8 Tony awards and has been performed in numerous countries. In 2012 a film adaptation of the musical was made starring Hugh Jackman, Russel Crowe and Anne Hathaway.

The musical is based on the novel by French poet and playwright Victor Hugo.

It is set in the 19th Century - France and it is about a French peasant who tries to redeem himself afer serving 19 years in prison for stealing bread for his sister. He breaks his parole and begins with a new identity. The story leads to a revolution and his strength shows through.

The musical originally got bad reviews but was overcome and it became a worldwide phenomenon.

Miss Saigon

This musical is based on the Giacomo Puccini's opera, Madame Butterfly, which tells the tale of a doomed romance involving an Asian woman abandoned by her American G.I lover. It is set in the 1970's in the Vietnam war.

It premiered in London in 1989 and closed a year later only to reopen in Boradway in 1991 and was performed in any other cities.

It is the 11th longest running Broadway musical in history and they are aiming to reopen it in the West End in 2014.

Lea Salonga was the actress that played the lead role of Kim and became famous for this role winning a Laurence Olivier and Tony Award for her performance.


Mamma Mia

Mamma Mia was written by British playwright Catherine Johnson, based on the songs by Abba and was composed by Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus from the original band.

The musical opened in the West End in 1999 and went to Broadway in 2001 and is still currently running. This is the 10th longest Broadway musical and has been seen by over 42million people worldwide and has grossed $2billion dollars.

A film adaptation was also made in 2008 with a cast consisting of Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Pierse Brosnan and Julie Walters.

Songs from The Show:

Super Trooper


Knowing you, Knowing me

Thank you for the Music

Money, money, money

The winner takes it all

It has toured internationally and the story is set in Greece, where a young lady is just about to get married and would like her father to walk her down the isle. The only problem is that she does not know who he is and invites three of her mother's old boyfriends to the wedding in order to find out which one of them is her father.

A Chorus Line

This musical opened in the West End in 1975 and opened in Broadway in 1975 and was revived again in 2006. It won 9 Tony Awards and a Pullitzer Prize for drama. It is the 6th longest running Broadway show ever.

It is about 17 dancers who audition for a show and hope to get the part. The director wants to know all about them and the story progresses.

The music was written by Marvin Hamlisch and the book was written by James Kirkwood jr.

The original production had to borrow money to open the show and it was so successful that tickets sold out immediately.


This is the 3rd longest running Broadway revival show and the longest running show in American history.

The original production opened in 1926 and was turned into a silent film. It returned to Broadway in 1976 where it moved to the West end. It was then brought back to Broadway in 1996. The original film had Ginger Rogers as the lead.

In 2002 a new film was made an it starred Richard Gere, Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta Jones and Queen Latifa. This movie won an Academy Award.

Chicago is based on a 1926 play of the same name which was created by a reporter Maureen Wilkons, who had to follow the true story of actual criminals and crimes for the newspaper.

The story is a sattire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice and "celebrity criminals." It is set in prohibition-era Chicago and it got mixd reviews as people were unsure of the glamourisation of criminals.

The lead actress had to have node surgery as she swallowed a feather during the finale and the show was on the verge of closing as a Chorus Line had opened at the same time and outshon Chicago.

Lisa Manelli offered to step in and play the lead role which she did for a month and boosted the shows popularity until Gwen Verdon's return.

It won several awards.

The Chicago production was about two female murderesses and the judicial system.

The original writer and journalist of the play refused to sell it as a musical as she became a reborn christian and thought that she had glamourised criminal behaviour but when she passed away her estate sold the rights to Gwen Vernon who turned it into a musical, where she was the lead character.

Starlight Express

A rock musical created by Andrew Lloyd Webber about a child's dream of where his toy train comes to life. The actors performed in roller skates.

It did well on the West End and had over 7461 performances whilst on Broadway it only did 761.

The show was considered the most populat show in Germany and it toured the U.K in 2012.

It was adaptated from the children's books by Rev W Awdry featuring Thomas The Tank Engine.

Awdry refused to give Webber permission to use his characters as he felt that Andrew would give them too much freedom. Webber changed the characters and made it a "cinderella story."

The music consisted of disco and pop, with a few country and western songs inbetween.

A race track surrounds the audience and the skaters perform all kinds of stunts in the show.

The Broadway production opened in 1987 and the auditorium was not big enough to build the track around the audience, which they then had to change and put onto the stage. It made the show more colourful.

This show toured the world and was also performed on ice.

The Lion King

This musical is based on the 1994 Disney animated film of the same name. The show was produced by Disney Theatrical, with actors in animal costumes and hollow puppets.

It is Broadway's 5th longest running show in history and has grossed over $853 billion. As of 2012 it's Broadway's biggest earning show.

The Lion King debuted in 1997 and became an instant success. It is still on at the West End theatre and has toured the world.

The songs from the show were written by Elton John and Tim Rice.

Songs from the show:

Circle of Life

I just can't wait to be King

Can you Feel the Love Tonight

It is a colourful and vibrant musical and features many changes to the original film and a few additions to the script.

The musical has won many awards including a French one for best costumes, best musical and best lighting design.


This is also a rock musical based on Giacomo Puccini's Opera La Boheme.

It tells a story of young artists and musicians struggling to survive in the Lower East side of New York in the thriving days of AIDS/HIV and the Bohemian Alphabet City.

The shows creator passed away the night before the off- Broadway premiere. It won a pullitzer and many awards.

Rent closed in 2008 after a 12 year run making it the 9th longest running Broadway musical and also toured internationally.

In 2005 it was adapted into a motion picture with almost all of the original cast.

Lynn Thomson helped co- write a new version of the production and sued the Larson estate for $40million dollars and 16% of the royalties. When in court Lynn Thomson could not recall the lyrics to the songs and the judge ruled against her. She appealed and was over ruled once more. She then re- appealed and the matter was settled out of court in 1998.

Other Good Boradway Musicals

Joseph and the Amazing technicolour Dreamcoat


Mary Poppins

West Side Story


We will Rock you

If you have never seen a live musical production than you need to put it onto your list of things to do because it is truly an amazing and colourful experience.


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    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      5 years ago from South Africa

      Thank you! I like Stephen Sondheim and I managed to read one of his scripts but never got to see a production. "Send in the Clowns" was a great theatrical number.

    • SaffronBlossom profile image


      5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Great list! I have only seen about half of these but would definitely like to see them all. My favorite musicals are Sondheim ones, but I don't get much of a chance to see those. :/

    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      5 years ago from South Africa

      Thank you!

    • bredandagnes profile image


      5 years ago from Ireland

      Really enjoyed this and the video pieces.Well done.

    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      5 years ago from South Africa

      Oh wow! That had a good performance rate. I haven't seen that one but I will be sure to look out for it, should it be revived. Thank you for the info!

    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 

      5 years ago from Cape Cod

      To your list, please allow me to add the tiny little production, "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown." I feel sorry for anyone who did not get to see this amazing work. Though most of its success was off Broadway at Theater 80 in the East Village, it did have a Broadway run. Off Broadway, with Mash's Gary Burghoff as Charlie Brown, it ran for 1597 performances. More than half a dozen touring companies took it all around the country. I saw it in the Boston Theater District and if they revive it, I will go again.


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