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The Best Most Longest-Running Famous Broadway Shows and Musicals

Updated on October 30, 2012

The Best Longest Running Broadway Shows

Broadway Theatre has been an important part of the New York entertainment and arts scene since the eighteen century and it remains an industry of great importance to people today. People who visit New York from all around the world make it a point to see some of the most famous Broadway shows that are out there and the shows themselves travel around the world so others can enjoy them. Many shows open, see modest success and then quickly close.

But a few shows keep running because they're so successful that people will come back to see them again and again. These are the shows that stand out in the history of theatre, shows that inspire people and energize them and move them to extreme emotions. They are the shows that epitomize the best of the theatre arts. They are the reason that New York's theatre scene remains known around the world to this day.

Unfortunately, many of these long-running Broadway musicals eventually had to close. They can't keep playing forever. But many of them lasted for years ... and a few of them are still open for you to see today. Here are some of the best longest-running musicals of Broadway theatre:

  • The Phantom of the Opera. This is the longest-running Broadway musical to date and also the most financially successful Broadway show. That's a testimony to the way that this production has moved people from different generations. It has also been translated into numerous languages, adapted to a shorter-version for the Las Vegas stage and succeeded in movie version. It is one of the few long-running Broadway shows that remains open to audiences today; you can get tickets by visiting New York's Majestic Theater.
  • Cats. Andrew Lloyd Webber was the composer for The Phantom of the Opera and was also the composer for this long-running musical. It, too, has traveled around the world as one of the longest-running Broadway shows in history. Unfortunately, this famous performance isn't still happening on the Broadways stage; it closed its doors in 2000 after 18 solid years of performances. It remains a popular show for people to see in other venues.
  • Les Miserables. This was a book that was written in the nineteenth century but it got twentieth century attention when it became a hit on Broadway. It closed in 2003 but there was enough demand for it that it re-opened briefly in 2006 to satisfy customers that hadn't had a chance to see Les Mis during its original long run. At the beginning of this year, it closed its doors again. Who knows; maybe it'll make another comeback someday?!
  • Rent. This musical was an attention-getter when it first hit the stage due in no small part to the way that it so succinctly captures the AIDS crisis as it was impacting a low-income artist community in New York at that time. The issues that it addresses and the brilliance with which it addresses them remain popular to this day. People who love this performance (or who liked the movie version and want to see it live) only have a little bit longer before this long-running Broadway show closes. Reportedly, it was closing in June of this year but has been extended until 2008 to meet the demand of ticket buyers.
  • Beauty and the Beast. The Disney movie was made in 1991 and three years later the theatre performance was launched. Surprisingly, it impressed Broadway enough to remain popular for 13 solid years and to end up in the Top Ten for longest-running Broadway shows. Various translations and adaptations have been shown around the world.
  • The Lion King. Beauty and the Best isn't the only Disney movie that did well as a Broadway show. The Lion King movie was released in 1994 and three years later along came the Tony-winning musical. It has changed theatres over time but continues to run on Broadway today. There are two different international touring performances of the show as well as several translations and adaptations around the globe.
  • A Chorus Line. This is an award-winning Broadway show. Literally. It received nine Tony awards in the year that it opened and also got the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It ran for a number of years and then closed its doors only to reopen recently. The revival show can still be seen on the Broadway stage today and a touring production is about to head its way around the world starting next month. There is also apparently a documentary about the show in the works which will likely interest fans of the show as well as people who are drawn to the backstage workings of Broadway. That documentary is expected to be shown at the next Sundance Festival.
  • Oh! Calcutta! This is one of the most interesting Broadway shows in terms of the history behind it. It was originally released in an Off Broadway venue because it was an avant garde pieced that shocked the audience with its total nudity. A film version was banned in several areas and performances stopped. However, a revival of the show happened on Broadway in 1976. For 13 years after that, the show continued, making it one of the Top Ten longest-running Broadway shows.
  • Chicago. This is another Broadway musical with an interesting past that includes a revival. In fact, this is the longest-running revival on Broadway and is still running today. It was originally produced way back in 1926 as a play written by a journalist who based it on real-life criminals that she had come across in her line of work. It opened on Broadway as a musical in 1975. It then closed but re-opened in 1996. It gained attention as the result of a movie based off of the theatre production and continues to be a popular Broadway theatre choice for New York locals and visitors alike.

Question for Broadway Fans: Which current Broadway show do you think will continue on to becoming a long-running success?


Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    Mary Jane Thomas 5 years ago

    I'd have to agree with Michael there, what a great show!

    I wanted to take my children to see a theatre show when they were on school holidays and was almost spoilt for choice, what with the great amount of child friendly theatre there is on on the West End at the moment. After careful deliberation, I decided to take my kids to see The Lion King. I though that due to its longevity it must be a graet musical, rather than things like Shrek and The Wizard of Oz that have only been going a year or so...

  • profile image

    Michael 5 years ago

    The Lion King is definitely my favourite Broadway musical. It's still captivating today, over a decade after it was first produced. It's a shame that Julie Taymor's career has been marred by the Spiderman drama, but it's a testament to her talent that this show is still running in both New York and the West End.

  • profile image

    Robert LaMarca 5 years ago

    Does anyone know if it is possible to see films of old broadway performances? Something like the original Streetcar named desire with Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy? Or the original Odd Couple with Art Carney?

    Where could one get access to these?

  • profile image

    purchaseseat 6 years ago

    You have very interesting blogs.

  • profile image

    Broadway Tour 7 years ago

    i just added this list to my bucket list. I am so glad i found your hub.

  • vrbmft profile image

    Vernon Bradley 7 years ago from Yucaipa, California

    A fun part of seeing a broadway play, whether in New York or in any other city, is waiting after the play, at the stage door. Even in New York, the actors and actresses are always so gracious and willing to sign autographs and have their pictures taken, etc. The phantom spent 45 mintues with us (group of middel school drama students) after the show. There was no one else there waiting, but us!! And then the make up artists for both Phantom and Avenue Q came out and spent another forty five mintues talking to us. We also had the interesting experiencing of meeting the same actor in Avenue Q in both New York and Los Angeles. He, of course, did not remember us, but we did remember him. Chorus Line is such a wonderful metaphor for life in general. I show the film version in my foster parent training program. I see you wrote this blog a couple of years ago, but still relevant. Thanks

  • the Blue sun profile image

    Larry D. Hudson 8 years ago from Lake Charles, LA

    You have very interesting blogs. I had to comment on them keep up the good work. They are wonderful to read and plenty of information like to read more of your art; yours the Blue Sun.

  • Ladybythelake55 profile image

    Ladybythelake55 8 years ago from I was Born in Bethesda, Maryland and I live in Chicago,IL

    You forgot The Secret Garden that ran from 1999 to 2001 and showed 103 shows and the fact that Daisy Egan was the youngest recipient to be awarded for a Tony Award and the fact that Marsha Mason won the Tony Ward for the play. It also ran with an alternate cast in London England, and Sidney Austraila, and almost every playhouse or opera house has put on the Secret Garden the Music with another cast due to the fact the music was made by Lucy Simon.

    I also saw Little Women, Camelot, on Broadway in Chicago.

  • profile image

    Bella 9 years ago

    RENT is my all time favorite!

  • Opera Ghost profile image

    Opera Ghost 9 years ago

    If you can't tell by my screen name, I love Phantom too. I have seen it four times on stage, and it has been a favorite since I was a child. I think it will be successful for many years to come. As for current musicals, I think Wicked is going to be the next big thing.

  • amy jane profile image

    amy jane 9 years ago from Connecticut

    Great hub! I loved Phantom too. :)

  • MasonsMom profile image

    MasonsMom 9 years ago from U.S.A.

    What a great list! I'm a big Phantom Phan!

  • solarshingles profile image

    solarshingles 9 years ago from london

    Very nice hub! You could refresh it through time by adding some of the most famouf actresses and actors for example...

    I have watched most of them in London... some of them even more than once

  • nyfamily5 profile image

    nyfamily5 9 years ago

    Makes me want to go to Broadway

  • Maddie Ruud profile image

    Maddie Ruud 9 years ago from Oakland, CA

    Very thorough hub! Thanks so much for answering my request--just what I was looking for!