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Best Broadway Shows of All Time

Published on: Nov 6, 2022
By: Kathryn Willingham
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Best Broadway Shows of All Time

An oft-argued topic among theater lovers of all ages, the best Broadway show is up for debate. How do you compare, say, Hedwig and the Angry Inch with A Raisin in the Sun? It’s an impossible task. So for this we’ll use some quantifiable metrics: what has run the longest, grossed the most money, and had the most productions across the US within the last year. The below lists will inevitably favor musicals which tend to run longer than their songless counterparts, so keep arguing for your favorites while celebrating these long-running juggernauts.

What Are the Longest-Running Broadway Shows?



This global hit from Andrew Lloyd Webber was called “a tour de force throughout – as extravagant of imagination as of budget” by The New York Times. With one of the most iconic musical scores, including songs like “Angel of Music,” “All I Ask of You,” “The Music of the Night” and “The Phantom of the Opera,” the album has sold over 40 million copies and is the best-selling cast recording of all time. The musical came to New York City and started performances on Broadway in January 1988 and has been running ever since. But this musical is finally playing its last performance in April 2023 at the Majestic Theatre, so be sure to get a Broadway ticket to this one while you can!



CHICAGO originally ran on Broadway from 1975-1977. But the 1996 revival proved to have much more longevity. Beginning at City Center Encores!, it then transferred to Broadway, where it won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical and can still be seen today. Following Roxie Hart, Velma Kelly, and their cellmates in the Cook County Jail, Variety said, “As much tribute as revival, the spirit of Fosse’s genius never leaves the stage, and “Chicago,” under Walter Bobbie’s sharp direction, will dazzle newcomers to the trademark Fosse dance style and provide a thrilling reminder to those who’ve seen it before just how smart, sexy and exciting this brand of choreography was, or rather, is.”



Based on the beloved Disney movie of the same name, THE LION KING recently celebrated its 25th anniversary on Broadway. It began performances at the New Amsterdam Theatre in 1997 and moved in 2006 to the Minskoff Theatre, where it is still running today. Julie Taymor directs this production that The New York Times called, one of the most memorable, moving and original theatrical extravaganzas in years.”


CATS began performances on Broadway in 1982 and ran for 18 years. Based on T.S. Eliot’sOld Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is known for its choreography and iconic score, including the songs “Memory,” “Mr. Mistoffelees,” and “The Jellicle Ball.” The role of Grizabella, who famously sings “Memory,” has been played by Elaine Paige, who originated the role, as well as Betty Buckley, Lillias White, and Liz Callaway. Jennifer Hudson performed the role in the 2019 film.Variety called this Broadway musical “a great show and an ironclad smash.”


WICKED opened in 2003 at the Gershwin Theatre and quickly became one of Broadway’s biggest blockbusters. Based on Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the musical follows Glinda and Elphaba as they enter Shiz University. Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel originated the roles of Glinda and Elphaba respectively.


LES MISERABLES ran on Broadway from 1987 to 2003 and has been revived on Broadway twice. Following Jean Valjean after he is released from prison in 19th-century France and based on the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo, this musical has starred Patti LuPone, Michael Ball, Ramin Karimloo, Gaten Matarazzo, Lea Michele, Judy Kuhn, and Nick Jonas. The New York Times called the original production of Les Mis a “gripping pop opera” that “yanks an audience right out of its seats.”


A CHORUS LINE ran on Broadway from 1975 to 1990 and played over 6,000 performances. With music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban, and book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante, this Broadway musical follows dancers auditioning to be part of a Broadway chorus line. The New York Times called it “one of the greatest musicals ever to hit Broadway, and quite possibly the simplest and the most imaginative.”


OH! CALCUTTA! had its Broadway debut in 1971, when it ran for a year and a half. But its revival in 1976 ran for almost 13 years. The show is a theatrical revue featuring sketches by playwrights like Samuel Beckett, John Lennon, and Sam Shepard that focus on sex and the human body.


MAMMA MIA! ran on Broadway from 2001 to 2015 and has had many international and touring productions. Using hit songs from ABBA, this jukebox musical follows Sophie Sheridan as she invites the three men she thinks might be her father to her upcoming wedding. Songs include “Dancing Queen,” “Super Trouper,” and “The Winner Takes It All.” The New York Times called it “the unlikeliest hit ever to win over cynical, sentiment-shy New Yorkers.”


Based on the beloved Disney classic, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST has music and lyrics by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton. The Broadway musical ran from 1994 until 2007 and played 5,461 performances. The New York Times said of the special effects, “the astonishments rarely cease.”

What Broadway Shows Have the Most Awards?


THE PRODUCERS, with music and lyrics by Mel Brooks, and book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan, received 15 nominations and won 12 Tony Awards including the Tony Award for Best Musical. It holds the record for most Tony Award wins. This Broadway musical follows two theater producers who find out they can make more money if a show flows than if it succeeds. But complications arise when their surefire failure turns out to be a huge hit.



HAMILTON holds the record for most nominations for a single production. This musical about Alexander Hamilton and the founding fathers received 16 nominations, winning eleven including the Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Original Score. It also received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.


BILLY ELLIOT, based on the film of the same name, received 15 nominations and won 10 including the Tony Award for Best Musical. Based on the film of the same name, the musical follows eleven-year-old Billy who finds himself drawn toward ballet while his father and brother struggle with a miners’ strike.


THE COAST OF UTOPIA by Tom Stoppard won seven Tony Awards including the Tony Award for Best Play, and currently holds the record for most Tony Awards won for a play production. Set over three decades in 1800s Russia, radicals debate philosophies about poverty, injustice, and politics.



In January 2023, THE LION KING on Broadway grossed over 4 million dollars in ticket sales in just one week, more than any other Broadway show in history in the same time period. According to the Guinness World Records, it has grossed over $1.7 billion on Broadway alone, and that’s not counting its many international and touring productions. Globally it has grossed nearly $10 billion as of November 2022.



WICKED comes in second having grossed over $1.2 billion in the US as of October 2022 and over $5 billion globally. It is now being made into a musical film of the same name.

Most Produced Shows Across the US:

American Theatre Magazine releases a yearly list of the top 10 most-produced shows among TCG (Theatre Communications Group) theaters, which include over 550 theaters from all over the country. Note that some popular shows like Shakespeare and A Christmas Carol are excluded from this list. The shows most often produced in the 2022 – 2023 are, in order:


Who wrote it? Lynn Nottage

When was it on Broadway? November 2021 – January 2022 at the Hayes Theater.

What’s it about? Clyde, played by Uzo Aduba on Broadway, runs a sandwich shop staffed by formerly incarcerated employees who try to create the perfect sandwich. Kate Whoriskey directed this comedy on Broadway that The New York Times called “delightful” and “thoroughly satisfying.”

Chicken and Biscuits Play


Who wrote it? Douglas Lyons

When was it on Broadway? September 2021 – November 2021 at the Circle in the Square Theatre.

What’s it about? A family funeral honoring the life of a pastor is disrupted by long-held family arguments and newfound secrets. Zhailon Levingston directed this comedy that Variety called “a feast of Black joy on Broadway.”


Who wrote it? Sandy Rustin adapted the play from the classic film of the same name, with additional materials by Hunter Foster and Eric Price.

Where did it premiere? Clue had its regional premiere at Cleveland Playhouse.

What’s it about? Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green and more investigate to find a killer in this farcical murder mystery. The New York Times called it “a welcome throwback to an era of physical comedy.


Who wrote it? Once, adapted from the film of the same name by John Carney, has a book by Enda Walsh and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.

When was it on Broadway? 2012 – 2015 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.

What’s it about? Set over one week, an Irish musician and Czech immigrant share a love of music and form an unexpected friendship. The Chicago Tribune called it a “gorgeously crafted and intensely moving new show.”


Who wrote it? Lynn Nottage

When was it on Broadway? March – June 2017 at Studio 54.

What’s it about? Kate Whoriskey directed this Pulitzer Prize winning play that follows a group of friends and factory workers on strike. The Guardian called it a “breathtaking drama about life in the American rustbelt.”


Who wrote it? Lloyd Suh

Where did it premiere? The Chinese Lady was commissioned and had its co-world premiere presented by the Ma-Yi Theater Company at Barrington Stage Company. It has also played at Theatre Row, The Public Theater, and Long Wharf Theatre.

What’s it about? The Chinese Lady follows Afong May, the first Chinese woman in America. The Chicago Sun-Times called it “thoroughly compelling.”


Who wrote it? Jackie Sibblies Drury

Where did it premiere? The play was co-commissioned by Berkeley Rep and Soho Repertory Theatre and first premiered off-Broadway at the Soho Repertory Theatre in June 2018.

What’s it about? This Pulitzer Prize winning play follows a middle-class black family as they prepare to celebrate their grandmother’s birthday. To say much else may spoil the plot. The New York Times called it “dazzling and ruthless…a glorious, scary reminder of the unmatched power of live theater to rattle, roil and shake us wide awake.”


Who wrote it? Into the Woods has a book by James Lapine and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

When was it on Broadway? The original Broadway production ran from November 1987 to September 1989 at the Martin Beck Theatre. The most recent revival of this outstanding musical closed in January 2023 and is now on tour in North America!

What’s it about? Fairy tale characters like Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and a pair of princes all have run-ins with a witch and a giant. The New York Times called it “a work of giddy playfulness and moral seriousness…superb.”


Who wrote it? Jeremy Karaken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell

When was it on Broadway? October 2018 – January 2019 at Studio 54.

What’s it about? Based on the book of the same name, Daniel Radcliffe, Bobby Cannavale, and Cherry Jones starred in this comedy about a fact checker charged with checking a legendary author’s article. The New York Times called it “terrifically engaging.”


Who wrote it? The Little Shop of Horrors has a book by Howard Ashman, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Howard Ashman.

When was it on Broadway? It premiered off-off-Broadway in 1982 before moving off-Broadway to the Orpheum Theatre where it played for five years. It played on Broadway in October 2003 to August 2004, and you can watch a new production off-Broadway right now!

What’s it about? This cult classic follows a flower store clerk with a crush on his co-worker. His fortune and fate takes a turn when he discovers an unusual plant with a taste for blood. The New York Times called the current Drama Desk Award winning production a “delicious revival…triumphantly revitalized.”


Who wrote it? Karen Zacarias

Where did it premiere? Native Gardens had its world premiere at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park in 2016.

What’s it about? The play follows two couples in D.C. who argue over the placement of a fence between their properties. BroadwayWorld called it “timely, thoughtful, and hilarious.”


Who wrote it? Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields

When was it on Broadway? April 2017 – January 2019 at the Lyceum Theatre after a hit run on the West End, and you can watch it off-Broadway right now!

What’s it about? An amateur theater company tries to put on a play only to see it derailed by technical difficulties, cast arguments, and injuries. AMNY said this “comedy gets it hilariously right.”


Who wrote it? Robert Harling

When was it on Broadway? 2005 at the Lyceum Theatre.

What’s it about? Set in Louisiana, this play follows a group of women and their relationships – including Shelby, her marriage, and her decision to have a child despite complications from diabetes. Variety called the 2005 production “the theatrical equivalent of nestling under the warming cocoon of a hair dryer while your highlights set and flipping through a juicy gossip mag with a tearjerker installment.”


Who wrote it? Alice Childress

When was it on Broadway? It debuted off-Broadway in 1955 and finally had its Broadway debut in 2021 at the American Airlines Theatre.

What’s it about? The play follows a group of black actors and two white actors as they rehearse a (fictional) Broadway play called Chaos in Belleville, a show about lynching in the South. The New York Times said this “play about power and race in the theater is a satire and a tragedy that deserves to be a classic.”

Top Broadway Shows Playing Now

Looking to buy tickets for a great show on Broadway today? Check out our article on Top Broadway Shows for an up-to-date list of what to see, including musicals like Moulin Rouge and Sweeney Todd!

Kathryn Willingham

Head of Creative Development at Jean Doumanian Productions

Kathryn Willingham has worked in entertainment for over ten years, and recent credits include: Co-producer of SHRINK currently streaming on Peacock, Associate Producer of the independent film UNA, and Creative Executive on multiple theatrical productions including HANGMEN by Martin McDonagh on Broadway, NASSIM by Nassim Soleimanpour Off-broadway and Associate on productions EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe and THE EFFECT by Lucy Prebble. She was Producer of Todd Almond’s musical travelogue “Wyoming and Parts of Kansas” and Production Coordinator for Karen O and KK Barrett's “Stop the Virgens.”


Education: B.A. in English, Literature & Creative Writing from Rhodes College
Knowledge: Theaterical Production


Nov 6, 2022

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