Very few shows make it to the infamous street we all know as Broadway, and, once a production makes it into one of the prestigious New York theaters, there is no guarantee that it will be there for long. Critics are harsh, ticket buyers are worse. If the audience, which is pretty much everyone in the entire world who ever visits New York and every resident of that city, gets wind that a show is not worth the money spent on tickets, it won’t be long before the curtain comes down for good and the doors are shut permanently.
We are not going to take a look at those shows today. This list is going to focus on the shows that not only had a run on Broadway that seeps into legend, but some of them are also still running today. So here we go with a list of the ten longest running shows on Broadway.
This musical, which opened in New York in October of 2003 has performed nearly 5,500 shows to date. In 2013 the show was ten years old, and on Valentines’ day of this year, Wicked gave its 5124th show.
The original production, which included cast members Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel as the witches, received ten Tony nominations in 2004 with both of these actresses nominated for Best Female Lead in a Musical. Menzel took home the trophy, and the production also won Best Scenic Design and Best Costume Design. Unfortunately, Wicked did not take home the Best Book or Best Musical Tony Award for that year.
The plot follows two beloved characters in The Wizard of Oz, Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba. It explains to us why she turns into the wicked and frightening creature we know from the original film from 1939.
9. Beauty and the Beast
Based on the animated Disney film released in 1991, this musical was the first of its kind to hit Broadway. This musical was the first Disney venture into Broadway and sparked a sea of stage adaptations of our favorite animated stories.
The first production of Beauty and the Beast to open on Broadway was at the Palace Theatre in April of 1994. It would stay at this theater for five years and then move to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre officially on November 16, 1999. After more than 5,500 performances Beauty and the Beast closed its curtain for the last time on July 29, 2007. Not a bad run for Broadway show.
Beauty and the Beast‘s long and successful run on the Great White Way secures it in the ninth-place spot of longest-running Broadway shows ever.
8. Mamma Mia
This rock musical, written with the music of the famous disco quartet ABBA, has been a huge success on Broadway and all over the world. It is a quaint little story about a girl who goes home, to the island in Greece where her mother lives and gets ready to marry her love. The one wish this girl has is to meet her father, who is one of a possible three men that her mother was involved with at the time of her conception.
This musical did not debut on Broadway; it premiered on the West End. Before it made its way to the famous New York street, it also had showings in Toronto and San Francisco.
It wasn’t until October of 2001 that Mamma Mia took the Broadway stage at the Winter Garden Theatre. Not only is this musical the 8th longest running show to ever be on Broadway, but it is also the longest-running jukebox musical.
This show eventually moved to the Broadhurst Theatre and finally closed for good in 2015. It closed having 5,773 Broadway shows under its belt.
7. Oh! Calcutta!
This musical is a revue of an unorthodox nature. It originally debuted in 1969 at an Off-Broadway location and moved to London in 1970 where it ran for nearly 4,000 performances. Still, it was the 1976 revival of this musical that put it on the list of longest-running Broadway shows with 5,959 shows before closing.
There is really no plot, rather a series of short musical sketches that highlight sexual freedom and hang-ups. This particular revival premiered at the Edison Theatre on September 24th and ran for thirteen years before closing on August 6, 1989.
Not only is this revival on the list of longest running shows, but it also sits at the top of the list for longest-running musical revue to have ever played on Broadway.
6. A Chorus Line
Written by Marvin Hamlisch, Edward Kleban, James Kirkwood, Jr., and Nicholas Dante this is a musical about the making of a musical. It shows an insider’s view of the audition casting process that goes into a Broadway show.
The show opened at the Shubert Theatre on July 25, 1975, and was an instant hit. It ran for 6,137 shows before closing in April of 1990. There have been numerous revivals of this musical, but it is the original that goes down in the history of Broadway longevity.
The original production was nominated for ten Tony Awards in 1976 and won nine of them, including Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score. It also won all seven Drama Desk Awards it was nominated for that same year. To top it off it also won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Theatre World Award.
A Chorus Line has since been staged all over the world, including on London’s West End, Toronto, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Vienna, San Juan, Belgrade, Seoul, Melbourne, Singapore, and Oslo.
5. Les Misérables
Running for 6,680 shows this musical is a favorite of many and has a story that has been produced on many other stages and even turned into a movie starring Hugh Jackman, Russel Crowe, and Anne Hathaway. Still, on this list we are concerned with the original Broadway production, which had a run of such length it secures Les Misérables in the top five longest running Broadway shows.
Opening on March 12, 1987, at The Broadway Theatre this musical was originally debuted at the Palais des Sports in Paris in September of 1980. This production had 100 shows that attended by more than a half a million people.
From Paris, it moved to London’s West End on October 8, 1985, at the Barbican Arts Centre. Two years later it made its way to New York, and it ran for nearly 7,000 performances.
This musical has a revival that is still running today and continues to break records at the box office recently pulling in more than a million dollars in just a week. Written by the legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber, this musical got its inspiration from the T.S. Eliot piece, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
Before making its way to Broadway, Cats opened at the New London Theatre in May of 1981. It played an astounding 8,949 shows before closing in May of 2002. It held the spot as London’s longest-running musical until Les Misérables took its place in 2006.
The Broadway production opened in October of 1982 at the Winter Garden Theatre and performed 6,138 shows before the original production closed in the year 2000.
3. The Lion King
Another adaptation of a Disney animated film that sits on the list of highest-grossing at the box office just this month. Elton John’s alluring musical stylings mixed with costume designs that are not only original but far surpass any other attempts in the genre are what keeps this musical so popular today.
First previewing in Minneapolis, this musical made its way to Broadway opening in the fall of 1997 at the New Amsterdam Theatre. It would stay there until 2006 when the entire production moved to the Minskoff Theatre where it is still showing today.
To date, The Lion King has given 7,883 performances, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping. So look out number two, this Disney production is coming after you fast like a stalker in the jungle. What can we say? It’s the circle of life.
This is the second revival on our list. Still, it is rare to surpass an original productions number of performances. First opening at the 46th Street Theatre, the first Broadway production of Chicago opened in June of 1975. Although it ran for nearly 1,000 performances, it was underappreciated, and the reviews were mixed.
For this article though, we would like to discuss the Broadway revival of Chicago, which took place in 1996. It opened on November 14th at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, and this production instantly received much more critical acclaim than the original production.
It ran for 8,270 performances and sits securely at number two on our list. It also holds the title of the longest running revival ever on Broadway. The next year this production won six Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical.
1. The Phantom of the Opera
The reigning champ at number one sits a classic tale that was first a novel by Gaston Leroux. However, we are sure it is the genius songwriting of Andrew Lloyd Webber that has garnered all this acclaim.
Performing for 11,949 shows, this production opened its doors in 1988 only two years after its West End debut. The West End production won a Lawrence Olivier Award, and the original Broadway production took home the Tony Award in 1988 for Best Musical.
Phantom is still running and continuing to entertain countless New York residents and visitors and will for years to come. While some of the musicals on this list are coming after this slot, The Phantom of the Opera isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
These are the long-time musical hits of Broadway. Learn more about one of the musical geniuses that has been shaking up the musical theatre scene (and entertainment industries, really) in the past few years: Lin-Manuel Miranda.