Broadway is a magical place in New York where musicals come to life since some time in the late seventeen hundreds. Since then we have been graced with the likes of phantoms, cats, people creating rhythms with garbage cans, and greasers on the stages that grace the five-hundred plus seats in Midtown Manhattan’s Theater District. Tourists flock to Broadway to take in the performances that grace these theaters for decades at a time. Some of the most popular productions go on tour and perform all over the world. With that in mind we thought we would bring you the 15 most popular Broadway musicals.
Grease is the word, the musical word in this case. Set in the fifties, Grease tells us the love story between Sandy and Danny who are opposite in social circles a Rydell High School. Sandy is a goody two shoes while Danny is a lady killer and leader of the T-Birds gang. Sandy slowly becomes friends with the Pink Ladies, who help her nab Danny into a relationship and they live happily ever after.
14. 42nd Street
Famous Broadway director Julian Marsh is commissioned to produce a new musical. He is ill but agrees to do it in spite of it. The star of the show is Dorothy Brock, who is the object of affection for a rich older man who is funding the production. To the older gentleman’s dismay, Dorothy does not return his feelings. She breaks her ankle on opening night and Peggy Sawyer is called in to replace her. Peggy moves from chorus line to musical star instantaneously.
13. Jersey Boys
This popular Broadway musical tells the tale of the musical group The Four Seasons and their rise to stardom. This musical focuses on the relationship within the group focusing on lead singer Frankie Valli. These four performers grew up in New Jersey to overcome their “wrong side of the tracks” personas they grew up with to become the sound of a generation. Looking for Jersey Boys tickets? Check them out here.
12. Miss Saigon
Adapted from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, this Broadway musical was a smash it from the very start using a Vietnam War backdrop to tell a love story. Chris, an American soldier, and Kim, a war orphan of Vietnam, meet and fall in love. The city begins to crumble at their feet and the two are separated. Each of the two are forced to go it alone. Chris returns to Vietnam with an American wife many years later only to find that he is the father of Tam, a son that Kim bore to him all those years ago.
Set in OZ before Dorothy and her little dog ever dropped a house on anyone, Wicked is that tale of the friendship between the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch of the North. This musical has a twist though, Elphaba, the original name of the Wicked Witch, before she was wicked, attends college where she meets Glinda, who is wealthy and spoiled. This musical will turn your notions of OZ on its head. To watch the Wicked Broadway musical you can start looking for tickets over here.
Another adaptation of a Puccini masterpiece Rent is based on La Boheme. This musical reveals one year in the life of a group living in the East Village of New York City. The cast of characters is as more diverse than any other musical on the list. Yet, so many of them have one thing in common; testing positive for HIV. This rock opera covers love and loss, the AIDs epidemic, and life in New York city to an amazing group of numbers that you will never forget.
9. Mama Mia!
This musical was inspired by the music of ABBA. Sophie returns to a Greek Island her mother calls home to marry her fiancé Sky. While there she reveals to her mother she wants her father to walk her down the aisle. There is a possibility of three men that her mother knew at the time and this musical sets out to find out exactly who the paternal mystery is. All ends well in this light hearted musical set to some of the best seventies disco we’ve ever heard.
8. Beauty and the Beast
Strangely enough, this musical was based on the animated film. Belle is a beautiful young woman who doesn’t feel that she fits into the community offered by her simple French town. Her father is put into a prison inside a castle that has been a mystery. Belle is kidnapped by the Beast, who is ugly and ill-tempered. Either by Stockholm syndrome or a pure heart Belle and the Beast fall in love. This love rescues the Beast from a curse he had been living under for years and he is good looking once again.
7. A Chorus Line
Set inside a Broadway musical, this popular Broadway Musical tells the tale of seventeen individuals who all wish to make it as a dancer. Each of them are competing for an opening in the “chorus line.” Their individual stories are brought to life via this audition and the audience gets insight into their personalities. Yet by the end, during the musical performance of “One” each character once again blends into the next once again rendering the characters nameless and faceless.
6. Oh! Calcutta!
This particular Broadway musical is the only one on our list without one singular plot. Consisting of many different sketches, this musical focuses solely on the theme of sex. Starting with Taking Off the Robe, a strip tease of sorts and ending with Four in Hand, which highlights the art of self-pleasure
5. Les Miserables
Jean Valjean is the main character of the fifth Broadway musical on our list today. He is released from prison where he served nearly twenty years. He goes to the town of Digne but when he arrives he finds his welcome to be less than form the townsfolk because he is an ex-con. Finally, he comes to the home of bishop M. Myriel who treats Valjean with compassion. Valjean steals the Myriel’s silverware as payment. Valjean is arrested by instead of pressing charges Myriel lies and says he had given Valjean the silverware. When the police leave Myriel insists that Valjean start to live an honest life. Find tickets here!
4. The Lion King
This Broadway musical is the second adaptation of a Disney film on our list. Simba is the prince of the jungle and as a child he is presented to the kingdom. His father is Mufasa, king of the jungle, whom all of his subjects adore. Scar, Simba’s uncle, kills Mufasa and makes it look like an accident. Simba runs away in fear and stays away. Still, responsibility finds him and Simba returns to claim his stolen throne. For Lion King tickets, click here.
Velma and Roxie, vaudeville performers, are the central characters of this Broadway musical. Velma is jailed for murdering her husband and her sister after finding them together in bed. Roxie, a married woman, murders her lover. Both women are sent to jail where Matron “Mama” Morton runs their cellblock. Mama is working with Velma to help her become a big vaudeville star once released. Velma is counting on her lawyer but Roxie convinces him to help her. The lawyer, Billy Flynn, gets Roxie out but soon both women learn that fame is fleeting. Find tickets for this Broadway musical here.
A, gang of felines, carry us through this next popular Broadway musical. A large number of cats gather. It is time for the annual ball of the Jellicle’s. Their wise and noble leader Old Deuteronomy arrives to choose whom of the group will be the one born into a new life by journeying to the Heaviside layer. Jennyanydots, Rum Tum Tugger, Grizabella, and Bustopher Jones all compete for the honor. Chaos ensues when the evil Macavity kidnaps Old Dueteronomy whom he eventually portrays rather badly. He is discovered. By the end of the musical one of the cats is chosen for the journey and the Jellicle Ball comes to an end until next year. Click here to find Cats tickets.
1. Phantom of the Opera
The most popular musical to ever be produced on Broadway was adapted from a Gaston Leroux novel written in 1910. A lonely, deformed composer creepily lives in the caverns below the Paris Opera House, where he has become a ghostly figure. Up and coming soprano Christine takes lessons from him and he falls in love with her. Yet a former suitor who is also very handsome attempts to woo Christine, which enrages the Phantom. He haunts the Opera house while Christine finds herself intrigued by the man behind the mask.
Find Phantom of Opera tickers over here. If you can’t get all the way to Broadway to watch a specific musical, you can check out Cennarium’s musicals, without having to buy tickets, flights, hotels! Try it out and start watching today!