It is nearly impossible to name the single best show ever to run on Broadway. The action is the same to choosing a favorite child. Really they are all wonderful. For each brings a unique style or evokes a special story and culture to the stage that excites audiences from all different cultures and backgrounds. They get us up dancing and singing in the aisles to shedding tears, either from laughter or the deep sadness of a live and movingly-acted dramatic scene.
Still some plays do stand out over the rest and those shows manage to become household names. Since 1947, they’ve been rewarded by the American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards. To impart a bit of Broadway theatre history the Tonys are named for Antoinette Perry who had just passed away at the time the awards show was started. Perry was a Broadway actress, director, producer, and the dynamic wartime leader of the American Theatre Wing back then.
Broadway is a very special thing to experience, live shows always are. I sat fourth row center for 42nd Street and could clearly see the late Jerry Orbach, (who was marvelous in the show) spitting as he sang. He truly gave it his all. Over and over fans will fill the seats of the theaters where great shows create and recreate themselves nightly. Time and again, their applause and cheers ring out over the roar of the greasepaint. What follows is a list of 15 of the best shows to have graced Broadway’s many stages.
15 Monty Python’s Spamalot: Gross to date $168,067,350
“Spamalot” dubbed itself “a musical lovingly ripped from the motion picture, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” Academy Award-winning director Mike Nichols whose film credits include “The Graduate” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” directed this Broadway production.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $168,067,350Average paid admission: $80.00Broadway run: 2005 - 2009Total number of performances: 1,609
14 Hairspray: Gross to date $252,181,270
Set in Baltimore in 1962 the show tells the story of plump teenager Tracy Turnblad and her dream to dance on the popular “Corny Collins Show”. Like the 1988 John Waters movie by the same name the musical Hairspray also tells the story of the racial tensions that existed in the 1960s. The show was awarded the top six Tony Awards.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $252,181,270Average paid admission: $73.00Broadway run: 2002 - 2009Total number of performances: 2,673
13 Rent: Gross to date $274,248,128
A rock opera, based on Puccini’s “La Boheme”, it takes place in New York’s East Village and is about the lives of struggling young artists there. “Rent” won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as four Tony Awards that same year, including Best Musical. The show is well-received by younger audiences.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $274,248,128Average paid admission: $54.00Broadway run: 1996 - 2008Total number of performances: 5,139
12 Miss Saigon: Gross to date $285,843,972
Based on Puccini’s opera, “Madame Butterfly” Miss Saigon is the story of a doomed romance between an Asian woman and her American lover who has abandoned her. The show has played in 246 cities in 25 countries.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $285,843,972Average paid admission: $60.00Broadway run: 1991 - 2001Total number of performances: 4,111
11 The Producers: Gross to date $288,361,724
Written by Mel Brooks (based on his film by the same name) this is the hysterical tale of two theatrical producers who scheme to get rich by overselling interests in a Broadway flop, but then the show becomes a huge success. Winner of a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $288,361,724Average paid admission: $78.00Broadway run: 2001 - 2007Total number of performances: 2,535
10 Mary Poppins: Gross to date $294,558,648
This musical is based on the series of books by P. L. Travers and the 1964 Walt Disney film. This production marks the first collaboration between Disney Corporation and Cameron Mackintosh, the well-known producer whose Broadway credits include “Phantom of the Opera”, “Cats and “Les Miserables.”
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $294,558,648Average paid admission: $75.00Broadway run: 2006 - PresentTotal number of performances to date: 2,649
9 Cats: Gross to date $366,379,566
“Cats” is the second longest-running musical on Broadway and is about the Jellicle Cats and tells their life stories. It is based on “Old Possum’s Book on Practical Cats” by the poet T.S. Eliot. The show has been translated into more than 20 languages and has been produced around the world.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $366,379,566Average paid admission: $60.00Broadway run: 1982 - 2000Total number of performances: 6,792
8 Les Miserables (Original Production): Gross to date: $406,258,901
"Les Miserables" was the winner of eight 1987 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It is set in 19th-century France and focuses on the struggles of an ex-convict and his search for redemption. ‘Les Mis’, as it became known, has played in 291 cities in 42 countries. "Les Miserables" is based on the 1862 novel with the same name by Victor Hugo and is the longest running play in London.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $406,258,901Average paid admission: $60.00Broadway run: 1987 - 2003Total number of Performances: 6,691
7 Beauty and the Beast: Gross to date $429,158,458
“Beauty and the Beast” is a musical based on the animated Disney film. It is the story of a prince who is transformed into a hideous beast as punishment for his cruel and selfish ways and the adventurous young woman named Belle whom he imprisons in his castle In order to become human again, the Beast must earn her love.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $429,158,458Average paid admission: $60.00Broadway run: 1994 - 2007Total number of performances: 5,507
6 Jersey Boys: Gross to date $445,018,093
This “jukebox” musical tells the true story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons-- four blue-collar kids who worked their way from Newark, New Jersey to being huge singing stars who had tons of hit tunes.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $445,018,093Average paid admission: $111.00Broadway run: 2005 - PresentTotal number of performances to date: 3,426
5 Chicago: Gross to date $484,854,707
"Chicago" was the winner of six 1996 Tony Awards and is set in the 1920s. It tells the story of two rival murderesses, who cross paths in county jail and is modeled after real-life murderesses Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner. “Chicago” is one of longest-running Broadway musicals.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $484,854,707Average paid admission: $68.00Broadway run: 1996 - PresentTotal number of performances to date: 7,150
4 Mamma Mia!: Gross to date: $565,145,587
"Mamma Mia!" uses the music of Swedish 1970s pop band, ABBA to tell the story of a bride-to-be searching to find her real father. The Broadway musical inspired a 2008 movie of the same name which starred Meryl Streep.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $565,145,587Average paid admission: $82.00Broadway run: 2001 - PresentTotal number of performances to date: 5,077
3 Wicked: Gross to date $801,059,771
“Wicked” is the untold musical tale of “The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch before Dorothy arrives in Oz. It is loosely based on the best-selling novel, “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire. The show was selected by viewers and Time Magazine as the best musical of 2007 and it has broken box-office records around the world.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $801,059,771Average paid admission: $105.00Broadway run: 2003 - PresentTotal number of performances to date: 4,270
2 Phantom of the Opera: Gross to date $940,792,658
This musical is the winner of seven 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. “Phantom of the Opera” is the story of a disfigured musical genius, who is obsessed with a beautiful soprano at a Paris opera house whom he trains to sing. In 2006, it surpassed “Cats” as the longest-running musical in Broadway history and it has been a consistent sell-out and favorite for many tourists visiting New York City.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $940,792,658Average paid admission: $45.00Broadway run: 1988 - PresentTotal number of performances to date: 10,801
1 The Lion King: Gross to date $1,024,505,015
This musical is based on the 1994 Disney animated film by the same name. It is the story of a young lion prince in Africa, sent into exile after his father is sabotaged by his evil uncle. The show won six 1998 Tony Awards including Best Musical. “The Lion King” maintains a place at the top of the lists for the ‘longest-running musicals’; has won numerous viewers’ choice awards and appeals to young children and families.
Estimated Show Statistics:Gross to date: $1,024,505,015Average paid admission: $91.00Broadway run: 1997 - PresentTotal number of performances: 6,751