Theatre in New York, specifically the theatre district we all known as Broadway, is regarded as a representation of the highest level of commercial theatre in the world. With its long and storied history dating back to 1750, the growth of the Broadway we know today has had many highs and lows, including a serious downturn in the late 1970s. That changed in the early 1980s when a “Save the Theatres” campaign was launched and ushered in an era of the biggest and most impressive Broadway productions ever – most on our list are still running on Broadway today, so you can catch them.
The jukebox musical at its finest, “Mamma Mia!” tells the story of a young woman about to be married, through the music of ABBA, the Swedish pop group that rose to fame in the 1970s. Running from 2001 to 2015 on Broadway and grossing more than $415 million over 5,773 performances, “Mamma Mia!” is still a favorite for many ages – from fans of ABBA to fans of a fun musical. “Mamma Mia!” ended its farewell tour in early 2017, but based on its popularity, you’ll likely have another chance to see it – this one is poised for a Broadway revival or at least a tour.
This award-winning modern rock opera was based on Puccini’s “La Boheme” and was centered around a group of struggling young artists and musicians in the East Village dealing with life, love, and AIDS. Over the course of its twelve-year run on Broadway, “Rent” grossed nearly $275 million from more than 5,000 performances which is a huge multiple of 525,600 minutes. See “Rent” on its 20th Anniversary Tour around the United States.
The story of the witches of “The Wizard of Oz” before Dorothy’s time, this prequel and it’s infectious message and music has grossed more than $465 million since its launch in 2003 over the course of more than 2,700 performances. With now-household names in the original cast including Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, “Wicked” is still a must-see spectacle on Broadway. See “Wicked” at the Gershwin Theatre in New York.
The Lion King
Originally an animated feature film, Disney’s “The Lion King” has since become a wildly successful and very impressive Broadway production garnering several awards worldwide. Grossing nearly $700 million, “The Lion King” is now in its 20th year with more than 5,000 performances. The perfect family outing and the perfect means to introduce children to Broadway, “The Lion King” never disappoints. See “The Lion King” at the Minskoff Theatre in New York.
The Phantom of the Opera
Said to have been one of the most influential and pace-setting productions, “The Phantom of the Opera” has grossed more than $770 million since it began its Broadway run in 1988 when it won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. Nearly 30 years and almost 10,000 performances later, “The Phantom of the Opera” is still a popular production and is on the bucket list of many of New York’s visitors and it has officially surpassed “Cats” as the longest-running Broadway musical in history. See “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Majestic Theatre in New York.
Other impressive Broadway productions that are notable and should be on your list to see include Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”, the revival of “Chicago”, “Miss Saigon”, “The Producers”, and many more. There is something for everyone on Broadway or off Broadway or off off Broadway. For even more not-to-miss productions, you’ll want to read “Broadway Shows You Must See in Your Lifetime”.