Top 10 Greatest Musicals of the 2000s
Top 10 Greatest Musicals of the 2000s

Top 10 Greatest Musicals of the 2000s

VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
The 2000s truly were a great decade for musicals and the shows on our list are the best of the decade! For this list, we'll be looking at the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful musicals that premiered on Broadway between 2000 and 2009. The musical must be an original, so revivals will not be included, but “Legally Blonde”, “Mamma Mia!”, “Hairspray” and more, will be! Join MsMojo as we count down the Greatest Musicals of the 2000s!

Top 10 Greatest Musicals of the 2000s

The 2000s truly were a great decade for musicals. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re looking at the greatest musicals of the 2000s.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful musicals that premiered on Broadway between 2000 and 2009. The musical must be an original, so revivals will not be included.

#10: “Legally Blonde”

Six years after the Reese Witherspoon movie, we were given a musical adaptation of the novel and film. And while it certainly wasn’t as good or as commercially profitable as its movie counterpart, it still saw its fair share of success. Following a brief winter run at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Theatre, “Legally Blonde” opened on Broadway on April 29, 2007 and ran for just 595 performances, a decent but not profitable run. However,the musical received its fair share of good reviews, and many critics singled out Laura Bell Bundy’s portrayal of Elle for special praise. She was subsequently nominated for a Best Actress Tony award, one of the show’s seven nominations. Unfortunately, it failed to win a single one.

#9: “In the Heights”

Who would have thought that Usnavi from “In the Heights” would become the biggest name in musical theater? While Lin-Manuel Miranda originally performed an early version of “In the Heights” in university, it didn’t receive a professional production until 2005, when it played at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut. It premiered on Broadway three years later, and the rest is history. The Broadway production was lauded for its acting, production design, choreography, and unique blend of musical styles, and it took home four Tony awards, including the coveted Best Musical. It made Lin-Manuel Miranda a star, introducing us to one of the most charismatic and talented Broadway performers in decades.

#8: “Jersey Boys”

Like many of the best musicals, “Jersey Boys” tells a very specific story, but manages to find the universal in its themes and production. The story follows the formation and eventual break-up of The Four Seasons, a pop group from the 60s. It may sound like this musical was tailor-made for older, nostalgic theatergoers, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It managed to find a wide audience thanks to its intriguing story, brilliant acting, and catchy music, contributing to a Broadway run of more than 4,600 performances. It gave older audiences a burst of nostalgia, and it introduced the younger generation to one of the most iconic pop groups of all time. Now that’s a win-win.

#7: “Avenue Q”

“Avenue Q” is what would happen if you took “Sesame Street,” “The Muppets,” and “Friends,” threw them in a blender, added a heap of explicit adult content, and made the result into a theatrical musical. This human-puppet hybrid obviously takes huge inspiration from the aforementioned shows, even going so far as to hire ex-“Sesame Street” performers as the puppeteers. However, unlike those shows, “Avenue Q” presents adult themes while also employing profanity and scenes of puppet sex. Yes, puppet sex. Who says Broadway plays it too safe? Despite its experimental nature and restricting adult content, the play was an enormous commercial success, and is now fondly remembered as one of the most unique and creative endeavors on Broadway.

#6: “Spring Awakening”

Like “In the Heights,” we can thank “Spring Awakening” for introducing us to two big names in Broadway and musical entertainment – Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff. They respectively star as Wendla and Melchior, two sexually active teenagers in late 19th century Germany. The musical is an adaptation of a 19th century German play of the same name, which was extremely controversial in its time for its open criticism of sexual oppression. While the content matter obviously wasn’t as taboo or attention-grabbing in 2006, the play still managed to generate a ton of interest, and it went on to win an astounding eight Tony awards, including Best Musical. Take that, prudes!

#5: “Next to Normal”

Most people go to Broadway to have a good time and escape their troubles. Those people were not the target audience of “Next to Normal.” It wanted to “say something,” and say something it did. The musical expertly tells the story of a mentally ill mother as she and her family grapple with her worsening bipolar disorder. As you would expect, the musical touches on complex and mature themes, and it presents an unfortunately harsh and relatable outlook on the realities of modern suburban life. Not only did this play take incredible thematic risks, but Alice Ripley’s performance as Diana was universally lauded. According to the Pulitzer Board, which awarded it the Pulitzer for Drama, the musical “expand[ed] the scope of subject matter for musicals,” and we couldn’t agree more.

#4: “Mamma Mia!”

The idea for “Mamma Mia!” came when producer Judy Craymer heard ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All” and thought that it would make a good showtune. She then approached ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson with the idea, who initially were reluctant but eventually accepted. “Mamma Mia!” premiered on the West End in 1999 before making its way to Broadway in 2001. It eventually became the ninth longest running show in Broadway history, thanks primarily to the infectious ABBA music. (xref) Unfortunately, “Mamma Mia!” was released in a highly competitive year that included “Urinetown” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” resulting in zero Tony wins. That said, it’s arguably the most popular musical to have never won a Tony, proving that awards aren’t everything.

#3: “The Producers”

Back in 1967, Mel Brooks released a movie called “The Producers” to a mixed reception, although Brooks picked up an Oscar for his screenplay. Thirty-four years later, he adapted his movie for the stage, and it became one of the most successful musicals of all time. The musical, starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, was an immediate success, and went on to break numerous Broadway records. The first record was the largest single day box office sales, which it accomplished after grossing $3 million in one day (it would later break its own record when it took in $3.5 million in 2003). It also won a record twelve Tony awards, blowing away the competition that year. So, yeah, we’d call that a success!

#2: “Hairspray”

Everyone knows “Hairspray” thanks to the 2007 movie starring John Travolta, Christopher Walken, and Zac Efron. But before that it was an enormously successful and critically acclaimed musical from the minds of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. And before THAT it was a John Waters movie starring Divine, Sonny Bono, and Ricki Lake! The play was lauded for its 60s-themed production, uplifting and feel good story, and infectious score that fused elements of bubble gum pop, dance, and R&B. It walked away with eight Tony awards, and the subsequent West End production was nominated for a record eleven Olivier awards! The makers of this musical can certainly hear the bells. In this case, the bells are awards and lots of money.

Before we look at the greatest musical of the 2000s, here are a few honorable mentions.

“The Light in the Piazza”

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

“Mary Poppins”

“Billy Elliot the Musical”

“The Color Purple”

#1: “Wicked”

“Wicked” has become just as important to Broadway as “The Wizard of Oz” was to film. OK, maybe it’s not as influential or ground-breaking, but it is certainly just as popular! “Wicked” officially premiered on Broadway on October 30, 2003 and received lukewarm reviews, with most of the criticism directed at Idina Menzel’s performance, the overblown production, and generic Broadway score. Audiences disagreed vehemently, and word of mouth quickly spread, making it a phenomenal hit. It is now the second highest grossing Broadway musical of all time, having grossed over $1.12 billion as of 2019. Whether it’s the lavish production, the rousing music, the story, or its relation to the classic film, audiences have connected with “Wicked,” and it has since become synonymous with Broadway.