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Top 10 Best Broadway Musicals of All Time

VO: Emily Brayton
Script written by Sadie Perkins These are the best Broadway Musicals of All time! For this list, we’ll be looking at the most critically acclaimed, entertaining, and most popular shows to have been performed on the Broadway stage over the years.We’ve included Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Cats, Rent, Chicago, West Side Story, Hairspray, The Lion King and Hamilton!
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Top 10 Best Broadway Musicals of All Time


All the world’s a stage, but Broadway’s where you see the best of the best. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Best Broadway Musicals of All Time.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most critically acclaimed, entertaining, and most popular shows to have been performed on the Broadway stage over the years.

#10: “Hamilton: An American Musical”
2015

“Hamilton” proves that theatre is anything but dead. The musical, with music, lyrics, and book by Lin-Manuel Miranda, hit Broadway in 2015, and was met with universal acclaim. It gives a unique slant to the story of one of America’s original — but forgotten — founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, by featuring a mashup of musical influences ranging from musical theatre to hip-hop. The high-energy production also showcases an inclusive and multi-ethnic cast to contrast the historical figures that they portray, and speak to what the America of the 21st century actually looks like. Even though it’s a young show, “Hamilton” shows no sign of throwing away its shot.

#9: “The Lion King”
1997

Even though the task of bringing beloved animated stories to the real-life stage is daunting, like when they first adapted “Beauty and the Beast,” (Xref) Disney somehow finds a way to do it well. “The Lion King,” a theatrical adaptation of the classic 1994 film, is no different. It’s one of the longest-running and well-liked shows Broadway has ever presented. It features dramatic choreography and graceful performances by dancers, as well as impressive puppetry to bring life to the “animals.” The amount of musical and physical talent crammed into this production makes it a favorite of both the young and young at heart.

#8: “Hairspray”
2002

Based on the 1988 film of the same name, “Hairspray” is a story about overcoming societal expectations, as well as confronting racism — all the while delivered through optimistic and energetic song and dance. With lovable characters left and right, infectious musical numbers, as well as poignant statements about acceptance, “Hairspray” has something for absolutely everyone. From the opening number “Good Morning Baltimore,” the audience is transported to a changing world in the early ‘60s, and by the time the musical ends, you’d better believe “you can’t stop the beat.”

#7: “West Side Story”
1957; 1980; 2009

This modern day Romeo and Juliet story marked a turning point in theatre. The beginning of legend Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway career, “West Side Story” could have been all too predictable for audiences if not for iconic musical motifs like “I Feel Pretty,” “America,” and “Maria.” With the Jets pitted against the Sharks, tensions are high throughout the performance as the characters of Tony and Maria fall in love. “West Side Story” manages to cram in social commentary on gang warfare, violence, and murder, with the passionate music and sharp choreography. The musical’s end, however, is nothing short of heart-wrenching.

#6: “Chicago”
1975; 1996

Based on the true stories of accused Chicago “murderesses” in the roaring ‘20s, “Chicago” is one of Broadway’s longest running shows. Filled with murder and manipulation, the narrative of Roxy Hart and Velma Kelly desperately grasping and competing for fame is an enduring classic. The musical has taken home a Tony for Best Revival, as well as a Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album, and for good reason. “Chicago” has a whole lot of glitz, blood, and “all that jazz.”

#5: “Rent”
1996

Taking on just about every controversial topic under the sun, Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Rent” tackles the difficult subject of living under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. Following a ragtag group of starving artists, the stories of their relationships and their ideas on life and mortality are beautifully told through song, sometimes with hope and optimistic, and others with depression and a sense of defeat. With subject matter like sexuality, homelessness, drugs, and death, this show is not for the faint of heart, but for those who open themselves up, they might just start to measure their lives in love.

#4: “Cats”
1982; 2016

This musical deserves a mention for its costume design alone. Each unique Jellicle cat brings their own pizazz to the stage, dancing intricately to an award winning and catchy score composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Though they’re allcats, each character has their own individual personality, and their own unique voice. Even if you’re skeptical about a musical with felines, we guarantee you’ll get choked up by “Memory.” As of 2016, “Cats” claims the spot as the fourth-longest running Broadway show of all time, but watching these kitties run around never gets old.

#3: “Wicked”
2003

We all think we know the story of the Wicked Witch of the West, but have we ever stopped to listen to her side? “Wicked” recounts the friendship that blossoms between Elphaba and Galinda, before they became the Wicked and Good Witch respectively. The songs composed by legend Stephen Schwartz give depth to characters we all thought we knew, and present a unique peek into the world of Oz before a certain girl from Kansas came along. With something for both younger audiences as well as adults, this fairly new musical has already asserted itself as a Broadway staple.

#2: “The Phantom of the Opera”
1988

How could we not mention the longest running Broadway show of all time? With well over 10,000 performances, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s story of love, kidnapping, and murder has been captivating audiences for decades. Dark, dreamy, and mysterious, the haunting melodies performed by the cast, as well as the awe-inspiring set design, keep the performance locked in to the Broadway halls of fame. Regardless of how much time passes, this classic tale doesn’t seem to be going anywhere - a fact critics and theatre goers are more than happy to hear.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“The Producers”
2001

“A Chorus Line”
1975; 2006

“The Book of Mormon”
2011

#1: “Les Misérables”
1987; 2006; 2014

A stirring tale of courage, war, and moral strength, “Les Misérables” was inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name. Set against the backdrop of France on the verge of rebellion, Jean Valjean, or Prisoner 24601, escapes the watchful eye of Inspector Javert, and makes a better life for himself by taking in Cosette, the daughter of Fantine. As the narrative unfolds over years, love blossoms and patriotism grows, keeping audiences spellbound the entire time. With action, romance, and drama, “Les Miz” has something for every theatregoer.

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