Many people dream of attending a Broadway show in New York or they dream of performing in one. The music, the talented stars and star power, and the magic of every show make it the most enticing stage in the world.
If you are a theater geek and love learning fun facts about musicals, this article is for you!
We have listed below some of the best and most popular musicals of all time according to the number of performances and years it's been running. We also have a list of popular musicals that made a successful debut on the big screen.
Musicals feature famous stories that many generations know and love, which is why you can still hear young kids and parents singing along to a famous song from a known musical. We all know the lyrics to "You're the one that I Want" from Grease or "Dancing Queen" from Mama Mia!.
Each of the productions from the list below has been performed at least 1,000 times on New York's famous Broadway stage. Thousands of fans have paid to watch a cast of stars sing and dance to their favorite songs, whether it is a classic show or a newer production, this industry attracts new fans every year.
Learn more about musicals in our article Musicals at a Glance.
Top 3 musicals of all time
The top 3 greatest musicals of all time are The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, and The Lion King.
The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera opened on January 26, 1988, and it featured more than 13,000 performances up until the start of 2020.
The Phantom of the Opera is a musical brought to life with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart. It is based on the French novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux. Harold Prince was the director during the premiere production of this musical and the main cast was made up of roughly 40 actors.
The central plot of The Phantom of the Opera revolves around a beautiful soprano, Christine Daaé, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius living in the subterranean labyrinth beneath the Opera House in Paris.
Chicago opened on November 14, 1996, and it featured more than 9,600 performances up until the start of 2020.
Chicago is an American musical with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. The director is Walter Bobbie and the cast is made up of 23 actors.
This musical is set in the Jazz era in Chicago and it is based on a 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about actual criminals and crimes she reported on. The story is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the "celebrity criminal".
The Lion King
The Lion King opened on November 13, 1997, and it featured more than 9,200 performances up until the start of 2020.
The Lion King is a musical based on the 1994 Walt Disney Animation Studios' animated feature film of the same name with music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, and book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi.
This family-friendly musical was directed by Julie Taymor and it features a cast of actors in animal costumes as well as giant, hollow puppets. The show is produced by Disney Theatrical Productions.
Broadway musicals continue to produce the most popular musicals the theater industry has to offer. As we just mentioned three of the best and most popular musicals of all time, there still is a long list of unforgettable classic productions to consider.
Cats, Wicked, and Les Misérables are the next three on the list of top musicals of all time. Cats tells the story of a tribe of cats called the Jellicles and the night they make what is known as "the Jellicle choice" and decide which cat will ascend to the "Heaviside Layer" and come back to a new life. Cats introduced the song standard "Memory".
Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz is an American Broadway musical based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. The musical is told from the perspective of the witches of the Land of Oz; its plot begins before and continues after Dorothy Gale arrives in Oz from Kansas.
Les Misérables is a musical based on the novel Les Misérables by French poet and novelist Victor Hugo. Set in France, it is the story of a French peasant, Jean Valjean, and his quest for redemption after serving nineteen years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread.
If you like musicals but you don't really know much about them, we recommend you read our article Learning about musicals.
Movies and films that are musicals
As you saw, many movies and books have turned into a musical, but it can happen the other way around where musicals are turned into a movie. This happens with any story that producers know the audiences will love.
Films, whether they are comedy or drama, are a great way to attract all the audiences that don't enjoy watching actors on a stage and a theater. Classic stories can have a fresh perspective with new young actors and bring young audiences to the box office as it happened with Hairspray and Les Misérables.
There are also family-friendly stories like Annie and Dream Girls that audiences love and couldn't wait to take their kids to watch the films.
Movies are a great way to reach a bigger audience and producers know this. Other famous musicals that turned into movies are Sweeney Todd, Grease, The Sound of Music, Rent, Chicago, West Side Story, and more.
Other family-friendly musicals are Mamma Mia!, The Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and more.
Are you planning to study musical theater? Learn Why and where you should study musical theatre.
Why are musicals popular?
There are many reasons why American musicals are so popular amongst any man or girl and we'll tell you about 5 reasons why this might be.
- Immerse yourself in a story: Whether it is a film/ movie, or on a stage, musicals have the power to catch the audience's attention with music, dance, songs, and more.
- History: These stories aren't only starring the best stars but they teach the audience about history in an entertaining way.
- The good old days: musicals can transport you in time.
- Talk politics: the director of every musical can communicate political and social issues in a great way.
- Songs and dance numbers: who doesn't want to get up to sing and dance along with the cast?
Watching a musical is enticing, magical, and entertaining. It's the perfect activity for the whole family (check family-friendly shows) to do together. From Broadway in New York to a film, the director of each musical works hard to give us the best and greatest show they can.
Whether they are on film or in a theater, people enjoy watching their favorite stars embody characters they love and listening to its music no matter the genre, from comedy to drama.
Musicals are so popular that there's an entire award show dedicated to directors, actors, producers, and more. Awards are a huge part of the world of musicals and the greatest night of the year is the Tony Awards. For any man, woman, girl, or boy in Broadway, winning a Tony has to be the goal and greatest accomplishment of their careers.
If you're looking to create the best playlist with music from musicals read about it on Popular favorite songs from musicals.