On Broadway and the surrounding streets, there are more than ninety theaters with more than 500 seats available. If you’ve made it to Broadway, you’ve really made it. The following ten musicals are the most succesful, and some are even still running
10. Mamma Mia!* – 4.983 shows
British playwright Catherine Johnson wrote this stage musical which features the songs of Swedish pop artists ABBA. The show’s title, ‘Mamma Mia!’, is also the title of one of ABBA’s 1975 Euro chart hits. This song, like all the others featured in the show, was composed by former ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus who have also collaborated in the stage musical project. Another former ABBA member, Anni-Frid Lyngstad, has also played an active role behind the scenes and attended many international premieres. The show has played to a total audience of 54 million and earned $2 billion in the process. In 2008 a film adaptation appeared which featured Meryl Streep in the lead role together with an illustrious supporting cast.
9. Rent – 5.123 shows
‘Rent’ is Jonathan Larson’s rock musical which draws inspiration from Puccini’s La Bohème. The plot revolves around a group of struggling musicians and creative artists living on New York’s East Side. The work explores social issues such as addiction and homophobia against the bohemian backdrop of Alphabet City in its heyday. The show became an instant hit at its off-Broadway premiere, despite the tragic death of its creator at almost the same moment. Moving on to Broadway, ‘Rent’ began to gather awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for ‘outstanding musical’ in 1996. Critical acclaim and commercial success followed with tours, international versions, and a film adaption which appeared in 2005.
8. Beauty and the Beast – 5.461 shows
‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a musical from the lyric team of Tim Rice and Howard Ashman which also features a music score by Alan Menken. The work also gained inspiration from Linda Woolverton’s book with the same title – this book, and a 1991 film feature, each in turn freely adapting an earlier French fairy tale. The ‘Beauty and the Beast’ musical describes a cruel and selfish prince condemned, as a punishment, to live life as a grotesque beast. Belle, the heroine, is a young woman imprisoned in his castle. To regain his humanity, the prince must strive to win Belle’s love. The show is regularly performed in school productions.
7. Oh! Calcultta! – 5.959 shows
Penned by Kenneth Tynan, a British drama critic, ‘Oh! Calcutta!’ is an avant-garde style theatrical revue which was notorious in its day for including scenes which featured nudity in performance. Presented as a series of sketches and songs which feature contributions from John Lennon, Sam Shepard, Samuel Becket and others, ‘Oh! Calcutta!’ focuses on sex-related themes. Early performances enjoyed much success: the first London shows ran to more than 3,900 performances, whilst New York staged a further 1,314. The Broadway revival, which began in 1976, chalked up a total of 5,959 shows and thus qualified as the longest-running Broadway revue of those times. Even now, such achievements are only rarely surpassed on Broadway.
6. A Chorus Line – 6.137 shows
The musical ‘A Chorus Line’, by composer Marvin Hamlisch and lyricist Edward Kleban, draws upon a book of the same title by authors Nicholas Dante and James Kirkwood. Set on a bare Broadway-theatre stage, the musical chronicles the lives and show-biz ambitions of seventeen Broadway dancers auditioning for parts in a musical. The atmosphere of drama, competition, rejection, dedication, and aspiration as it affects these individuals, is in turn a celebration of the musical genre too. The original ‘A Chorus Line’ opened on Broadway in 1975 to much critical acclaim. Receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1976, the show went on to receive many more awards and nominations.
5. The Lion King* – 6.637 shows
Based on a 1994 Disney movie, ‘The Lion King’ is scored by Hans Zimmer with South African composer Lebo M contributing the superb choral arrangements. The show also features Tim Rice’s lyrics and the music of Elton John. Under the direction of Julie Taymor, this atmospheric and colourful production incorporates enormous puppets performing alongside actors dressed in animal costumes. The show premiered on Broadway in 1997 and still continues to run. By 2012, having then grossed a total of $853.8 million, ‘The Lion King’ became the highest-earning Broadway musical ever. Enjoying similar success in London, the production featured in the Royal Variety Performance of 2008.
4. Les Misérables – 6.680 shows
Inspired by Victor Hugo’s classic novel, ‘Les Misérables’ features the music of composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and an English libretto by Herbert Kretzmer, taken from the original Boublil/Natel French lyrics. Against the colourful background of 19th-century revolutionary France, the plot recounts the tale of French peasant Jean Valjean as he struggles to redeem his soul, having served a nineteen-year jail sentence for a petty theft. He encounters life-changing kindness, prosperity, and treachery during his lifelong quest. Caught up in the Revolution and near death himself, Valjean performs a final, selfless act of kindness to secure future happiness for a young couple.
3. Chicago – 7.045 shows
‘Chicago’, which features John Kander’s music and Fred Ebb’s lyrics, holds the record as the longest-running production originally premiered on Broadway. The show takes its cue from a 1926 play by crime-reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins. Set in Chicago during Prohibition times, the story is based on real crimes and real criminals, and explores the contemporary relationship between corrupt judicial authorities and gangster celebrities. Choreographer Bob Fosse worked on the original production and his distinctive style remains an influence to this day. Demand for the show has inspired international productions, several tours, and a star-studded film version (2002) which gained an Academy Award.
2. Cats – 7.485 shows
The musical ‘Cats’, produced by Cameron Mackintosh, is a musical reworking of T. S. Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, and features the song ‘Memory’ as one of its highlights. In the musical, the Jellicles – a tribal group of cats – must determine which cat will be chosen to journey to the Heaviside Layer to experience a form of rebirth. This weighty decision is described as ‘the Jellicle choice’. The award-winning show first opened in London in 1981 with Trevor Nunn as director and choreographer, Gillian Lynne, before moving on to Broadway to set even more records. ‘Cats’ has achieved global success and has been translated into foreign languages at least 20 times.
1. The Phantom of the Opera* – 10.719 shows
‘The Phantom of the Opera’, featuring the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber plus lyrics from Charles Hart (with extra material from Richard Stilgoe), is the longest-running musical and show on Broadway. Inspired by Leroux’s novel, ‘Le Fantôme de l’Opera’, the plot details the tragic story of a macabre musical genius whose one obsession, and musical inspiration, is a beautiful young soprano. Since opening in 1986 with Michael Crawford in the principal role, the show has continuously broken performance records and scooped prestigious awards. ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ delivered its 10,000th Broadway performance in the spring of 2012 – and so far remains the only musical to have achieved this feat.
source: Wikipedia, November 2013