Best musicals to see for a first Broadway show
There’s nothing like filing into a historic theatre from the hustle and bustle of Times Square and sharing an afternoon or evening — and some laughs — with an audience.
Seeing a Broadway show for the first time is an unforgettable experience — no matter your age. The magic of live performance is a spell cast with costumes, sets, lighting, and, of course, the unmatchable talent of singers and dancers on stage. There’s nothing like filing into a historic theatre from the hustle and bustle of Times Square and sharing an afternoon or evening — and some laughs — with an audience.
The best introduction to theatre is perhaps through the familiarity of a beloved book or film, and Broadway brings Disney characters and cherished movies to life. From The Lion King to Wicked and Chicago, there are lots of shows that appeal to newbie Broadway fans.
The stage magic that transforms the Minskoff Theatre into the African setting of The Lion King showcases the best of live theatre. The stage adaptation of the 1997 Disney animated classic is about a lion cub stepping into himself as a leader after the untimely death of his father, and features Tim Rice and Elton John’s iconic songs “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” and “Circle of Life.” The animal characters are portrayed with creative masks, headdresses, and puppetry designed by director Julie Taymor.
Another Disney option is Aladdin, a musical adaptation of the animated classic that follows a street urchin who finds a magical lamp and awakens the genie inside. He’s granted three wishes, and hopes to win the heart of Princess Jasmine. The musical features all the beloved tunes from the film, including “Friend Like Me” and “A Whole New World.” The show boasts hundreds of colorful costume pieces and stage effects, including a flying magic carpet!
The musical Wicked is a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, set long before Dorothy and Toto’s adventure to Oz. Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, the much-lauded musical tells the story of how the Wicked Witch of the West became, well, wicked. The musical, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Winnie Holzman, follows the unlikely friendship between Elphaba and Galinda — the witches later are known as the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch of the South. There are flying monkeys, emerald set pieces, and lots of wizardry.
If you want to set the bar high, start with Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop musical puts a spin on U.S. history and tells the incredible story of Alexander Hamilton, a Caribbean immigrant who served the hard-won role of Secretary of State under President George Washington and was one of our nation’s Founding Fathers. And the face of the ten-dollar bill! Hamilton is a hot ticket—the critically-acclaimed show broke records with its number of Tony Award nominations and took home the Best Musical award in 2018.
Chicago is a long-running musical that brings the 2002 film to its rightful place on the stage. The musical follows the murder trials of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart — a Vaudeville headliner and a chorus girl, respectively — as they vy for the center fold and the spotlight. The women are the talk of Chi-town and the Cook County Jail, and their story comes alive with Bob Fosse’s iconic choreography and John Kander and Fred Ebb’s jazz tunes. So come paint the town at the Ambassador Theatre, and all that jazz. Note that this show is recommended for audience members 13 and up.
Wherever you come from, you’re welcome with arms arms at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Come From Away is a musical that tells the remarkable true story of when the small town of Gander, Newfoundland welcomed thousands of displaced travellers who were rerouted from New York City on September 11th. The show was written by the husband and wife team Irene Sankoff and David Hein, and it will have you laughing, crying, and feeling more hopeful about the world.
If you’re a fan of The Temptations, your intro to the theatre should be Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations. The jukebox musical, with a book by Dominique Morisseau, is about the music group’s rise to fame from the streets of Detroit in the 1960s. The Temptations were the first Motown group to garner a Grammy Award, and their music lives on at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre with such hits as “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” and “Get Ready.”
If you like the irreverent humor of Comedy Central, The Book of Mormon is your ticket. The team behind the musical comedy is Trey Parker and Matt Stone, best known for the animated comedy “South Park,” and composer Robert Lopez, who wrote the musical Avenue Q. The show is about two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who travel to Uganda to preach the faith of the Mormon church. Come prepared to laugh!
Dear Evan Hansen changed the game of for teen musicals when it splashed onto the scene in 2015. The musical — with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and a book by Steven Levenson — is about a teenager with a social anxiety disorder who will do anything to fit in. Set against the pressure of high school in the digital age, the musical follows Evan as he fabricates a relationship with a deceased student. It is a moving musical about the universal need to belong. “Dear Evan Hansen” won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2017 and catapulted Ben Platt, who originated the role of Evan Hansen, to stardom.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical offers Broadway spectacle and wonder with impressive sets and costumes. Based on Baz Luhrman’s 2001 film, the stage adaptation brings the story about an English poet who falls in love with a performer and courtesan at a Parisian cabaret into the current moment. The jukebox musical features pop music, including “Toxic” by Britney Spears, “Firework” by Katy Perry, and “Single Ladies” by Beyoncé.
If you don't want to see a musical, and if the Harry Potter books are in rotation on your reading list, then your first Broadway show needs to be Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The two-part epic play with music is a stage adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child which takes place 19 years after the final novel in the Harry Potter series. The Lyric Theatre is transformed into the Harry Potter universe, with a golden snitch sitting atop the theatre. The two-part play is filled with, of course, the best magic theatre can offer.
Stomp is not just a Broadway musical — it's a New York institution. Stomp has been entertaining audiences at the Orpheum Theatre since 1994, celebrating the power and joy of percussion. But if you're expecting a cacophony of drum sounds, you'll be mistaken. Stomp features an array of non-traditional musical instruments: brooms, garbage cans, sticks, the works. Stomp is perfect for Broadway theatregoers who want to explore what's happening in the city while ticking off a tourist staple.