See these classic Broadway shows that have stood the test of time
These hit plays and musicals include long-beloved shows and modern phenomenons alike, all of which have cemented their place in the ranks of theatre history.
When Nora slams the door in A Doll’s House this season on Broadway, Elphaba will be defying gravity in Wicked. You might not link these rebellious heroines together, but they offer a reminder that classic Broadway shows come in all stripes and varieties.
Naturally, Golden Age musicals – ones that debuted between 1940 and 1960 – make the cut as classics. Over the decades, these works have become synonymous with quality, spectacular Broadway entertainment. Think The Music Man, Funny Girl, and Camelot, for starters. The same goes for classic plays; works by long-celebrated writers, from Shakespeare to August Wilson, return to Broadway time and time again.
That said, there’s fluidity around what makes a classic. Long-running record breakers are their own sort of classic. Shows that push theatre forward in new directions and forge deep connections with the audience also make the cut. Long story short, if you’re craving something classic on Broadway, there are lots of options.
Discover the Broadway classics playing right now, and get tickets to see why these shows have stood the test of time.
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Classic musicals on Broadway
There are plenty of options for classic musical lovers, from Golden Age delights to newer hits that instantly went down as classics. Learn more about these beloved shows below.
Every Stephen Sondheim show is a classic. This dark-toned 1979 musical thriller follows the eponymous barber hellbent on revenge and his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, who bakes the worst pies in London. Against a story of abductions, murder, and cannibalism, the score of this Tony-winning show is gorgeous. Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford step into the roles of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett in this third revival on Broadway.
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Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning 2015 musical has been described as a hip-hop history lesson about the life and times of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, but that’s only partly correct. The superb score is infused with rhythm and blues and jazz, plus melodic and lyrical winks to Rodgers and Hammerstein and Gilbert and Sullivan. Let’s just call this show an instant classic that’s left countless audiences “Satisfied.”
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Cabaret instantly cemented its place in theatre history upon its 1966 premiere. The following year, the show won Best Musical alongside Best Composer and Lyricist for Kander and Ebb, who penned such iconic songs as "Mein Herr," "Maybe This Time," and the title track (though the first two wouldn't be included in the show until the 1972 film).
Widely regarded as one of the best musicals of all time, Cabaret returns to Broadway in 2024. Director Rebecca Frecknall's semi-immersive production makes audiences truly feel like they're in the Kit Kat Club, where hedonism meets fascism, no matter where they sit.
The Wiz revolutionized Broadway upon its 1975 premiere. By putting an all-Black cultural spin on The Wizard of Oz, the musical made history for Black representation on Broadway and proved just how many possibilities there are to reinvent historic — and historically white — material.
Actor-turned director Schele Williams stages the latest Broadway revival, which stars Wayne Brady as the Wiz and vibrantly celebrates Black arts and culture.
The Who's Tommy
In 1993, The Who's Tommy explicitly tackled a lot of themes that Broadway musicals never had before: trauma, abuse, bullying, and more. Even in 1969, when The Who released the same-named album the musical is based on, those topics rarely appeared in popular music, either. But the story of Tommy, who overcomes childhood trauma by finding an outlet in pinball, revolutionized the conversation around mental health and representation in art. That makes The Who's Tommy a classic, and it's back on Broadway in 2024.
Classic plays on Broadway
There's a reason these plays are favorites of theatre students and A-list actors alike. See classic plays from celebrated writers on Broadway this season.
An Enemy of the People
Jeremy Strong is the latest of many celebrated performers to play Dr. Thomas Stockmann in this Henrik Ibsen classic. His character saves lives by exposing contaminated water in his spa town's baths, only to face hate for ruining the town's image and economy.
Though the show is a classic, this production has a fresh twist: Pulitzer-nominated Amy Herzog, who adapted Ibsen's A Doll's House for Broadway last season, returns to do the same for An Enemy of the People.
Anton Chekhov's dark family drama is among the most famous of his plays. When Vanya and his niece Sonya get some new residents on their farm — namely, Sonya's father and his wife — their quiet lives turn upside down as people fall in love, find out secrets, and face their pasts. Heidi Schreck, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for What the Constitution Means to Me, newly translates this time-honored classic.
Classic long-runners on Broadway
When it comes to staying power, some shows are in a league of their own. So it goes for the three longest-running shows on Broadway right now, which have all become modern classics.
This revival of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s 1975 successful show about Windy City merry murderesses Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart proves the staying power of all that jazz. The stripped- down production that began off Broadway in 1996 is a lesson in transforming something simple into something enduring. The show is also known for its revolving door of celebrity replacements in the leading roles. As of 2022, the show has razzle-dazzled audiences at more than 10,000 performances.
Get Chicago tickets now.
The Lion King
Even with only the glorious first 20 minutes of this 1997 stage adaptation of the animated Disney film, the show would still be a classic. Songs by Elton John and Tim Rice soar as we follow a lion cub who learns hard lessons about the the “Circle of Life” and finds his place in the world. As of 2022, the show has run for nearly 10,000 performances.
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One metric for measuring a musical classic is how powerful a spell it casts on audiences. Another is its staying power. This musical, which seizes inspiration from The Wizard of Oz, scores sky-high in both categories. The plot follows twists and turns in the friendship between two witches: green outcast Elphaba and popular Glinda. Running since 2003, the girl-power story is famous for sparking repeated visits by theatreergoers who know every lyric to “For Good,” “Popular,” and “Defying Gravity.”
Get Wicked tickets now.
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