Top 10 Broadway musicals
These award-winning, long-running hit shows are must-sees for casual and frequent theatregoers alike. Check out our guide to the best Broadway musicals.
With 41 official Broadway theatres (and a plethora of Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway venues) in Manhattan, planning a theatre trip to New York City can be a little daunting at times. So, if you don't know your Sondheim and Lloyd Webbers from your Pasek and Pauls, or if you're simply overwhelmed about the quantity of shows on offer, we're here to help with some of the best musicals on Broadway. Here are our top 10 recommendations of Broadway musicals for NYC visitors who wish to tick "experiencing a Broadway show" off their bucket lists.
Our next recommendation perhaps needs no introduction, as it's the global phenomenon that is Hamilton. The Broadway premiere of this historic game-changer, conceived and written by musical mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda, officially opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in August 2015... and skyrocketed into mainstream pop culture faster than any of its predecessors. The Grammy and Tony Award-winning Best Musical tells the story of Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Fathers of America through a mix of Hip Hop, RnB and show tunes with a racially diverse cast that reflects American society today. From deathly political rivalries to the country's first sex scandal, Hamilton has often been described as the most hip history lesson you're ever likely to witness.
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Are you looking for a dose of "Razzle Dazzle" on your visit? Then look no further than Broadway's longest-running American musical Chicago. Originally opening on the Great White Way in November 1996 and finally finding its current home, the Ambassador Theatre, in January 2003, the Tony Award-winning musical revival boasts an instantly recognizable and sexy aesthetic as well as its iconic, Bob Fosse-inspired choreography. Set in 1920s Chicago, the musical follows housewife-turned-murderess Roxie Hart, and fellow inmate Velma Kelly, on a mission to capitalize on their notoriety and transform themselves into celebrities. It also acts as a satire on the corruption within the criminal justice system and the infectious Kander & Ebb score includes such standards as "Cell Block Tango," "When You're Good to Mama," "Mr. Cellophane," and "All That Jazz."
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If you only have one short day in Manhattan, then we can heartily recommend "One Short Day in the Emerald City" with a trip to the smash hit musical Wicked. The jewel in composer Stephen Schwartz's Broadway crown has been "Defying Gravity" at the Gershwin Theatre since October 2003 and might well be regarded as a defining Broadway spectacle. Based on Gregory Maguire's novel, the story follows an unlikely pair of school friends who grow up to become Glinda the Good Witch and the Wicked Witch of the West. But, if you think you know the score when it comes to the Land of Oz, then think again. And speaking of the score, fan favorites such as "The Wizard and I," "Popular," and "For Good" are just a few of the hits on the Grammy Award-winning cast recording. Wicked is a Broadway musical with plenty of brains, courage and heart.
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Moulin Rouge! The Musical
How wonderful life is now Moulin Rouge! The Musical is in the world. The lavish stage adaptation of Baz Luhrmann's 2001 motion picture officially opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway in July 2019 and has been wowing aristocrats and bohemians alike ever since. Set in Montmartre in the heart of Paris at the turn of the century, the dazzling jukebox musical follows penniless writer Christian, who falls in love with the "sparkling diamond" Satine, a beautiful courtesan at the Moulin Rouge nightclub. She, in turn, must seduce the distasteful Duke of Monroth and entice him to invest in the Moulin Rouge to save it from financial ruin. Jam-packed with snippets and renditions of over 70 pop songs and brimming with fabulously sultry costumes and exquisite sets, Moulin Rouge! The Musical is the perfect date night during your trip to New York City. "Come What May," you'll adore your stay at the Moulin Rouge.
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The Lion King
The "Circle of Life" keeps going round and round at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway, much to the delight of theatregoers young and young-at-heart. Disney's The Lion King roared onto the Broadway scene back in October 1997, just three years after the beloved animated classic was released in movie theaters, and it's still a hot ticket today. With stunning, Tony Award-winning costumes and direction by Julie Taymor and a score infused with irresistible African rhythms by the likes of Lebo M and those widely cherished songs by Sir Elton John and Sir Tim Rice, no wonder The Lion King put Disney Theatrical on the map as a credible force-to-be-reckoned-with on the Great White Way. The 1998 Tony Award-winning Best Musical follows Simba, a young lion cub, who is faced with self-discovery on his journey to adulthood as well as his destiny to take his rightful place as King of the Pridelands.
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The Book of Mormon
"Hello!" The most outrageous show on our list is undoubtedly the 2011 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, The Book of Mormon. Ever since this irreverent comedy debuted at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in February 2011, it has been playing to sold-out houses with its own special brand of offensive humor. Written by the creators of South Park and Avenue Q, the musical follows two mismatched Mormon boys on a hopeless mission in Uganda, where the local residents are more concerned about the local warlord than converting to the Church of Latter Day Saints. If you're easily offended, this one may not be for you, but if you, like us, revel in a bit of audacity, then The Book of Mormon will be right up your street.
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Aladdin has been granting audiences' Broadway wishes since 2014. The classic Disney movie follows Aladdin, a street urchin who falls for Princess Jasmine and transforms into a prince to woo her — with the help of a Genie and a magic carpet. All the spectacular magic of the film remains, along with iconic songs like "A Whole New World." Indeed, you'll feel like you're in a whole new world when you step into Arabia at Aladdin on Broadway.
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Winner of the 2019 Tony Award for Best Musical, the Broadway premiere of Hadestown began its life at the Walter Kerr Theatre in March 2019. It might also be regarded as the most atmospheric and raw musical of all our recommendations. Featuring a Tony & Grammy Award-winning score that fuses together modern American folk, dixieland, jazz and blues by acclaimed singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell, Hadestown is a retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, set in a post-apocalyptic-style New Orleans. It follows Orpheus on his storied journey to the underworld to confront Hades himself and rescue his fiancée Eurydice. This genre-defying production frequently breaks the fourth wall and even foretold coming political events through its striking musical number, "Why We Build the Wall." Its anthem "Wait for Me" has also become a fan favorite for many Broadway aficionados.
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This "one-of-a-kind, no category" musical took the world by storm even before winning two 2022 Tony Awards, including Best Original Score. Six is a pop musical that reimagines Henry VIII's six wives as a girl group competing for the lead-singer slot. They duke it out over who had it the worst as Henry's wife, and in the process they learn they don't have to let their ex define them for the rest of time. You're sure to be humming the Queens' catchy songs long after leaving the Brooks Atkinson Theatre — if you haven't already had its cast albums on repeat for years anyway. Plus, at just 80 minutes long, Six is a perfect show for first-time theatregoers or those with busy schedules, so there's no way you should miss it!
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MJ The Musical
Tony-winning choreography, a powerhouse lead performance, and all the greatest hits from the King of Pop make for one thriller of a musical. MJ The Musical was the most Tony Award-winning new musical of 2022; in other words, nothing could beat it. The show sees Michael Jackson rehearsing for his 1992 Dangerous World Tour, and audiences are taken back through key moments in his life and career, from his early days with the Jackson 5 to the hits that made him a global superstar. MJ The Musical is a high-energy, eye-catching spectacular that it's impossible to have a "Bad" time at. Moonwalk on over!
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