Top Broadway theatre highlights of 2023

Revisit key moments in the Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre landscape, historic wins at the 2023 Tony Awards, and fast facts about this year's lineup of shows.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

It's been a busy year on Broadway. Hit musicals and plays hopped between New York and London, two of the world's biggest theatre hubs. Artists achieved historic wins at the Tony Awards and delivered unmissable performances. Tons of celebrities took the spotlight. Stories nearly forgotten in time made a comeback.

All this and more defined the year in Broadway and Off-Broadway theatre. Look back on all the 2023 highlights with our year-in-review roundup.

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2023 on Broadway: Facts and stats

Relive 2023 in a flash with these quick stats about the Broadway shows and Off-Broadway shows that premiered this year.

37 shows opened on Broadway.

Eighteen of these shows opened in the spring to form the second half of the 2022-23 season, while the other 19 made up the first half of the 2023-24 season. Pictures From Home was the first new show to start performances on January 13, and Prayer for the French Republic came in just under the wire, on December 19, to be the last Broadway show of 2023.

Of those shows, 14 featured at least one playwright, composer, or lyricist making their Broadway debut as a writer, and 14 had a female writer and/or director. Jaja's African Hair Braiding especially stands out in the 2023 Broadway landscape, with writer Jocelyn Bioh and director Whitney White, both Black women making their Broadway debuts in their respective positions, heading up this vibrant play about the African immigrant experience in Harlem.

Additionally, two of these shows were weeklong special events: a Jonas Brothers concert residency in March and Spanish magician El Mago Pop's self-titled illusion show.

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6 shows transferred from London's West End.

Prima Facie won Jodie Comer acting awards on both sides of the pond. Back to the Future was an Olivier Award winner for Best Musical. Peter Pan Goes Wrong made its NYC debut 10 years after its London one. Bad Cinderella was titled simply Cinderella in London. Life of Pi nearly swept the play design categories at the Tonys. And finally, The Shark Is Broken starred Ian Shaw as his father, the late Jaws star Robert Shaw.

An honorary London mention goes to A Doll's House starring Jessica Chastain, which was supposed to premiere in the West End in 2020. After pandemic delays, director Jamie Lloyd put it on Broadway instead.

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4 shows had historic, long-awaited revivals.

Merrily We Roll Along, Stephen Sondheim's infamous 1981 flop, got new life this year, with its first Broadway revival receiving near-universal acclaim. Credit director Maria Friedman and stars Jonathan Groff, Daniel Radcliffe, and Lindsay Mendez for breathing new life into the story and score.

And that wasn't the only historic revival. Ossie Davis's 1961 satire Purlie Victorious and Bob Fosse's landmark 1978 revue Dancin' returned for the first time, and Lorraine Hansberry's The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window had its first revival in over 50 years.

More recent musicals including Parade and Spamalot also enjoyed their first revivals in 2023, and Here Lies Love finally made it to Broadway 10 years after its Off-Broadway premiere.

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More than 35 celebrities starred in Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.

Screen stars like Aubrey Plaza and Elle Fanning made their Broadway debuts, musicians like Melissa Etheridge and JoJo took the stage, and plenty of other multi-talented performers with renowned stage and screen careers returned to New York.

Here are the major celebrities on stage in 2023 — and there are plenty more to come next year, including Rachel McAdams, Jessica Lange, Steve Carell, and Jeremy Strong. How many did you see?

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The 2023 Tony Awards

The Tony Awards are Broadway's biggest night of every year, held every June to celebrate the best of that season's theatre. Here are the highlights from the 2023 ceremony.

A strike changed the Tonys' format.

The Writers Guild of America strike was in effect during the ceremony, and WGA members usually script awards shows like the Tonys. So this year, the hosts and presenters ad-libbed everything, the opening number was a dance routine, and more shows got to perform than usual, as material from existing shows was the only kind of scripted content allowed.

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Alex Newell and J. Harrison Ghee made history.

These two performers became the first openly non-binary actors in history to win a Tony Award. Newell won Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for playing strong-willed whiskey maker Lulu in Shucked, and they were later named TIME's Breakthrough of the Year for their performance.

Ghee won Best Actor in a Musical for playing Jerry/Daphne in the musical adaptation of Some Like It Hot, reinventing Jack Lemmon's role from the movie into a fresh exploration of gender identity.

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Kimberly Akimbo won big.

David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori's Kimberly Akimbo, an adaptation of Lindsay-Abaire's play about a prematurely aging teenager, earned the most Tonys of the night. Its five awards were Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, and acting awards for Victoria Clark and Bonnie Milligan.

Though Kimberly Akimbo was a critical and crowd favorite to win, it was an underdog from a nominations standpoint. The show had the fourth-most nominations with eight; Some Like It Hot led at 13, and & Juliet, Shucked, and New York, New York all had nine.

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LaChanze took home two awards in one night.

The celebrated actress ventured into Broadway producing for the first time in 2023, backing Kimberly Akimbo and Topdog/Underdog. So when those productions won Best Musical and Best Revival of a Play, respectively, LaChanze tripled her Tony count in the span of an hour. (She already had one Tony for starring in The Color Purple in 2006.)

LaChanze wasn't the only person to go home with multiple awards: David Lindsay-Abaire, the book writer and lyricist for Kimberly Akimbo, won Best Book of a Musical and, alongside Jeanine Tesori, Best Original Score. An additional seven creatives — including writers, actors, directors, choreographers, and designers — got two nominations in 2023.

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Playwright Amy Herzog got a rare nod.

Normally, a playwright isn't eligible for the Best Revival of a Play Tony Award, since they were eligible for Best Play when the show first premiered. But Pulitzer finalist Amy Herzog's revision of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House was the exception. The Tonys committee deemed her version an original adaptation, not just a translation, and therefore newly eligible for a writing award. She's adapting Ibsen's An Enemy of the People for Broadway in 2024, so stay tuned to see if Herzog repeats her success.

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2023 theatre highlights

A historic show closed its doors. A modern classic celebrated a milestone. An original musical made a long-awaited debut. Revisit these and more of the most memorable Broadway events of 2023 below.

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Wicked reached its 20th anniversary.

Oh, what a celebration Wicked had on October 30, the day the show officially opened at the Gershwin Theatre in 2003. A swankified performance took place 20 years later, with many former Wicked stars in attendance. The current cast spoke to New York Theatre Guide about why the gravity-defying musical is still so popular.

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The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera ended its run.

We reported on this announcement in our 2022 year in review, but we'd be remiss not to include the actual closure, which happened on April 16, 2023. After more than 35 years and nearly 14,000 performances, the music of the night played for the last time at the longest-running Broadway musical ever.

The silver lining is that its home, the Majestic Theatre, is getting a long-anticipated renovation, and falling chandeliers are a worry of the past. (Here, at least — Phantom is still running elsewhere, including in London's West End.)

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Here it is: the last Sondheim show.

Here We Are was the last show Stephen Sondheim scored, in collaboration with book writer David Ives. Although it was unfinished when he died in 2021, Ives and his creative team banded together to get it ready for a staged premiere, which is currently taking place at The Shed through January 21.

A cast of Broadway all-stars leads Here We Are, a mashup of two surrealist Luis Buñuel films about wealthy elites just trying to have a dinner party — a surprisingly difficult task.

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Harmony finally made it to Broadway.

When Jersey Boys premiered on Broadway in 2005, it quickly popularized the bio-musical genre, with shows about The Temptations, Carole King, Neil Diamond, and many more to follow. But Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman actually created such a musical in 1997 — financial shortfalls just prevented that year's world-premiere production of Harmony from a Broadway transfer, and the same thing happened in 2013.

But after the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene produced Harmony off Broadway in 2022, critical acclaim finally propelled the musical to Broadway in 2023, a run 25 years in the making. Sussman and Manilow's subject is the Comedian Harmonists, a 1920s German Jewish singing group torn apart amid the rise of Nazism.

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Britney Spears and Elton John had musical trifectas.

Oops, she did it again... and again. Britney Spears's music appeared in three shows in 2023. "Toxic" appears in Moulin Rouge! The Musical, which has run since 2019; a handful of her hits are in the pop score of 2022's & Juliet; and Once Upon a One More Time, a fairytale musical exclusively featuring Spears's hits, completed the trio during its run from May to September.

Of note, Elton John had a similar trifecta when Peter Pan Goes Wrong, which includes a snippet of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," was running alongside Moulin Rouge! The Musical and The Lion King. He was also represented thrice in 2022 when Almost Famous was on Broadway, and he's poised to do it again in 2024 with his upcoming Broadway musical Tammy Faye.

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Mischief Theatre had a play trifecta.

The British troupe Mischief Theatre is best known for the long-running hit The Play That Goes Wrong, and the company only furthered its takeover of New York theatre this year. Peter Pan Goes Wrong, in which the same characters from The Play That Goes Wrong put on a hilariously disastrous production of Peter Pan, had a spring Broadway run. Mere months later, Mischief's comedy/mentalism show Mind Mangler opened off Broadway featuring two of the company's co-founders.

Mind Mangler and The Play That Goes Wrong are currently at New World Stages. Read more about Mischief's three 2023 shows.

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Sidney Brustein made a breakneck bid for Broadway.

After a 50-plus-year absence from the New York stage, Lorraine Hansberry's lesser-known masterpiece The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window returned for a high-profile revival in Brooklyn. Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan led the monthlong run in February, but the stars (and their schedules) aligned to make the event even more monumental.

After a Broadway theatre unexpectedly freed up, Sidney Brustein made a rapid transfer and opened on April 27, the last day to be eligible for the 2023 Tony Awards. The move paid off: The show was nominated for Best Revival of a Play, Miriam Silverman won Best Featured Actress in a Play, and a new generation got to experience Hansberry's brilliant writing.

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Broadway theatres doubled as concert halls.

We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the weeklong Jonas Brothers concert residency at the Marquis Theatre in March, which rounded out the slate of 2023 Broadway productions. The trend kept going in the fall, too, with Melissa Etheridge performing her own theatrical concert, My Window, at the Circle in the Square Theatre. Plus, pop stars JoJo and Betty Who stepped into major roles in Moulin Rouge! and Hadestown, respectively.

Of course, pop music on stage isn't a new phenomenon in 2023. Dozens of jukebox musicals, including four currently running, have made theatre scores out of existing hits. The latest in the lineup is Hell's Kitchen, featuring the songs of Alicia Keys; it premiered off Broadway this fall and is coming to Broadway in 2024.

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Alex Newell was independently owned and operated.

It only took a kernel of time for Alex Newell's brassy solo number in Shucked, "Independently Owned," to become a cultural moment and cement Newell as a bonafide Broadway star. We'll just let you listen to those Tony-winning vocals for yourself.

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See Broadway shows in 2024

Now that 2023 is ending, look ahead to what theatre 2024 has to offer! Check out all the upcoming Broadway shows in New York, and get tickets to current and upcoming Broadway shows below. There are always new events coming up — like a new musical adaptation of The Notebook and a world-premiere play starring Jessica Lange — and one could be the biggest hit of the new year.

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