At the time, theaters staged mostly Shakespearian plays and ballad operas. In the centuries that followed, Broadway came to be known as a major hub for the best theatrical musicals in the world.
There are hundreds of options when it comes to choosing which Broadway musicals to watch, but there are a select few that stand out as the biggest crowd-pleasers. In our books, these are the top 5 musicals ever staged on Broadway that you should definitely include on your bucket list:
Les Miserables is a sung-through musical based on the same-titled novel of French poet and novelist Victor Hugo. It’s the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant who spent 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread to give to his starving sister’s son and her family.
The rest of the story shows Valjean’s journey towards a new life, saving a young girl named Cosette from a poverty-stricken life in the process. Les Mis conveys a story of redemption that could happen to anyone, even to someone branded a criminal like Valjean, and that in the end, the man could triumph in his quest for good over evil.
The Broadway production of the musical premiered in March 1987 with a production cost of $4.5 million. That year, Les Miserables won 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical and today, it stands as the 5th-longest running Broadway musical/show. An essential choice for your Broadway bucket list!
The Phantom of the Opera
An Andrew Lloyd Webber-composed musical, The Phantom of the Opera is the story of a mysterious, disfigured man who secretly lives beneath an opera house and becomes obsessed with a beautiful soprano named Christine Daaé, who he tutors in the art of opera.
The Phantom has a troubled past, which he tries to mask with his sinister character, but to Christine, he is an angel of music whom she holds dear. The tale of The Phantom is one of loneliness, love, and music, which are some of the most relatable themes for a lot of people.
Among the accolades given to The Phantom of the Opera are the Olivier Award in 1986 and the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1988. To date, it remains as Broadway’s longest running show/musical, and for a good reason. Definitely another critical addition to your list.
Miss Saigon, a loose interpretation of Giacomo Puccini's romantic opera titled Madame Butterfly, is an internationally acclaimed Broadway production. It is the second musical collaboration of Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil after Les Mis.
Miss Saigon tells the tragic love story of an American soldier and a Vietnamese bar girl. As fate would have it, the lovers would go separate ways at the end of the Vietnam War, shattering the so-called American Dream of Kim, the story’s heroine.
Theatergoers can never forget the embassy rooftop scene of the musical, where the whirring of a helicopter that was evacuating the last Americans in Saigon drowned out the heart-breaking screams of a crowd of Vietnamese trying to enter the embassy, including Kim.
Despite closing 10 years after the opening performance, Miss Saigon took home 3 Tony Awards, 4 Drama Desk Awards, and saw revival in 2017. Surely one for the ages, Miss Saigon offers a fantastic mix of romance and drama that’ll tug at your heartstrings.
Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz highlights the unlikely friendship between Elphaba and Glinda, the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch of the South, respectively. In this prequel to The Wizard of Oz, Elphaba is portrayed as anything but evil. However, in a discriminating society, anything that looks different, just like green-skinned Elphaba, is quickly outcasted.
Wicked’s appeal lies on how it was able to rewrite the story and alter the character of Elphaba, who turns out wasn’t really wicked, amid references to L. Frank Baum’s classic story. Their appeal led to the play winning 3 Tony Awards and 4 Drama Desk Awards, including Best Musical Show Album in 2005.
In March 2016, Wicked joined the league of The Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera as a certified Broadway hit, exceeding $1 billion in ticket sales since its premiere in 2003.
The Lion King
In 1994, Disney released the animated film, The Lion King, which went down as one of the most beloved films ever produced by the studio.
The story centers on Simba, the young lion and son of Mufasa, who was driven away from his homeland after his wicked uncle, Scar, murdered his father to replace him as king. Years after, Simba returns to stop Scar from his evil reign and take back the throne.
Three years after, the show was staged on Broadway, where it holds the record as the highest-grossing production of all time with more than $1 billion in box-office sales.
There are so many things to love about The Lion King production—from the music of world-renowned Elton John, the elaborate costume and puppet designs, the creative visual effects depicting the African savanna, and much more. It truly is a rare kind of performance art that both children and adults are sure to appreciate.
The Curtains are Rising
There you go, the crème de la crème of Broadway musicals. The ones you should not miss for the world, especially if you’re a fan of the performing arts.
And while you’re at it, we’d like to remind you that there are, in fact, Manila shows that bring these world-class productions to the local stage. Starting March 18, Solaire’s The Theatre is bringing The Lion King right here in Manila. It’ll be running for 3 months so be sure to book early!
Check out the next show at The Theatre at Solaire and experience your favorite musicals in Broadway fashion.