Over the years, musicals have left a lasting mark on the world. Whether it’s the live acting, storytelling elements or hit songs, everyone can’t get enough. We don’t need to be theater geeks to appreciate cult classics like West Side Story or The Sound of Music. Luckily, we’ve composed a list of the best musicals for you! So, it’s time to reminisce on all the classics and even some new Broadway hits. Have many of these have you seen? Let’s find out!
If you never heard of Hamilton you must be living under a rock. Lin-Manuel Miranda made history with his musical that won eleven of its sixteen nominations at the Tonys. If you loved Miranda’s In the Heights, then get ready to be blown away! Hamilton tells the story of America’s Founding Fathers but from the point of view of an immigrant. Unfortunately, tickets have been almost impossible to get. So, if you can’t get your hands on a pair, make sure you at least enjoy the Grammy winning soundtrack.
Based on Gregory Maguire’s novel, Wicked puts a twist on Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This time, the witches get to share their side. Impressively, Wicked won three Tonys, a Grammy and six Drama Desk Awards. If you’ve seen it, we all know what you’re going to be singing the rest of the day…”I’ll help you be popular!” With catchy songs like that, it’s no wonder this musical is Broadway’s seventh longest-running one in history.
Of course, they adapted this hit musical to film. Honestly, it was a no-brainer since Cats was the longest-running Broadway show from 1997 to 2006! Andrew Lloyd Webber composed this musical, and it’s based on a collection of poems by T.S. Eliot. What’s probably permanently etched into your memory from the musical is the song “Memory.” No, seriously, Barbara Streisand and Barry Manilow even covered it! Cats won countless awards at both the Tony Awards and Laurence Olivier Awards.
Maybe you knew this from high school English class, but this musical is based on Victor Hugo’s historical novel. In fact, Les Mis is the longest-running musical in London’s West End. The musical won eight of the twelve Tony Awards it was nominated for, which includes Best Original Score and Best Musical. Naturally, they turned this extremely successful musical into a film multiple times, including the 2012 adaptation with Anne Hathaway. Hathaway spoke very vaguely on her weight loss plans that allowed her transform into the starving prostitute she played. Actually, she did not wish for any fans to replicate her diet. Many referred to it as rabbit-like. With help from a nutritionist, she lost twenty-five pounds for the role.
A Chorus Line
Wow, the original production ran for over six thousand performances! That kept A Chorus Line as Broadway’s longest-running production until Cats. If you aren’t familiar with the plot, this musical focuses on Broadway dances auditioning for a chorus line. There’s even a book by James Kirkwood if watching the musical wasn’t enough for you!
The Sound of Music
Please, if Julie Andrews serenading you in the film version of The Sound of Music was not a staple of your childhood, did you even have one? Actually, the musical was based on Maria von Trapp’s memoir. Back in 1938, a young governess in Austria falls in love with her employer, Captain von Trapp. The captain, who opposes the Nazis, is ordered to the navy. Thus, he decides to flee with Maria and his children. Opening in 1959, the musical won five Tony Awards out of their nine nominations.
As many on the list, Chicago was also adapted to film. Who doesn’t love a good Prohibition-era story? Although, this isn’t your typical tale of a glorified criminal. Rather, the story is a satire on the corruption during the time and celebrity status for criminals. Even though the original only ran for 936 performances, the Broadway revival became the longest-running musical revival. By 2014, they performed over 7,400 times.
Fiddler on the Roof
Based on Sholem Aleichem’s story, Fiddler on the Roof is set in the shtetls of 1905. Perhaps, the most iconic scene is Tevye, the father of five daughters, singing “If I Were a Rich Man” in his barn. The musical was the longest-running Broadway musical for around ten years. Not only did the musical win nine Tony Awards, but it was revived five times and adapted into the popular 1971 film.
Little Shop of Horrors
Surely, this horror comedy rock musical comes to mind first when anyone mentions a Venus flytrap! Uniquely, the movie came before this musical ran on Broadway. Based on the 1960 film, the musical premiered in 1982. Then, in 1986 Frank Oz directed a film with the same name. Little Shop of Horrors is about a goofy guy who works in a florist shop and raises a deadly plant that feeds on people!
Comedy legend Mel Brooks based this musical on his film. Oy, if you haven’t seen it yet, you need to immediately! What was supposed to be a scam to get two producers rich turns out very differently than they hoped. The show ran for over two thousand performances and won twelve Tony Awards. There’s even a 2005 movie. In addition, Larry David includes The Producers as a plot line in the fourth season of his award-winning show, Curb Your Enthusiasm.
We’re pretty sure this has to be the only musical ever to be based on a comic strip! The Broadway show opened back in 1977 but still has some of the most popular songs known worldwide! Rightfully so, Annie won the Tony for Best Musical. Now, the real question is, which movie adaptation is your favorite?
My Fair Lady
As many know, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion inspired My Fair Lady. The original 1956 production won a total of nine Tony Awards! Additionally, it saw success in London and on film. In the musical, Eliza Doolittle undergoes a dramatic transformation from Cockney flower girl to a proper lady. All thanks to Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, Doolittle is offered speech lessons. Now say this ten times fast, “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.”
Does anyone else know every lyric to “La Vie Boheme” or is that just me? This sensational rock musical was written by Jonathan Larson and based on an opera. Young artists try to survive in New York City amongst the rampant spread of HIV/AIDS. The show ran for over five thousand performances on Broadway and won a Tony for Best Musical. Naturally, the successful musical turned into the 2005 film. Rosario Dawson, who played Mimi, had insane weight loss plans in order to look like an HIV-positive drug addict. In her 2011 interview with Shape magazine she said, “I remember everyone asking when I was doing press for the movie, ‘What did you do to look so thin? You looked great,’ and I’m like, ‘I looked emaciated.” Clearly, Dawson does not encourage her character’s body to be a goal as far as weight loss plans go!
Loosely based off of Gypsy Rose Lee’s memoirs, this became a musical in 1959. Before we had Kris Jenner, we had Rose as the pinnacle of showbiz mothers. In the show, Rose raises her daughters to become performers. With eight Tonys and a Grammy, this show had to make our list.
Guys and Dolls
Based on two of Damon Runyon’s short stories, Guys and Dolls opened on Broadway in 1950. Again, this musical won the Tony for Best Musical and was revived multiple times. If you can’t get enough of legends like Marlon Brando or Frank Sinartra, then you should definitely catch them in the 1955 movie version!
The Music Man
Meredith Willson wrote the book, music and lyrics for this famous musical based on her story with Franklin Lacey. The Music Man immediately saw success and ran for over one thousand performances. Furthermore, the musical won five Tony Awards and a Grammy. If you want to see Willson’s childhood home or walk the streets of the film’s setting book your trip to Mason City, Iowa!
Another Nazi era play, this production is set in Berlin at a nightclub where an American author falls for a cabaret performer. Cabaret became a Broadway hit. Thus, the musical had many productions both in New York and London and of course, the 1972 film. Interestingly enough, legendary director Sam Mendes revived the show in 1998. His revival became the third longest-running Broadway revival ever.
Groundbreaking not just during its 1967 debut, but to this day, Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical is a rock musical about hippies in New York City. Between the drug use and nudity, this musical is still seen by some as controversial. Much of the song track became anti-war anthems during the Vietnam war. Originally it ran for 1,750 performances and close to two thousand performances in London. A movie based on the musical came out in 1979. Then, in 2009 a revival opened and won Best Revival for both the Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards.
The Book of Mormon
From South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, came the musical comedy The Book of Mormon. In case, you haven’t seen this hilarious musical, it follows two Mormons who are sent to convert impoverished Ugandans. While locals deal with starvation and AIDS among other challenges, the young men try to persuade them to accept their religion. The musical won nine Tony Awards, and its album became the highest-charting album for musicals in over forty years!
West Side Story
Obviously, we had to mention this musical about two opposing, 1950s street gangs and the forbidden love story. It’s a twist on your classic Romeo and Juliet story. Known for its amazing dances and sophisticated music, the 1957 production was nominated for six Tony Awards. Yes, there’s also a film!