25. Now and Forever
Before being surpassed by The Phantom of the Opera, another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical held the record for Broadway’s longest-running musical, living up to its tagline “now and forever.” The musical Cats ran on Broadway from 1987-2006, and is now the fourth-longest running show both on Broadway and in London’s West End.
24. Girl Power
The musical Waitress, composed by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles, is the first musical to feature an all-female creative team. In a 2016 TIME interview, director Diane Paulus stated “what’s important to me is that every woman is in the position on this team because they’re the best person for the job. So what does that mean? It means that women are on the top of their game.”
23. No Day But Today
Based on the opera La Boheme, Rent has enjoyed great popularity since its opening. The score narrowed the gap between popular music and musicals, and shined a light on people living with AIDS. Despite its success in hindsight, many original cast and crew members were nervous about the show and tried to pass on it!
22. Seven Lost Songs
When Disney’s Aladdin was developed for Broadway, composer Alan Menken resurrected seven “lost” songs that never made it into the animated film. Among them were the ballad “Proud of Your Boy” and “Somebody’s Got Your Back.” In an interview with Digital Spy, Menken admitted that he believes integrating those songs is one of the keys to the success of the show.
21. 150 Renditions
The show-stopping song “Memory” from Cats has been recorded more than 150 times. Covers include a high-charting version by Barry Manilow and a well-known rendition by Barbra Streisand.
20. A Mix of Fairy Tales
Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods features characters from a number of different fairy tales. An early draft of the show included Rumpelstiltskin and The Three Little Pigs, both of which were cut from the final show. In a 2002 revival, the pigs were briefly restored.
19. Iconic Costume
Belle’s yellow ball gown in Beauty and the Beast is one of the most memorable costumes in musical theatre: The original gown worn by Susan Egan in the Broadway production weighed nearly 40 pounds and was a mix of hoop, silk, brocade, flowers, beading, and bows. The dress was so elaborate that it didn’t even fit down the stairwell to Egan’s dressing room! Once she was out of the dress, three crewmembers would hook it up to wires and fly it up to the rafters backstage until the next performance.
18. Started as a Mixtape
Hamilton did not begin its life as a musical. Although Miranda always had an eye for the stage, he began the show with the idea of a concept album. In January 2012, he performed 12 musical numbers from The Hamilton Mixtape at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, and began workshopping the show in 2014. After a brief off-Broadway tryout, it made the jump to Broadway in July, 2015.
17. Broadway Chopper
One of the most memorable things about Miss Saigon is the helicopter that’s used on stage. To get the helicopter on stage, the production first had to gut it, leaving only the tail light, the rotor, and the cockpit. Clever lighting fills in the rest.
16. Flopped the First Time
The Musical about the Peanuts gang You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown flopped when it first played on Broadway; it opened in 1971 and played for a miniscule 32 performances. In 1999, the show was revived with future stars Kristin Chenoweth and Anthony Rapp, who put the show on the map for all your future high school theatre productions.
15. A Kingly Career
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I was based on the real-life experiences of Anna Leonowens tutoring the royal family of Siam. Yul Brynner played the King and ended up making a career playing the role, starring in the 1956 film version of the musical and in several revivals until his death in 1985.
14. The Perfect Musical Comedy
Guys and Dolls, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, opened on Broadway in 1950 and played for over 1,000 performances. The show is considered by many to be the perfect musical comedy; as the reviewer for the Daily News wrote after the show’s opening, “it is swift, crisp and precise, with not a lagging instant.”
13. A Musical About Teen Suicide
At the 2017 Tony Awards, Dear Evan Hansen won the trophy for Best Musical and continues to climb the Broadway box-office charts. Written by the same team who wrote the Oscar-winning song from La La Land, the show was inspired by composer Benj Pasek’s real-life experience in high school when a student died of a drug overdose.
12. Show-Stealing Choreography
The choreography for Disney’s Newsies is a big part of the show’s charm. The cast members perform 31 backflips, along with countless spins, leaps, and tap steps in the course of the show. Also? Fans of the show call themselves “Fansies.”
11. Krup You!
Sondheim originally wanted the F-word to make its musical theatre debut in West Side Story, but Columbia Records, who released the original cast recording, informed him that the use of that word would violate obscenity laws and prevent the show from touring. Sondheim instead went with “Krup You” at the end of the “Gee Officer Krupke” number.
10. Religious Satire
South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker both shocked and delighted audiences with their 2011 musical The Book of Mormon. The show offers up equal opportunity satire, making fun of anything and everything from proselytizing to African dictators. For all its ribbing, Parker and Stone maintain that their aim is not to offend but to entertain. It seems they achieved their goal; the show took home nine Tony Awards and continues to sell out around the world.
9. The Ultimate Audition Test
Musical theatre is full of challenging and gut-wrenching songs to sing, but one song stands out as the”‘ultimate audition test.” Because of its speed and emotional intimacy, “Getting Married Today” from Company is one of the hardest songs in musical theatre to sing. The song imitates the sensation of having a mental breakdown, and the singer can scarcely pause for a breath during the entire go of it.
8. Game Changer
The arrival of Show Boat on Broadway in 1927 changed the course of Broadway musicals. The characters were three dimensional and realistic, and it successfully integrated music with a plot that portrayed African-American characters in a sympathetic manner.
7. Blurred Lines
Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel was significant for its blurring of the lines between songs and dialogue. The seven-and-a-half-minute song “Soliloquy” requires the singer to sing solo and occasionally speak (similarly to an operatic aria).
6. Sesame Street for Grown-ups
The song “For Now” in Avenue Q was originally written with the line “George Bush is only for now,” and the line has since been replaced with various other things tied to current events. In a recent US run, “Fox News” was inserted as the lyric.
5. The Plotless Musical
Sondheim’s Company is unique not only because the songs do not advance the plot—there’s no plot to advance! The show begins and ends on main character Robert’s 35th birthday. Sondheim recently approved an updated version that will rewrite Robert (Bobby) as a woman.
4. Rock Collage
Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s score was inspired by a number of rock musicians ranging from David Bowie and Iggie Pop to Anne Murray. It also draws inspiration from Plato’s Symposium; the lyrics to the song “Origin of Love” are loosely adapted from the text.
3. Musical Comedy Returns!
Between 1970 and 2000, finding a successful musical comedy on Broadway was almost impossible. That changed with the arrival of The Producers, based on the Mel Brooks film of the same name. The show was a smash success, and won 15 Tonys. It also paved the way for other films, such as Billy Elliot and Legally Blonde, to be adapted into Broadway shows.
2. The Mother of All Weirdness
You wouldn’t think that the Stephen King novel Carrie would make for a good Broadway musical, and, uh, you’d be right. Called the “mother of all weirdness,” the show closed after just five performances and made history by becoming the most expensive flop ever in 1988. The second act opener was a song and dance about slaughtering a pig, and Frank Rich of the New York Times compared the show to the Hindenburg disaster.
1. Culturally Significant
The musical Hair remains one of the most culturally significant shows in Broadway and American history. Not only did it define the “rock musical,” it also described the changes, from the sexual revolution to the Civil Rights Movement, that were occurring in society at the time.