The “must see” shows on Broadway now range from current hits to old, old favorites. I tried to pick musicals that showcase the current best, the most successful, the longest-running and an example of an old-style show.
I think arguments could be made to replace any of them with another pick. What show tops your list, and why? You can share your thoughts below. And while we're on the subject of lists, here's my pick for top plays, too.
Why?: Set as a back story to The Wizard of Oz, critics largely ignored this tale of tolerance and loyalty, but theater goers embraced it. Financially, it’s the most successful musical of all time, and there’s a reason. Wicked offers a moving story of two talented women whose friendship survives many challenges. Plus, the Stephen Schwartz music, as usual, moves you in the theater and stays with you when you leave.
Well Known Songs: “Defying Gravity,” “For Good,” “Popular,” “The Wizard and I”
Discounts Available?: No. However, you can often get tickets at face value for weekday shows. Wicked also offers a daily lottery.
2. Billy Elliot
Why?: Raves from almost all quarters both in London and New York. Billy Elliot takes the movie that told the touching story of a boy striving to do something different and earn his father’s blessing and adds to it Elton John's music and some electric choreography.
Well Known Songs: “Electricity”
Discounts Available?: Not likely. Billy typically sells out, and short-notice tickets will be above face value. Planning ahead will pay off.
Why?: This list includes not only the best shows but a variety of styles of musical theater. South Pacific is among the best shows on Broadway now, but it also is an example of what some call the “Golden Age” of Broadway. These shows, many by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, mostly feature stories with drama, comedy and heart, and they also feature beautiful music with strong melodies and rich orchestrations. Lincoln Center’s production of South Pacific won the 2008 Tony for Best Revival and richly deserved it.
Well Known Songs: “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair,” “Bali Hai”
Discounts Available?: Not likely. South Pacific continues to sell out, but you can get tickets at face value. Plan early.
Why?: Broadways longest-running musical pretty much has to be here. The Phantom of the Opera opened on January 9, 1988, and is still going strong. Unlike many long-running shows, this Phantom is not getting tired and performances remain outstanding. Andrew Lloyd Webber, the show’s composer, has made a mark on Broadway that perhaps only Rodgers and Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim can top. His work is clearly a “must see.”
Well Known Songs: “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Music of the Night,” “Think of Me”
Discounts Available?: Yes. Phantom continues to sell well, but you can almost always find a discount ticket online.
Why?: Next to Normal is an example of a new-style Broadway musical with a contemporary score that is mostly sung through and explores deep and challenging emotional issues. It’s not for everyone, but if you want to understand the full scope of musicals on Broadway now, Next to Normal has got to be on your list.
Well Known Songs: None yet
Discounts Available?: Yes, and that’s a surprise. Take advantage of it while you can.
6. Bonus Picks: Any Disney Show
Why?: Disney has had huge impact on Broadway, both in cultivating the family friendly market and facilitating Times Square’s revitalization. Currently represented with The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Mary Poppins, a Disney show is a must to sample a relatively new subset of the Broadway musical.
Discounts Available?: Yes, for Mary and Mermaid. No. for The Lion King.