Broadway is about to kick off a new season of shows, all of which I’m sure would like to become the next big thing that runs for 20+ years. And some shows that have only been around for a year, like Book of Mormon, look like they’ll have nice long runs. However, some newbies have a long way to go before they can top the list of the longest running shows of all time. Below, the top ten (as of today…check out #10).
1. The Phantom of the Opera
Total performances: 9795 (as of 8/14/2011)
Run dates: 1/25/1988–present
The Phantom of the Opera wins this category by a long shot, as it’s been running over 23 years and it’s still going strong. Audiences love the spectacle created by the massive chandelier and other special effects that set the mood for this musical, and the production also won 7 Tony Awards in its first year.
Total performances: 7485
Run dates: 10/7/1982–9/10/2000
Cats is one of those shows that you either love or hate, and it’s apparent that a lot of people loved it, considering the run lasted almost 18 years. Unfortunately, this show will probably lose its #2 spot at some point, since there are some close competitors that are still on Broadway.
3. Les Miserables
Total performances: 6691
Run dates: 3/12/1987–5/18/2003
Another classic musical, with a respectable 16-year run. It’s an epic drama, with lots of emotion and hardship. The production garnered 8 Tony Awards in 1987, including Best Musical, and the cast album won a Grammy as well.
4. A Chorus Line
Total performances: 6137
Run dates: 7/25/1975–4/28/1990
This is the musical with the most Tony wins on the list, as the 1976 ceremony presented 9 Tony Awards to the new musical. Interestingly, a Special Tony Award was given to the show in 1984 when it became Broadway’s longest-running musical at that time, although it has since been dethroned.
Total performances: 6123 (as of 8/14/2011)
Run dates: 11/14/1996–present
Chicago is the longest-running revival; the original production only lasted 936 performances, but the latest production shows no signs of stopping. The two female leads have been portrayed by some impressive talent over the years, including Chita Rivera, Liza Minnelli, Bebe Neuwirth and even Christie Brinkley.
6. Oh! Calcutta!
Total performances: 5959
Run dates: 9/24/1976–8/6/1989
Oh! Calcutta! was a popular revue that consisted of various sketches on sex-related topics, making it the only non-musical on the Top 10 list. The show was very controversial because of the subject matter and nudity, but despite the controversy (or perhaps because of it), the show managed to play for almost 13 years.
7. The Lion King
Total performances: 5709 (as of 8/14/2011)
Run dates: 11/13/1997–present
Everyone’s heard of this classic Disney production, featuring amazing scenery and stage design, as well as the manner in which larger-than-life animals are portrayed by humans. This is definitely a contender for an eventual #1 spot, but there’s a long way to go before then.
8. Beauty and the Beast
Total performances: 5461
Run dates: 4/18/1994–7/29/2007
Another Disney classic, this falls just behind the current run of The Lion King. Although the Broadway show ended in 2007, the musical continues to play all over the world; so far it’s been performed in 13 countries and 115 cities.
Total performances: 5123
Run dates: 4/29/1996–9/7/2008
Rent is based on the opera La boheme and tells the story of a group of friends dealing with financial issues, relationship difficulties and the threat of HIV/AIDS. In 2005, the musical was adapted into a successful film, which featured many of the original Broadway cast members.
10. Miss Saigon
Total performances: 4097
Run dates: 4/11/1991–1/28/2001
Rounding out the list is this musical based on another Puccini opera, Madame Butterfly, telling the tragic love story of an Asian woman and her American lover during the Vietnam War. This will be knocked off the list in a few weeks, as Mamma Mia! is currently running on Broadway and is right on the heels of Miss Saigon, with 4072 performances.
Stay tuned for a future installment of the SHORTEST Broadway runs of all time…there are some real stinkers out there. In the meantime, what current Broadway show do you think most deserves to top the list of the longest running productions?