We’ve had a look at famous theatres, so let’s take a look at some famous Broadway shows! The list of long running shows numbers in the hundreds. I’ve chosen the top 4 longest running shows for you here:
Phantom of the Opera
As I mentioned earlier, the Phantom of the Opera is the longest running performance on Broadway, opening in 1988 and still running to date. With over 11,000 performances, this is a show that keeps bringing them back and entices new visitors alike. However, the show originally started out at London’s West End theatre two year before this. In 2012 it celebrated its 10,000 performance on Broadway.
The music for this show was written by the famous Andrew Lloyd Webber and it was based on “Le Fantome de L’Opera” a French novel that was written by Gaston Leroux. The story itself has a tragic romantic theme; A beautiful opera singer becomes an obsession to a musical genius that cannot show his face due to disfigurement and is hidden away beneath the catacombs of the theatre. His obsession causes him to eventually kidnap the woman and force her to stay with him.
Chicago’s story is set in Chicago’s era of prohibition and is a musical adaptation of a 1926 play, also entitled Chicago, that was written by Maurine Dallas Watkins, a reporter who used real crimes and criminals that she had reported on in life. The satire focuses on corruption with the criminal justice system and how some criminals are idolized to the point of celebrity status.
It was in 1975 that the original production opened its doors on Broadway’s 46th Street Theatre. It ran until 1977 with 936 performances. Chicago was once more revived in 1996 on Broadway and then a year later in the West End. It has gained the status of longest running musical revival and comes in 2nd as the longest running Broadway show.
Cats was the very first Broadway show that I saw and has remained my favourite to this day. Andrew Lloyd Webber also composed the music for this performance and the play itself was based on a story by T.S. Eliot. The story is about death and rebirth and follows a tribe of cats, called the Jellicles. In the story they have to choose a cat who will be the one to rise to “Heaviside Layer” or cat heaven for lack of a better description, and be reborn.
The show made its first appearance in 1981 in the West End, then opened a year later on Broadway. Cats has won quite a number of awards over its time, such as the Best Musical awards for both the Tony and Laurence Oliver Awards ceremonies. It ran for 21 years in London and 18 years on Broadway, and comes in as the 3rd longest running show for Broadway to date. This show has been performed across the globe and in over 20 different languages.
The Lion King
This is a musical adaptation of a 1994 Disney film with the same name. Its well known for its music by Elton John and for its actors who are dressed as animals alongside very large hollow puppets. Its first show debuted in 1997 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minnesota as was a hit from the start. It then premiered on Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre in the later half of 1997. The show still runs today at the Minskoff Theatre and has run over 6,700 performances. The Lion King comes in as the 4th longest running Broadway show.
The story follows the life of a young lion who is meant to be heir to their kingdom, but has to deal with a treacherous uncle who wants to rule for himself. Being outcast upon his father’s death, the young lion prepares himself to take back his rightful place as King of the lions and oust his uncle out as the one who caused his father’s death.
As you can see from these few examples, Broadway shows cover a range of ideals and situations that affect us in everyday life, expressing these themes through song, dance and acting. I’m pretty sure that we can look back centuries and find similar themes played throughout civilizations through their own form of art.