The Longest-Running Broadway Plays of All Time
Musicals have really cornered the market on the longest-running Broadway shows, but several plays have stood the test of time as well. While musicals can be flashier and full of show-stopping numbers, plays can also bring theatrics in other ways, whether through pratfalls, magic, or just really, really good writing and acting.
While plays often run for a limited amount of time, whether that’s due to a celebrity’s schedule or just an expected interest in the title, some plays have found an audience to run for years. Here’s a look at the top 10 longest-running plays on Broadway.
10. “Barefoot in the Park”
Oct. 23, 1963 – June 25, 1967
Neil Simon’s romantic comedy about a newlywed couple making a new home in New York City starred Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley when it premiered on Broadway. Redford later joined Jane Fonda in the 1967 big screen adaptation. The play was nominated for three Tony Awards in 1964, and director Mike Nichols took home a win.
9. “The Voice of the Turtle”
Dec. 8, 1943 – Jan. 3, 1948
The plot of this comedy sounds something like “Sex and the City” circa World War II: The young Sally Middleton is navigating single life in New York City and is conflicted between her teachings of chastity and her feelings for a U.S. Army sergeant. Ronald Reagan (yes, that Reagan) and Eleanor Parker starred in the 1947 film adaptation.
8. “Mary, Mary”
March 8, 1961 – Dec. 12, 1964
A play about taxes and marriage? Sign us up, we guess. Jean Kerr’s comedy follows a recently divorced couple who reunite to try to avoid an IRS audit, and antics ensue. Barbara Bel Geddes was nominated for her performance as Mary, and Debbie Reynolds took the role in the 1963 film adaptation.
7. “Born Yesterday”
Feb. 4, 1946 – Dec. 31, 1949
This comedy takes a few notes from the “Pygmalion” book, as the plot centers around a corrupt junk dealer who brings his showgirl mistress to Washington DC for some business dealings. However, when he hires a journalist to educate his girlfriend, she begins to learn how corrupt he is and starts to turn the tables. Judy Holliday starred in the original Broadway production and the subsequent film in 1950.
Nov. 1, 1944 – Jan. 15, 1949
Stay with us on this one: This play by Mary Chase with about a man with a large (6 foot 3.5 inch to be exact) imaginary rabbit friend. The play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1945, and has been adapted for screen and revived on stage a few times, most recently on Broadway starring Jim Parsons in 2012.
Feb. 26, 1978 – June 13, 1982
This comedy-thriller is a play-within-a-play with plenty of twists and turns. A struggling playwright begins narrating his student’s play for his wife, and then invites the student over to give notes on the work. The student’s play is also called “Deathtrap,” and it just continues to get more meta. The original production was nominated for four Tony Awards, and Christopher Reeve, Michael Caine, and Dyan Cannon starred in the film adaptation in 1982.
May 21, 1977 – Sept. 6, 1981
This dramedy is set at a 21st birthday party in South Philadelphia, where love triangles and family class issues unfold. Despite not receiving any Tony nominations, the play proved that you don’t need awards to find an audience.
3. “Abie’s Irish Rose”
May 23, 1922 – Oct. 1, 1927
This comedy by Anne Nichols centers on an Irish girl and a Jewish man who marry, despite their families’ protestations. The play was revived twice, in 1937 and 1954, and inspired two films.
2. “Tobacco Road”
Dec. 4, 1933 – May 31, 1941
Based on the 1932 novel of the same name, the play follows a poverty-stricken family in Georgia struggling with the loss of their tobacco crop. The play was revived on Broadway three times (in 1942, 1943, and 1950), but all of the revivals ran for less than 100 performances.
1. “Life With Father”
Nov. 8 1939 – July 12, 1947
We bet you’ve never heard of this play, which holds the top spot for the longest running non-musical on Broadway! Based on Clarence Day’s book of stories about his life, the stories paint a portrait of a stressed-out Wall Street broker who places many demands on his family, but as the rules escalate, the humor starts to come out. It’s been adapted for several TV series and films and isn’t letting go of its longest-running record any time soon.