The Top 20 Longest-Running Broadway Shows
As Frank Sinatra sings, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere, and many Broadway shows don’t make it. In fact, only a third of the shows produced on Broadway (about 40 new ones a year) actually turn a profit. These facts make it all the most impressive that some shows have lasted an astounding 30 years (and counting.)
Many of the titles on the list of the longest-running Broadway shows below might be familiar from Times Square billboards, your parents’ tape deck, or your own collection of original cast recordings (“Oh! Calcutta!” anyone?). Here are some fun facts and history behind the 20 longest-running Broadway shows.
20. “Hello, Dolly!”
2,844 performances (Jan. 16 1964-Dec. 27, 1970)
While Bette Midler might hold the title for longest entrance applause (just guessing) in the 2016 revival, the original production of the Jerry Herman musical about a New York City matchmaker looking for a match of her own ran for almost seven years and won 10 Tony Awards. Hello, dolly indeed. (Want a fun YouTube spiral? Watch videos of the original star Carol Channing performing from the show.)
19. “Tobacco Road”
3,182 performances (Dec. 4, 1933-May 31, 1941)
You probably haven’t heard of this show. We haven’t heard of this show. But apparently at the time, producers had a lot of faith in the power of this story from the novel by Erskine Caldwell about a family a sharecroppers who fall on hard times. There were three revivals in the decade following the original production, and none of them fared as well as the first. The 1942 revival ran for 34 performances. The 1943 revival ran for 66 performances. The 1950 revival ran for 7 performances.
18. “Life With Father”
3,224 performance (Nov. 8, 1939-July 12, 1947)
Here’s another one we had to Google, but did you know it holds the record of Broadway’s longest running play? Based on Clarence Day’s humorous, autobiographical book, the play was later adapted into a film of the same name. Why has no one brought this one back to Broadway?
17. “Fiddler on the Roof”
3,242 performance (Sept. 22, 1964-July 2, 1972)
The Bock and Harnick show might be 17 on this list, but we’re pretty sure it’s the most-produced show in high schools across the country. (Are you a Chava, Hodel, or Tzeitel?) The original production earned nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical and has spawned five revivals. After all, it’s tradition.
3,388 performances (Feb. 14, 1972-April 13, 1980)
Although most people are familiar with the Olivia Newton John and John Travolta movie, the original Broadway production ran for eight years and birthed endless karaoke renditions of “Summer Nights.” Come on, you know you’ve sung it.
15. “42nd Street”
3,486 performances (Aug. 25, 1980-Jan. 8, 1989)
It’s the avenue we’re taking you to…Named for the iconic Times Square thoroughfare in the heart of the Theater District, this tuner about a chorus girl who gets her chance at the big time has spawned a thousand time steps. The original production won two Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
14. “The Book of Mormon”
3,487 performances and counting (March 24, 2011-present)
This runaway hit is certain to be climbing the charts for years to come. Penned by the creators of “South Park” and EGOT winner Robert Lopez, this musical follows two mismatched Mormon missionaries on a troubled mission to Uganda. The musical won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical. We definitely believe in the power of this show.
13. “Miss Saigon”
4,092 performances (April 11, 1991-Jan. 28, 2001)
Inspired by “Madame Butterfly,” this Schönberg and Boublil (the writers of “Les Misérables) musical launched the career of a young Lea Salonga. Salonga played Kim, a young woman in Vietnam who falls in love with an American soldier. The heat was on in Saigon for a decade, and the show won three Tony Awards.
12. “Jersey Boys”
4,642 performances (Nov. 6, 2005-Jan. 15, 2017)
The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons brought Broadway to its feet for 12 years, and proved there are a lot of actors out there who can sing like the singular Valli. Even though jukebox musicals come with a popular catalog, they’re not always a success, but “Jersey Boys’ proved that there’s an appetite for them, winning four Tony Awards including Best Musical.
5,123 performances (April 29, 1996-Sept. 7, 2008)
Although its opening off Broadway was veiled in tragedy after composer Jonathan Larson’s sudden death the night before the first preview, the Broadway production launched a movement of Rent-heads and countless renditions of “Seasons of Love” at high school graduations. The musical won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
10. “Beauty and the Beast”
5,461 performances (April 18, 1994-July 29, 2007)
Tale as old as time. Disney Theatricals brings one of their landmark properties to the stage and the audiences go wild. This touching tale about how love goes beyond appearances and family is who you make it stayed on the Great White Way for 13 years.
9. “Mamma Mia!”
5,758 performances (Oct. 18, 2001-Sept. 12, 2015)
Another testament to the power of the jukebox. This ABBA-scored favorite holds the title of the longest running jukebox musical. Now with two films in the franchise family, we’re ready to say here we go again on Broadway. Anyone?
8. “Oh! Calcutta!”
5,959 performances (Sept. 24, 1976-Aug. 6, 1989)
Gotta love a good outlier. This musical revue, which was originally produced in off Broadway 1969, featured sketches about sex and some nudity. This production is the revival, and we’re honestly trying to figure out what kept it running for 14 years.
7. “A Chorus Line”
6,137 performances (July 25, 1975-April 28, 1990)
Director/choreographer Michael Bennett became a trailblazer with this seminal work, for which he had real dancers share there stories and crafted them into a beautiful musical about what we all do for love. The original production won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
6. “Les Misérables”
6,680 performances (March 12, 1987-May 18, 2003)
Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of ticket sales. Well, that’s not how the song goes, but it should considering the run the original production of this musical was on Broadway. The French epic, based on the novel by Victor Hugo, won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
6,681 performances and counting (Oct. 30, 2003-present)
While it lost the Tony Award for Best Musical to “Avenue Q” and received mixed reviews from the critics, “Wicked” has solidified its place in the Broadway record books. The stories about how the witches of Oz became wicked and good has captured the hearts of women everywhere striving to be seen beyond their looks. This one will likely climb up the list of longest-running Broadway shows in the coming years.
7,485 performances (Oct. 7, 1982-Sept. 10, 2000)
Who knew that a musical about felines could be such a worldwide phenomenon? Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, that’s who. Based on T.S Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” the musical captured the hearts of cat lovers everywhere and won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Get into it, jellicle cats.
3. “The Lion King”
8,647 performances and counting (Nov. 13, 1997-present)
This might be third on this list, but it does hold the record as the highest-grossing Broadway show in history. (Hello international productions!) “The Lion King” has been staged around the world, but its home base at the Minskoff Theatre has been going strong for more than 20 years, with six Tony Awards including Best Musical to its name. Simba might become the king of Pride Rock, but “The Lion King” is the ruler of Broadway.
9,043 performances and counting (Nov. 14, 1996-present)
“Chicago” has certainly painted the town since this revival of the Kander and Ebb musical opened 22 years ago. The production, which has become a destination for big stars to make their Broadway debuts, won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Murder never looked so hot.
1. “The Phantom of the Opera”
12,718 performances and counting (Jan. 26, 1988-present)
The music of the night has been playing on Broadway for 30 years and counting, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash hit about a young chorus girl who falls in with the Paris Opera’s mysterious phantom is a love story for the ages. The musical won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical. Angels of music are certain to be singing for years to come.