Famous Broadway musicals are famous for a reason: their combination of true dramatic storytelling, enticing costumes, and powerful music that shakes the audience to its core. Plenty of musicals have vied for the slot of “Most Famous Broadway Musicals” throughout the past century – and many of them deserve the title in their own rights.
Every show on Broadway is there for a reason, from a major cash infusion from a giant such as Disney to the insane popularity enjoyed by the likes of Phantom of the Opera and Wicked. But which in Broadway’s storied history earn their place as one of the most famous musicals of all time?
Aladdin is closely based on the namesake Disney movie, with songs influenced by the film and a near-identical plotline to thrill the imagination and the heart. Alan Menken, the original songwriter for the movie, resurrected several songs originally cut from the movie and wrote several new ones to bring another dimension to the land of Agrabah.
Aladdin is the 11th highest grossing play on Broadway, with over $429 million brought in before the onslaught of coronavirus in 2020. However, like many famous Broadway musicals, Aladdin did not get its start on Broadway. The show originally opened in Seattle in 2011 to critical acclaim and tried on Toronto, Canada for size in 2013 before moving to the big stage.
Hamilton is one of the most successful Broadway plays of this century and one of the most famous musicals of all time – and it’s only been around for five years. The production smashed expectations out of the ballpark on its initial release and earned a record-breaking 16 nominations (and 11 wins) at the 2016 Tony Awards.
Hamilton is the story of the Founding Fathers, specifically the tale of Alexander Hamilton and his role in founding America. The show has received praise for its color-conscious casting and incorporation of non-white actors in key roles across the board.
Wicked cemented its place as one of the most famous Broadway musicals of all time when it passed the coveted $1 billion revenue mark in 2016. There are only two other productions in Broadway history surpass a billion: The Lion King, the current world theatrical production leader, and The Phantom of the Opera, the longest-running Broadway show ever.
First premiering in 2003, the original production won three Tonys and seven Drama Desk Awards, in addition to the cast’s nomination – and win – of a Grammy Award. Wicked has toured the world in its years since, taking box-office records in L.A., St. Louis, Chicago, and London.
Each of these plays has marked its own storied place in history as one of the most famous musicals of all time. While Hamilton and Wicked are relegated to the stage for now, Aladdin has been responsible for introducing future Broadway attendees to the wondrous world of magic through the animated film.
The allure and appeal of the Big Apple’s biggest stages has helped shaped the city time and again, with various shows such as The Lion King, Cats, and Wicked hailed as directly influence the financial success of the entire city.