Broadway musicals

Famous Musicals

Famous Musicals of Broadway New York & London’s West End

What makes famous musicals famous? Some run for decades and span generations, others struggle to survive. Some famous musicals are based on movies or stories while others are adapted for the silver screen. Some famous musicals are based around a star performer, composer or director, others thrive on team spirit.

The key to success is certainly elusive but usually includes great costumes (or no costumes), great music, great lighting and inspired composers. Share your thoughts in the comments below…

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Famous MusicalsComposerPremiereYearPlace, Time and Storyline
42nd StreetHarry WarrenNew York1980New York in the early 30s. Casting, rehearsals & premiere of a musical. A newcomer asserts herself and becomes a star.
A Chorus LineMarvin HamlischNew York1975Stage on Broadway. The musical describes the tough selection process and the emotions of Dancers.
Anything goesCole PorterNew York1934Luxury liner in the 30s on a voyage across the Atlantic. Amusing tales and love stories of an illustrious shipping company. One of the eldest of all famous musicals on Broadway.
Beauty and the BeastAlan MenkenNew York1994Timeless tale in an enchanted castle. The beautiful Belle falls in love with the prince (who has been transformed into an ugly beast) thereby breaking the curse.
CabaretJohn KanderNew York1966Berlin, in the early 30s. An American writer falls in love with a singer from the Kit-Kat Club. Pre-war tragedy without a happy ending.
Can-CanCole PorterNew York1954Paris in 1893. A judge closes a Cancan establishment for obscenity but later falls in love with the owner and is disbarred.
CatsAndrew Lloyd WebberLondon1981A garbage pile in London. Tells the stories of cats who all have the same goal: to ascend to cat heaven.
ElisabethSylvester LevayVienna1992Story of love and passion of the Austrian empress.
EvitaAndrew Lloyd WebberLondon1978Buenos Aires between 1934 and 1952. It depicts the life of Che and Eva Peron, dazzling wife of the Argentine president.
GreaseWarren Casey, Jim JacobsChicago1971Famous musical set in 70s America about love, disappointment and the jealousy of two high school students.
HairGalt MacDermotNew York1967America in the late 60s hippy era. The (love) story of a young man who has to decide for or against the army.
Hello, Dolly!Jerry HermanNew York19641898. Three bachelors from the small town of Yonkers get lost and fall in love with New York City. Dolly, the marriage broker plays a central role in it.
Jesus Christ SuperstarAndrew Lloyd WebberNew York1971Legendary rock opera about the life and suffering during the last seven days of Jesus Christ, including Judas’ betrayal, the Lord’s Supper and the Crucifixion.
Kiss me, KateCole PorterNew York1948America in the late 40s, before and during a performance. Comedy involving a theater group.
The Book of MormonRobert Lopez, Trey Parker and Matt StoneNew York2011Fun look at the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). Follows the career of needy nerdy missionary Elder Arnold Cunningham as he travels to Uganda. Cunningham hasn’t read the scripture but is good at making up stories and gets himself into and out of trouble with the locals, and the church, at every turn. Includes profanity.
The Lion KingSir Elton John, Sir Tim RiceMinneapolis1997A musical journey into the African wildlife with impressive stage sets and costumes
Les MisérablesClaude-Michel SchönbergParis1980Paris around 1820 to 1835. An ex-prisoner wants to lead an honest life but is not given the chance and ends up fighting against the social system.
Mamma Mia!Benny Andersson, Björn UlvaeusLondon1999On a small Greek island in the early 80. In addition to the success story of ABBA it also tells the story of a single mother and their 20 year-old daughter.
My Fair LadyFrederick LoeweNew York1956London, 1912. Transformation of Eliza, a poor flower girl, to a fine lady. For Prof. Higgins she is initially only a test object, but he later falls in love with her.
Phantom of the OperaAndrew Lloyd WebberLondon1986Paris Opera, 1877 and 1905. The disfigured Erik (the Phantom) lives in the cellars of the Paris Opera and helps the simple chorus girl Christine achieve her breakthrough. It’s still running in both London and Broadway three decades after its premier!
Rocky Horror Picture ShowRichard O´BrienLondon1973Ohio/Transylvania 1970s. A prudish couple (Brad & Janet) have a flat tire and ring the door of transsexual Dr. Frank-N-Furter who introduces them to Rocky – his man-made Adonis.
Show BoatJerome KernNew York1927North Carolina, 1880s to 1920s. One of the first famous musicals on Broadway. On the Mississippi river, black Joe falls in love with a white singer thereby introducing the main topic of racial discrimination.
Starlight ExpressAndrew Lloyd WebberLondon1984A race on roller skates in a boy’s dream. The musical tells the story of the world championship of the locomotives. Only the victor can win the heart of the beautiful Pearl.
Dance of the VampiresJim SteinmanVienna1996Somewhere in Transylvania. Student Alfred and Professor Abronsius search out and fight vampires. Alfred falls in love with Sarah, who is kidnapped
TommyThe WhoLondon1968England in the postwar period. The rock opera describes the life of the blind, deaf and mute Tommy Walker. Abused as a child, he turns out to be the pinball world champion and thru a miracle cure becomes the Messiah.d by vampires.
West Side StoryLeonard BernsteinNew York1957New York in the 50s. Love story of two teenagers belonging to warring gangs.
We Will Rock YouBen Elton, QueenLondon2002In the distant future on the planet e.bay (formerly Earth), self-made music is prohibited. A group of Bohemians rebels against the Queen (Killer Queen).

ADDucation Lists Related to Famous Musicals

  • Dance away to Wagnerian Operas or waltz off to Famous Operas…
  • Find famous musicals in German: Beste Musicals der Welt
  • Famous musicals compiled by A C, last updated August 18, 2019.
  • Did we include your favorite musicals? If not please help us to improve our famous musicals list. Add your comments below…

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