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 Musicals Composer Premiere Year Place, Time and Storyline
42nd Street Harry Warren New York 1980 New York in the early 30s. Casting, rehearsals & premiere of a musical. A newcomer asserts herself and becomes a star.
A Chorus Line Marvin Hamlisch New York 1975 Stage on Broadway. The musical describes the tough selection process and the emotions of Dancers.
Anything goes Cole Porter New York 1934 Luxury 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 Beast Alan Menken New York 1994 Timeless 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.
Cabaret John Kander New York 1966 Berlin, 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-Can Cole Porter New York 1954 Paris in 1893. A judge closes a Cancan establishment for obscenity but later falls in love with the owner and is disbarred.
Cats Andrew Lloyd Webber London 1981 A garbage pile in London. Tells the stories of cats who all have the same goal: to ascend to cat heaven.
Elisabeth Sylvester Levay Vienna 1992 Story of love and passion of the Austrian empress.
Evita Andrew Lloyd Webber London 1978 Buenos Aires between 1934 and 1952. It depicts the life of Che and Eva Peron, dazzling wife of the Argentine president.
Grease Warren Casey, Jim Jacobs Chicago 1971 Famous musical set in 70s America about love, disappointment and the jealousy of two high school students.
Hair Galt MacDermot New York 1967 America 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 Herman New York 1964 1898. 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 Superstar Andrew Lloyd Webber New York 1971 Legendary 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, Kate Cole Porter New York 1948 America in the late 40s, before and during a performance. Comedy involving a theater group.
The Book of Mormon Robert Lopez, Trey Parker and Matt Stone New York 2011 Fun 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 King Sir Elton John, Sir Tim Rice Minneapolis 1997 A musical journey into the African wildlife with impressive stage sets and costumes
Les Misérables Claude-Michel Schönberg Paris 1980 Paris 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 Ulvaeus London 1999 On 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 Lady Frederick Loewe New York 1956 London, 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 Opera Andrew Lloyd Webber London 1986 Paris 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 Show Richard O´Brien London 1973 Ohio/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 Boat Jerome Kern New York 1927 North 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 Express Andrew Lloyd Webber London 1984 A 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 Vampires Jim Steinman Vienna 1996 Somewhere in Transylvania. Student Alfred and Professor Abronsius search out and fight vampires. Alfred falls in love with Sarah, who is kidnapped
Tommy The Who London 1968 England 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 Story Leonard Bernstein New York 1957 New York in the 50s. Love story of two teenagers belonging to warring gangs.
We Will Rock You Ben Elton, Queen London 2002 In 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

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  • 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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