Top 10 Broadway Musicals You've Never Heard Of - Listverse (2023)


Fans of musical theatre know that every show is an opportunity to fall in love with incredible characters, get lost in thrilling tales, and witness great talent at work. For most of us, singing along to music in “The Producers,” “Les Miserables,” “Phantom of the Opera,” or even “Hamilton” is almost instinct at this point. But if we are being honest, it’s impossible to attend almost every show on Broadway, and some great productions can slip our attention. This list dives deep into the archives to present some Broadway gems that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.

These are the top 10 Broadway Musicals you’ve never heard of before.

10 Contact (2000)

Contact Filmed Live on Broadway

Dance is one of the body’s purest forms of expression, and “Contact” is a musical that taps into this magic. The musical has no original score or dialogue. Instead, it tells its tale through a modern ballet jukebox soundtrack. In the Broadway musical developed by Susan Stroman and John Weidman, the major theme is “contact,” or at least, the lack of it. The musical is arranged in three parts dubbed “Swinging,” “Did You Move,’ and “Contact” that tell stories through dance.

Contact was inspired by Stroman’s experiences on a night out where she met a captivating lady in a yellow dress. Whenever the lady stepped on the dance floor, she accepted a dance from a gentleman and became the center of attention. The unique inspiration gave birth to a musical that chooses dance as its language, and the result is impressive. Still, as a Broadway musical, “Contact” is too progressive, which is both a strength and weakness as far as theatre audiences are concerned. Either way, the musical was so good that it won the Tony Award in 2000 for Best Musical, a triumph that turned controversial since it had no live singing or an original score.

9 Hands on a Hardbody (2013)

Hands on a Hardbody Reel


Can dreams come true on Broadway? Heck yes, they do—for people of all backgrounds, professions, and hobbies! In this case, “Hands on a Hardbody” is a Broadway show that focuses on the dreams of wannabe car owners. This Broadway musical features a cast of ten Texans who are cash-strapped but keen on winning a brand-new red Nissan truck. In the musical set in the scorching red sun, the contestants must battle the elements by keeping at least one hand on the truck. In the end, only one person can drive away with the car, and the test of perseverance drives the entire plot.

The incredible show is based on a 1994 documentary that covered an endurance competition in Longview, Texas. In the competition, 24 contestants battled to see who could keep their hands on a pickup truck for the longest time without leaning or squatting on it. In the Broadway version, the intriguing story gets a much-needed uplift by featuring Amanda Green’s (“Bring It On: The Musical”) score and Dough Wright’s (“I Am My Own Wife”) book.

8 Newsies (2017)

“Extra, extra, read all about it!” Newspaper headlines capture the hottest news in any city and Disney’s “Newsies” highlights the experiences of newspaper boys. The story follows a group of orphaned newsboys in Lower Manhattan who find themselves at odds with newspaper boss Joseph Pulitzer. The plot escalates after the publisher increases the cost of his paper. His decision incites a strike that literally “makes the headlines.”

“Newsies” is closely based on the “Newsboys Strike of 1899” of New York that influenced dramatic changes in the compensation of child laborers. This Broadway musical enhances the story further, featuring music by Alan Menken and lyrics from Jack Felden. Now considered one of Disney’s best musicals on Broadway, the musical was filmed, released in theatres, and is now available for streaming.

7 The Bridges of Madison County (2014)

2014 Tony Awards Show Clip: The Bridges of Madison County

Romantic narratives are a staple on Broadway, and “The Bridges of Madison County” taps into this theme with a twist. The show starts on a simple note, introducing Francesca, an Iowan housewife who’s dedicated to her family but still feels dispassionate about her reality. In a tale of forbidden love, Francesca crosses paths with Robert, a hunky National Geographic who takes her back to her maiden days. In an affair that lasts four days, the two go on an emotional rollercoaster that leaves audiences swooning and tense. After watching the show, you can’t help but wonder, “What will Francesca do after Robert leaves? What if?”

“The Bridges of Madison” is based on a novel by Robert James Waller, but the adaptation by Marsha Norman transforms it into an exciting selection. Jason Robert Brown’s musical arrangement is so captivating that it earned him the 2014 Tony Award for Best Score. As far as musicals go, this underrated musical punches all the necessary buttons, from a powerful story to heartbreaking romance.

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6 American Idiot (2009)

American Idiot cast performance at 2010 Tony Awards

“American Idiot,” the musical,highlights the struggles of ordinary people in a post-9/11 world. It follows three men from a less-than-exciting hometown. With a score by Green Day—which you may have already heard if you are a Green Day fan—the musical narrates how Michael, Tunney, and Johnny make unique choices in search of happiness. Michael becomes a family man, Johnny turns to drugs, and Tunny joins the army and ships abroad.

“American Idiot” was developed as an expansion of the stories from Green Day’s punk rock album of the same name. For the musical, the band also helped compose the music with lyrics by Billie Joe. Billie Joe collaborated with Michael Mayer to write the musical’s book. Yet, despite connections to Green Day, the musical and its important themes are heavily overlooked.

5 Assassins (2004)

Assassins – 2004 Tony Awards Performance

The success of any Broadway theatrical production relies on multiple factors, and the release date determines how appealing a show is to audiences. “Assassins,” which premiered on Broadway in 2004, was released too soon after the September 9/11 attacks. Because of the musical’s political themes, it didn’t go over well. However, that says nothing of the remarkable quality of the show.

As the unambiguous name suggests, “Assassins” features people who historically tried or successfully assassinated American presidents. The cast features names like John Hinckley, Lynette “Squeaky” Froome, and John Wilkes booth among others. Together, these figures narrate their justifications for offing presidents while chanting “Everybody’s Got the Right…”

The original concept for the musical was developed by Charles Gilbert, with the musical score created by Stephen Sondheim. Given the sensitive theme, Sondheim and others in the productionanticipatedbacklash from the public but remained adamantly unapologetic. While the musical earned some awards, including five Tony Awards, its mixed and negative reviews affected its popularity.

4 Finian’s Rainbow (1995)


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The best musicals are revived over and over. One of those musicals is “Finian’s Rainbow,” which has been revived on Broadway an impressive four times over. The musical centers on the adventures of Finian, an elderly fellow that travels to Southern America in a quest to hide a pot of gold. Hot on Finian’s trail is the gold’s original owner, Ogg, a leprechaun in danger of turning human without his precious possession. The tale gets even wackier when a corrupt US Senator learns about the gold and also seeks to possess it.

“Finian’s Rainbow” was developed from a book by E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy, with music from Burton Lane. While the film version is more popular, the musical version is a masterpiece that has been nominated every year it was produced and revived on Broadway. But despite the quality that makes it worthy of the Broadway stage and its revivals, “Finian’s Rainbow” is widely unrecognized. It’s a shame that “Finian’s Rainbow” is less popular among theatre lovers because everyone deserves to see its story.

3 Chess (1988)

Chess- Prologue (Broadway)

Chess is a common allegory for strategy and warfare. In the Broadway musical titled “Chess,” these literary and theatrical devices emerge. The musical centers on a chess tournament between American and Russian grandmasters. The two, equally capable players battle it out for one woman. Of course, the “chess game” represents the manipulations that characterized the Cold War ideologies by the Americans and Russians.

A distinctive aspect that makes “Chess” a lesser-known musical in the US is its alterations before it hit Broadway. In London’s West End theatres, the show was popular after it opened in 1984 as it attracted audiences for three years straight. It even features music by Murray Head—Judas in the original British cast recording of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar”—”One Night in Bangkok” hitting the mainstream charts. But when the musical was revised for Broadway in the US with Richard Nelson’s book, its fortunes differed as it lasted only two months. Despite the slump in the US, “Chess” remains one of the most underrated, and best, musicals ever.

2 Wonderful Town (1953)

Wonderful Town

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In the world of musicals, “Wonderful Town” is a hidden gem that deserves a poster on every street of New York. The musical, which first went on Broadway in 1953, focuses on the life of two sisters living in New York’s Greenwich Village. Ruth and Eileen Sherwood aspire to make it big in the city, but things don’t pan out as they planned. In some moments, the sisters find themselves home-sick, remembering their simple life back home in sweet “Ohio.” “Why, oh, why, oh, did I ever leave Ohio?”

With a strong book by Joseph A. Fields and Jerome Chodorov and music from Leonard Bernstein, “Wonderful Town” elucidates a great love for New York. The musical qualifies as a must-see as its story is founded in comedy and music for every mood.

1 Little Me (1962)

Dean Martin, Abbe Lane & Sid Caesar – Real Live Girl

“Little Me” is a Broadway musical that takes an alternative route based on its loose, autobiographical structure. Based on a novel by Patrick Dennis titledLittle Me: The Intimate Memoirs of that Great Star Stage, Screen, and Television/Belle Poitrine, the musical is endlessly energetic and hilarious. Divided into three main acts, the novel traces Belle Poitrine’s story as she writes her memoir alongside author Patrick Dennis. Belle pens her ups and downs in the musical, including her comical relationships, marriages, and rise to fame and fortune.

After its initial Broadway production, “Little Me” was revived two more times. While it attracts little mention among the great musicals of our time, “Little Me” is a refreshing stab at the mundane concerns that dominate our experiences in an unpredictable world.

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fact checked by Rachel Jones


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What is the #1 iconic Broadway musical? ›

RankTitleOpening date
1The Phantom of the OperaJanuary 26, 1988
2Chicago (1996 revival)November 14, 1996
3The Lion KingNovember 13, 1997
4CatsOctober 7, 1982
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What are top 10 musicals? ›

The 20 Best Musicals Of All Time (According To IMDb)
  • The Sound Of Music (1965) - 8.0. ...
  • Beauty And The Beast (1991) - 8.0. ...
  • Aladdin (1992) - 8.0. ...
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) - 8.0. ...
  • La La Land (2016) - 8.0. ...
  • Singin' In The Rain (1952) - 8.3. ...
  • Hamilton (2020) - 8.5. ...
  • The Lion King (1994) - 8.5. Available On Disney+
21 Jan 2022

What is the most viewed Broadway musical of all time? ›

The Lion King is the highest-grossing Broadway show of all time. Since its opening on Nov. 13, 1997, The Lion King has earned $1,539,318,552 and counting. The average ticket price is $104.29, and the top ticket price is $251.25.

What is the most watched musical? ›

5 Most Popular Broadway Musicals Ever
  • The Phantom of the Opera.
  • Cats.
  • Les Misérables.
  • A Chorus Line.
  • Oh! Calcutta.
17 Sept 2013

What musicals should everyone see? ›

The 25 Broadway Musicals Everyone Should See
  • Show Boat by Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II.
  • Les Miserables by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg & Herbert Kretzmer.
  • My Fair Lady by Frederick Loewe & Alan Jay Lerner.
  • Gypsy by Jule Styne & Stephen Sondheim.
  • Oklahoma by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II.

What is the world's best musical? ›

Top Searched Musicals in the World
PositionMusical ProductionIndex Score
#1The Lion King355
#2High School Musical337.5
#3School of Rock280
#4Notre-Dame de Paris247.5
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16 Mar 2020

Are there any R rated musicals? ›

While R-rated musicals are certainly not common, there have been a few. 2018's award-winning A Star is Born adaptation was darker than its three predecessors, and movies like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut also come to mind.

What is the saddest Broadway musical? ›

The Top Five

Of the 100 musicals analysed, we crowned Les Misérables as the saddest.

What was the biggest flop in Broadway history? ›

The Most Notorious Flop in Broadway History
  • Once upon a time, there was a play called "Moose Murders".
  • No, really—it premiered on Broadway for one night only and immediately became the biggest critical flop of all time.
12 Aug 2016

What is the shortest Broadway musical ever? ›

No.TitleOpening date
1.KellyFebruary 6, 1965
1.La StradaDecember 14, 1969
1.Little Johnny Jones (1982 revival)March 21, 1982
1.The Moony Shapiro SongbookMay 3, 1981
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What is the oldest show on Broadway? ›

'Phantom of the Opera,' Broadway's Longest-Running Show, to Close - The New York Times.

What are the 5 longest running shows currently on Broadway? ›

Broadway – Longest Running Broadway Shows
1The Phantom of the Opera13,813
2Chicago (1996 revival)10,170
3The Lion King9,787
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What Broadway musical lost the most money? ›

Broadway News Broadway's Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark Will Have Lost Nearly $60 Million by Closing Date The multi-million dollar musical— the most expensive musical in Broadway history, capitalized at $75 million — will have historic losses of up to $60 million when it closes January 4, 2014.

What are 3 Broadway musicals? ›

If this is your first time, you can't go wrong with classics like “Wicked,” “The Lion King,” and “Come from Away.” There is also a constant stream of new musicals and revivals of older ones. If they made it to Broadway, there must be a reason.

Is it rude to sing at a Broadway show? ›

Don't Sing Along

Your fellow Broadway fans paid the big bucks to hear the professionals flex their vocal muscles, not you. Save your sweet singing for post-show karaoke. (There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as when the performers onstage actually prompt the audience to join in.)

What are the darkest musicals? ›

But to kick everything off, here is a list of some amazing dark musicals and where you can find the cast albums and licensing rights for each of them!
See our disclosure for more info.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. ...
  • Little Shop of Horrors. ...
  • Carrie. ...
  • Jekyll & Hyde. ...
  • Evil Dead. ...
  • Heathers. ...
  • Dracula. ...
  • Ruthless!
1 Oct 2018

What is the most watched event of all time? ›

Most-watched broadcasts of all time (Total Viewers)
1Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales1997
2Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer1981
32000 Summer Olympics closing ceremony2000
42000 Summer Olympics opening ceremony2000
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What is the biggest musical film of all time? ›

When adjusted for inflation, the highest-grossing musical films are The Sound of Music, with an inflation-adjusted worldwide gross of $2,572,000,000; followed by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with an inflation-adjusted worldwide gross of $1,977,000,000 (both as of 2019).

What are some cool musicals? ›

Best movie musicals of all time
  • Pitch Perfect (2012) ...
  • Moana (2016) ...
  • Hairspray (2007) ...
  • The Jungle Book (1967) ...
  • The King and I (1956) ...
  • Mamma Mia! ...
  • Gypsy (1993) ...
  • Tommy: The Movie (1975)
17 Dec 2021

What is the weirdest musical? ›

The 10 Weirdest Musicals Everyone Should See
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) ...
  • Were the World Mine (2008) ...
  • Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) ...
  • Reefer Madness (2005) ...
  • Tommy (1975) ...
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) ...
  • Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) ...
  • Godspell (1973)
6 Feb 2020

Who is the best singer to ever exist? ›

Top 10 Best Singers of All Time
1Michael JacksonPop, Soul, Funk, R&B, Rock, Disco, & Dance
2Stevie WonderSoul, Pop, R&B, Funk, & Jazz
3Marvin GayeSoul, R&B, Funk, Pop, & Jazz
4Freddie MercuryHard Rock, Music Hall, Glitter, & Prog Rock
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31 May 2022

What is the scariest musical? ›

The Best Horror Musicals, Ranked
  • 7/7 Repo! The Genetic Opera.
  • 6/7 The Phantom Of The Opera.
  • 5/7 Anna and the Apocalypse.
  • 4/7 The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
  • 3/7 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
  • 2/7 Little Shop of Horrors.
  • 1/7 The Nightmare Before Christmas.
8 Aug 2022

What is worse than an R-rating? ›

An R-rated film may contain "adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements." On the other hand, titles given an M rating may have content that includes "intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language."

Is R-rating worse than M? ›

Rated G: Suggested for general audiences. Rated M: Suggested for mature audiences - Parental discretion advised. Rated R: Restricted – Persons under 16 not admitted, unless accompanied by parent or adult guardian. Rated X: Persons under 16 not admitted.

What is the hardest musical to sing? ›

  • Defying Gravity, Wicked.
  • And I Am Telling You (I'm Not Going), Dreamgirls.
  • The Phantom of the Opera.
  • (Not) Getting Married Today, Company.
  • Pity the Child, Chess.
  • Electricity, Billy Elliot.
  • Glitter and Be Gay, Candide.
  • Gethsemane, Jesus Christ Superstar.
22 May 2020

What are the hardest Broadway roles? ›

Top 10 Hardest Roles in Musicals
  • #8: Dr. Henry Jekyll / Edward Hyde. ...
  • #7: Diana Goodman. “Next to Normal” ...
  • #6: The D'Ysquith Family. “A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder” ...
  • #5: Celie. “The Color Purple” ...
  • #4: Jean Valjean. “Les Misérables” ...
  • #3: Eva Perón. “Evita” ...
  • #2: Evan Hansen. “Dear Evan Hansen” ...
  • #1: Mama Rose. “Gypsy”
11 Feb 2019

What is the longest running non musical play on Broadway? ›

Life With Father played 3,224 performances from 1939 to 1947, making it the longest-running nonmusical play on Broadway.

What ran the longest running Broadway? ›

The Phantom of the Opera

The longest-running show in Broadway history officially opened on January 26, 1988 and is still playing at the Majestic The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical won 7 1988 Tony Awards® including Best Musical.

What is the oldest surviving Broadway theater? ›

The Lyceum Theatre was designed by Herts & Tallant in the Beaux-Arts style and constructed from 1902 to 1903 for impresario Daniel Frohman. Operated by the Shubert Organization, it is the oldest continuously operating legitimate theater in New York City.

What was the first Broadway hit? ›

Broadway's first "long-run" musical was a 50-performance hit called The Elves in 1857. In 1870, the heart of Broadway was in Union Square, and by the end of the century, many theatres were near Madison Square.

Who is the youngest Broadway star? ›

  • Sophia Gennusa (9), Oona Laurence (10), Bailey Ryon (11), and Milly Shapiro (10) ...
  • Frankie Michaels, 11 years. ...
  • Daisy Eagan, 11. ...
  • Trent Kowalik (14), David Alvarez (15), and Kiril Kulish (15) ...
  • Matthew Broderick, 21. ...
  • Ben Platt, 23. ...
  • Audrey Hepburn, 25. ...
  • Alex Sharp, 26.

Is there an age limit for Broadway? ›

Children ages 4 and older are allowed to attend Broadway shows. Broadway theatres do not permit children younger than 4 to enter, as very young children may not be able to sit through long shows and/or may make noise that can disturb other audience members.

What is Disney's longest running show on Broadway? ›

Having won 6 Tony Awards in 1998, The Lion King quickly made its way into the hearts of critics and audiences. Based on the 1994 animated Disney movie of the same name, it is also the longest running Disney Theatrical Productions show.

What is the longest running musical ever? ›

Oklahoma! tops the list as the longest running show, debuting on Broadway in 1943, it is continually revived and performed today in theatres across the world.

Which Broadway is best? ›

  • Hamilton.
  • Wicked.
  • The Lion King.
  • Chicago.
  • Aladdin.
  • The Phantom of the Opera.
  • The Book of Mormon.
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Two Parts)
24 Oct 2022

Who is the greatest Broadway star? ›

The Best Broadway Divas of All Time
  1. Ethel Merman. No performer embodies the spirit of the Great White Way more than the Ethel Merman, the Queens stenographer turned Broadway megaphone. ...
  2. Patti LuPone. ...
  3. Angela Lansbury. ...
  4. Gwen Verdon. ...
  5. Bernadette Peters. ...
  6. Liza Minnelli. ...
  7. Julie Andrews. ...
  8. Audra McDonald.
30 Oct 2019

What was the biggest Broadway flop? ›

Here are ten musicals that were spectacular flops in their Broadway debuts.
  1. Pipe Dream (1955) ...
  2. Kelly (1965) ...
  3. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1966) ...
  4. Via Galactica (1972) ...
  5. The Rocky Horror Show (1975) ...
  6. Bring Back Birdie (1981) ...
  7. Into the Light (1986) ...
  8. Carrie (1988)
10 May 2011

What is the most famous musical ever? ›

Highest-grossing musical theatre productions
RankMusicalOriginal production
Debut year
1The Lion King1997
3The Phantom of the Opera1988
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What is the longest running Off Broadway musical? ›

The show's original off-Broadway production ran a total of 42 years (until 2002) and 17,162 performances, making it the world's longest-running musical. The musical was produced by Lore Noto.
The Fantasticks
BasisLes Romanesques by Edmond Rostand
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Who is the best Broadway dancer of all time? ›

If you're a Great White Way fan, you should get to know these legendary artists, some of whom are still making moves.
  1. Jack Cole. equipotucson. ...
  2. Agnes de Mille. ...
  3. Michael Kidd. ...
  4. Gwen Verdon. ...
  5. Bob Fosse. ...
  6. Jerome Robbins. ...
  7. Susan Stroman. ...
  8. Kathleen Marshall.
2 Aug 2017

Who is known as the Queen of Broadway? ›

Idina Kim Mentzel was born on May 30, 1971, in Manhattan, New York City. She grew up in New Jersey until about age three, when her family moved to Syosset, New York, on Long Island.


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