The Top 5 Must See Broadway Musicals

If Time Is Short in New York, Don't Miss These Shows

There are a few things to cross off the list when visiting New York City, the city that never sleeps. Of them, one typically finds visiting the Empire State Building, eating a slice of New York pizza, and going to Central Park at the top of the list. Naturally, visiting Times Square and seeing a musical on Broadway makes its way up there as well.

These must-see shows on Broadway below range from current hits to long-running favorites. Fans of classic musical theatre can often find incredible revivals of older musicals, although these shows tend to play for shorter runs than first-run new musicals. Additionally, these musicals below showcase the wide range of styles on Broadway today. 

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The plaza of the Gershwin Theatre
The front plaza at the Gershwin Theatre (Walter McBride/Corbis via Getty Images).

Set as a back story to The Wizard of Oz, critics largely ignored this tale of tolerance and loyalty, but theater goers have embraced it.

Financially, Wicked is among the most successful musicals of all time, and there’s a reason. Wicked offers a moving story of two talented women whose friendship survives many challenges. Plus, the Stephen Schwartz music moves audience members while in the theater and stays with them when they leave.

The following songs from Wicked are well-known even outside the theatre community:

  • “Defying Gravity”
  • “For Good”
  • “Popular”
  • “The Wizard and I”

While there are rarely discounts available, those who want to see Wicked can often get tickets at face value for weekday shows. Wicked also offers a daily lottery, both in person and online.

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Dear Evan Hansen

The marquee of the Music Box Theatre for Dear Evan Hansen
The Music Box Theatre marquee for Dear Evan Hansen (Walter McBride/Getty Images).

Dear Evan Hansen is one of the contemporary musicals currently leading the way on Broadway. With a modern pop/Broadway score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, it tells the story of an anxious teenage boy whose small lie about his friendship with a classmate who died snowballs far beyond his control. 

The show has become incredibly popular, especially among younger audiences, for its modern music and the way it addresses issues of mental health and social media.

Discounts aren't often available, but a digital rush happens daily for day-of seats.

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The Phantom of the Opera

The Majestic Theatre marquee for The Phantom of the Opera
The Majestic Theatre marquee for The Phantom of the Opera (Walter McBride / Getty Images).

The Phantom of the Opera is Broadway's longest-running musical. It opened on January 9, 1988, and is still going strong.

Phantom continues to draw audiences, both return visitors and tourists who want to see the legendary show. Andrew Lloyd Webber, the show’s composer, has had a number of shows on Broadway that perhaps only Rodgers, Hammerstein, and Stephen Sondheim can top.

The most memorable songs from the musical are as follows:

  • “The Phantom of the Opera”
  • “Music of the Night”
  • “Think of Me”

Discounts are almost always available for this musical. Phantom continues to sell well, but finding a discounted ticket online is common.

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The Richard Rodgers Theatre marquee for Hamilton
The Hamilton marquee at the Richard Rodgers Theatre (Walter McBride / Getty).

There is probably no musical in recent history that has had the cultural impact of Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda's hip-hop/rap musical about the American Revolution and the life of Alexander Hamilton has totally permeated pop culture in a way most musicals never do.

It's not just a popular success, but a critical one as well: the show won eleven Tony Awards in 2016 and was one of only nine musicals in history to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Finding discounts for Hamilton is pretty unlikely, but there's a digital lottery, nicknamed #Ham4Ham, that offers $10 day-of tickets.

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The marquee of Anastasia at the Broadhurst Theatre
The marquee of Anastasia at the Broadhurst Theatre (Walter McBride / Getty Images).

Disney on Broadway has almost cornered the market on family-friendly musicals - except for one. Anastasia is the stage adaptation of the beloved 1997 animated film about an orphan who travels with two charming con men to discover if she is actually the lost Russian princess

The musical has a book by Terrence McNally and an elegant, classically-structured score by Broadway veterans Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. Some of the songs you might remember from the movie include:

  • “Journey to the Past”
  • “Once Upon A December”
  • “A Rumor in St. Petersburg”

Discounts are occasionally available, as well as a daily rush at the theatre box office for day-of seats.

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Bonus Picks: Two Smaller Shows

The marquee for The Band's Visit at the Barrymore Theatre
The marquee for The Band's Visit at the Barrymore Theatre (Walter McBride / Getty Images).

Most of the shows on this list have big production values, one or two lead characters, and a story that spans considerable time. If you're looking for something smaller and more character driven, try one of the following two shows.

The Band's Visit, winner of 10 Tony Awards in 2018, is a one-act musical about an Egyptian orchestra accidentally stranded overnight in an Israeli village. It follows several small story threads that come together to explore themes of human connection.

Come From Away is based on a true story: when the Canadian town of Gander took in thousands of stranded passengers when flights were diverted on September 11, 2001. It's an ensemble-driven piece that's been a hit with audiences and critics.

Both shows tend to sell well, but both also have day-of rush policies.

Something For Everyone

The great thing about Broadway today is that there's a musical for pretty much every taste. Fans of lush, classic musicals can often find beautiful revivals at Lincoln Center or Roundabout Theatre Company, while innovative, exciting shows and elegant long-running favorites sit side-by-side along the streets of Broadway. The one thing they all have in common? They all share the joy of live theatre with thousands of people, eight times a week.