Longest-running Broadway shows

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May 31, 2019
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Longest-running Broadway shows

Whether you're thinking of da Vinci's iconic “Mona Lisa,” a Bach violin concerto, or a Broadway play, the mark of art that really impacts society is how long it remains relevant. If someone can remove the crucial context of time and place and the piece still has the power to move an audience, it is truly significant. Though crinolines and corsets are no longer in fashion, people still flock to museums dedicated to Victorian art and buy tickets to “La Traviata” at their local opera house. The same applies to Broadway shows: Some of the most compelling plays and musicals aren't modern but rather classics that have been beloved by generations of audiences.

Stacker compiled a list of the longest-running Broadway shows to find out which have had some of the greatest impacts on the theater. Using data pulled from the Internet Broadway Database in May 2019, Stacker ranked 25 of the longest-running Broadway shows by the number of performances. All musicals and plays that have opened on Broadway from 1920 to that time, prior to pandemic shutdowns, were considered. Revivals of plays or musicals that previously premiered on Broadway are also carefully noted.

Though the Tony Awards and other industry honors are one way to quantify a show's success, ticket sales and the length of run probably provide a more accurate measure. Whether these Broadway shows have received critical acclaim, they've certainly won over audiences enough to extend their runs for five, 10, or 20 years. Read on to find out which 1933 drama made the list, which musical featuring puppets cracked the top 10, and which 1988 musical tops the list with over 13,000 performances. Encore!

You may also like: Tony Award for Best Musical winner from the year you were born

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#25. Kinky Boots

- Genre: Musical
- Performance count: 2,505
- Opening date: April 4, 2013
- Closing date: April 7, 2019

An unlikely pair of business partners—the owner of a shoe factory and a drag queen—team up to save the family business in this heartwarming musical with lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. “Kinky Boots” won six Tony Awards in 2013, including the coveted Best Musical category.

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#24. Avenue Q

- Genre: Musical, Comedy, Puppets
- Performance count: 2,534
- Opening date: July 31, 2003
- Closing date: Sept. 13, 2009

Though puppets are the stars of "Avenue Q," this musical comedy is definitely not for kids. The story of a college grad who moves to New York City and meets some wacky neighbors won the Tony for Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Book in 2004. It's no longer playing on Broadway, but you can still catch it at the New World Stages through the end of May.

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#23. Mary Poppins

- Genre: Musical
- Performance count: 2,619
- Opening date: Nov. 16, 2006
- Closing date: March 3, 2013

This production is for those who loved the classic film starring Julie Andrews as a magical nanny who appears on the Banks' family's doorstep. It was nominated for several categories in 2007 but only won Best Scenic Design of a Musical.

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#22. Hairspray

- Genre: Musical, Comedy
- Performance count: 2,642
- Opening date: Aug. 15, 2002
- Closing date: Jan. 4, 2009

Good morning, Baltimore! This musical based on John Waters' 1988 film of the same name follows Tracy Turnblad, a big-haired and big-hearted teenager who dreams of dancing on a local TV program. After her wish comes true, she takes on a new challenge: fighting for integration.

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#21. My Fair Lady

- Genre: Musical, Comedy, Romantic Comedy
- Performance count: 2,717
- Opening date: March 15, 1956
- Closing date: Sept. 29, 1962

Although a revival of “My Fair Lady” is running at Lincoln Center Theater, the original production first debuted on Broadway in 1956. Based on the play “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw, the musical's original run was so successful that it was eventually turned into a film starring Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle.

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#20. Hello, Dolly!

- Genre: Musical, Comedy
- Performance count: 2,844
- Opening date: Jan. 16, 1964
- Closing date: Dec. 27, 1970

Another Best Musical winner, “Hello, Dolly!” debuted on Broadway in 1964 with Carol Channing in the lead role of Dolly Levi. Channing also won the Tony Award for Best Actress for her role.

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#19. Tobacco Road

- Genre: Play, Drama
- Performance count: 3,182
- Opening date: Dec. 4, 1933
- Closing date: May 31, 1941

Adapted from Erskine Caldwell's novel of the same name, “Tobacco Road” tells the unvarnished story of living in abject poverty in rural Georgia. The dark subject didn't stop people from seeing the play, however—it ran for eight years on Broadway.

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#18. Life With Father

- Genre: Play, Comedy
- Performance count: 3,224
- Opening date: Nov. 8, 1939
- Closing date: July 12, 1947

Set in a New York City family home in the late 1800s, “Life With Father” chronicles the family dynamics between Father (a bigoted stockbroker), the Mother (his religious wife), and their four children. When Father reveals he was never baptized, the family descends into an uproar.

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#17. Fiddler on the Roof

- Genre: Musical, Comedy, Drama
- Performance count: 3,242
- Opening date: Sept. 22, 1964
- Closing date: July 2, 1972

This musical begins in Anatevka, a small Russian village that's home to a community of Russian Jews. Songs like “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” and “Sunrise, Sunset” tell the story of Tevye and his family trying to preserve their cultural and religious traditions even with the Russian Revolution on the horizon.

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#16. Grease

- Genre: Musical, Comedy
- Performance count: 3,388
- Opening date: Feb. 14, 1972
- Closing date: April 13, 1980

Greased lightnin', go greased lightnin'! When “Grease” first debuted on Broadway in 1972, the musical comedy about Sandy's introduction to Rydell High social life delighted audiences. Though it didn't win any Tony Awards, it was so popular that it was later made into a film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

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#15. The Book of Mormon

- Genre: Musical, Comedy
- Performance count: 3,403 (as of May 12, 2019)
- Opening date: March 24, 2011
- Closing date: Still playing

The creators of the Comedy Central cartoon “South Park” brought their sarcastic, irreverent humor to this controversial, hilarious Broadway musical. It follows two Mormon missionaries, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, who are sent to Africa to spread the Church of Latter Day Saints' message. Theater-goers can buy tickets through the show's site.

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#14. 42nd Street

- Genre: Musical, Comedy
- Performance count: 3,486
- Opening date: Aug. 25, 1980
- Closing date: Jan. 8, 1989

This 1981 Tony Award–winning musical tells the story of a young actress named Peggy Sawyer who moves to the Big Apple hoping to catch her big break on Broadway. Huge ensemble numbers, impressive tap skills, and a dynamic storyline make this show a perennial favorite.

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#13. Miss Saigon

- Genre: Musical, Drama
- Performance count: 4,092
- Opening date: April 11, 1991
- Closing date: Jan. 28, 2001

Broadway star Lea Salonga won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 1991 for her portrayal of Kim in this musical drama about a young Vietnamese girl who falls in love with an American soldier during the Vietnam War. Heart-wrenching and poignant, “Miss Saigon” is a striking portrayal of the dynamics between American G.I.s and Vietnamese locals during the war.

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#12. Jersey Boys

- Genre: Musical
- Performance count: 4,642
- Opening date: Nov. 6, 2005
- Closing date: Jan. 15, 2017

This Best Musical winner from 2006 tells the story of the 1960s group the Four Seasons. Beloved songs like “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “CesSoirées-La (Oh What a Night)” make it very popular with audiences.

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#11. Rent

- Genre: Musical, Drama
- Performance count: 5,123
- Opening date: April 29, 1996
- Closing date: Sept. 7, 2008

This dramatic musical about down-and-out New Yorkers living in the East Village covers everything from break-ups and reconnections to living with HIV. Emotional songs like “Seasons of Love” and “Light My Candle” helped “Rent” skyrocket to success.

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#10. Beauty and the Beast

- Genre: Musical, Comedy
- Performance count: 5,461
- Opening date: April 18, 1994
- Closing date: July 29, 2007

Three years after Disney's animated classic came out in 1991, “Beauty and the Beast” opened on Broadway for a successful run. Though it was nominated for several other Tony Awards, it only won the Tony for Best Costume Design.

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#9. Mamma Mia!

- Genre: Musical, Comedy
- Performance count: 5,758
- Opening date: Oct. 18, 2001
- Closing date: Sept. 12, 2015

This jukebox musical uses ABBA songs to tell the story of Sophie, a young bride on the Greek island of Kalokairi who tries to find her father by secretly inviting three of her mom's ex-boyfriends to the wedding. Hijinks ensue, spurred on by songs like “Dancing Queen” and “Super Trouper.”

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#8. Oh! Calcutta! (Revival)

- Genre: Musical, Revue
- Performance count: 5,959
- Opening date: Sept. 24, 1976
- Closing date: Aug. 06, 1989

Just four years after the original musical closed, the revival of “Oh! Calcutta!” opened for a Broadway run that would last 13 years. The scandalous avant-garde revue full of sexual innuendo sparked plenty of controversy but still drew in audiences.

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#7. A Chorus Line

- Genre: Musical, Drama
- Performance count: 6,137
- Opening date: July 25, 1975
- Closing date: April 28, 1990

This Broadway musical about hopeful dancers auditioning for a chorus line won 10 Tony Awards in 1976, including the coveted Best Musical award. Characters include Mike, the youngest of 12 children who started dancing in his sister's dance class, Val, a dancer who couldn't get work until she got a boob job, and Cassie, a veteran in the business who has fallen on hard times.

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#6. Wicked

- Genre: Musical
- Performance count: 6,488 (as of May 12, 2019)
- Opening date: Oct. 30, 2003
- Closing date: Still playing

“Wicked” turns the story of the “Wizard of Oz”—yellow brick road, flying houses, and all—on its head by focusing on Elphaba, the girl with green skin who would eventually come to be known as the Wicked Witch of the West. Idina Menzel won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 2004. Wicked delighted audiences until the coronavirus pandemic shut down Broadway, but those waiting to see the show can sign up to be notified when performances resume

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#5. Les Misérables

- Genre: Musical, Drama
- Performance count: 6,680
- Opening date: March 12, 1987
- Closing date: May 18, 2003

This adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel about a 19th-century French uprising won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, in 1987. "Les Misérables" tells the story of Jean Valjean, a former prisoner who breaks parole and spends the rest of his life running from Javert, the vindictive police inspector.

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#4. Cats

- Genre: Musical
- Performance count: 7,485
- Opening date: Oct. 07, 1982
- Closing date: Sept. 10, 2000

In this groundbreaking musical based on a book of poems by T. S. Eliot, actors don full cat costumes to portray a tribe of feral cats living in a junkyard. “Cats” not only won the 1983 Tony Award for Best Musical but also won Best Original Score for the music by Andrew Lloyd Weber.

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#3. The Lion King

- Genre: Musical, Puppets, Spectacle
- Performance count: 8,953 (as of May 12, 2019)
- Opening date: Nov. 13, 1997
- Closing date: Still playing

It's no surprise that “The Lion King” won Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Scenic Design, and Best Costume Design in 1998—after all, the show uses 200 puppets to tell the story of Simba, the lion prince of Pride Rock. Though Broadway performances ceased due to the pandemic, a nationwide tour was announced for 2021.

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#2. Chicago (Revival)

- Genre: Musical, Comedy
- Performance count: 9,347 (as of May 12, 2019)
- Opening date: Nov. 14, 1996
- Closing date: Still playing

Though the original run of “Chicago” only lasted two years, the revival has been going strong for more than 23 years. The musical (and the play it was based on) dramatizes the sexy, female celebrity criminals that reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins covered for the Chicago Tribune in the 1920s. Though the pandemic stymied the show's continuous run, the cast and creative team promise to return.

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#1. The Phantom of the Opera

- Genre: Musical, Drama
- Performance count: 13,023 (as of May 12, 2019)
- Opening date: Jan. 26, 1988
- Closing date: Still playing

Ever since Andrew Lloyd Webber's “The Phantom of the Opera” first opened on Broadway, audiences have been flocking to the dramatic musical about a murderous, deformed man who stalks the Paris Opéra House, and his love for opera protegee Christine Daaé. In 1988, the musical won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Broadway performances were suspended due to the pandemic.

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