- Broadway musicals have been popular for decades.
- Many of the most popular musicals throughout the years have won the prestigious Tony award for best musical.
- Hits like “Hamilton” and “Wicked” are still on Broadway, even years after debuting.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
For decades, people of all ages have been lining up to see the latest Broadway productions. Even teenagers have musical tastes so diverse that their Spotify playlists include everything from Post Malone to “Dear Evan Hansen” and Paramore to “The Book of Mormon.”
If you’re just beginning to get into musicals and want to know more about what was popular before “Hamilton” check out the following list of the top Broadway show every year since 1960.
1960: “The Sound of Music”
Although “The Sound of Music” tied with “Fiorello!” for Best Musical at the 14th Annual Tony Awards, the original production of “The Sound of Music” ran for 1,443 performances while “Fiorello!” closed after 795 performances.
1961: “Bye Bye Birdie”
The original production of “Bye Bye Birdie” which featured Dick Van Dyke as Albert Peterson, won four Tony awards in 1961, including best musical and ran for 607 performances.
1962: “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”
Based on Shepherd Mead’s 1952 book of the same name, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” took home seven awards at the 16th Annual Tony Awards, including best musical. Its original production ran from October 14, 1961 to March 6, 1965, boasting 1,417 performances.
1963: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”
With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” was the winner of six Tonys, including best musical, in 1963. Its original run closed on August 29, 1964 after 964 performances.
1964: “Hello, Dolly!”
Winning an impressive 10 Tonys in its original run, “Hello, Dolly!” starring Carol Channing was the top Broadway show in 1964. It ran for 2,844 shows and has since had four Broadway revivals and three touring productions. The most recent US tour kicked off on October 2, 2018.
1965: “Fiddler on the Roof”
“Fiddler on the Roof” won nine categories at the 19th Annual Tony Awards in 1965. It ran for an unprecedented 3,242 shows in its original run, receiving a special Tony in 1972 for being the longest-running Broadway musical.
1966: “Man of La Mancha”
Winning five Tonys, including best musical, “Man of La Mancha” was the top Broadway show of 1966. Its original production ran from November 22, 1965 to June 26, 1971 closing after 2,328 performances.
With 11 nominations and eight wins, “Cabaret” was the star of the 21st Annual Tony Awards. The original production ran for 1165 performances, has had three Broadway revivals, and three tours.
1968: “Hallelujah, Baby!”
Although “Hallelujah, Baby!” won eight Tonys in 1968, its original production closed after just 293 performances. It has never had a Broadway revival.
Not only did “1776” win three categories including best musical at the 23rd Annual Tony Awards. It also won two Drama Desk awards, and a Theatre World award. The show closed on February 13, 1972 after 1,217 performances.
“Applause” was nominated for 11 Tonys in 1970 and won four awards including best musical. The original production ran for 896 performances before closing on July 27, 1972.
Produced by Harold Prince, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “Company” received 14 Tony nominations in 1971. It won 6 Tonys, five Drama Desk awards, and a Theatre World award and ran for 705 performances.
1972: “Two Gentlemen of Verona”
Although “Two Gentlemen of Verona” starring Raul Julia only won two awards at the 26th Annual Tonys, it received a total of nine Tony nominations and won seven Drama Desk awards. It was up against “Grease” which won none of its seven nominations. The original production of “Two Gentlemen of Verona” ran for 614 shows.
1973: “A Little Night Music”
Another Harold Prince and Stephen Sondheim musical, “A Little Night Music” was nominated for 12 Tonys in 1973, and won six awards, including best musical. It ran for 601 shows and had a revival in 2009.
A musical adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Raisin” received nine nominations and two wins at the 28th Annual Tony Awards. The show ran for 847 performances before closing on December 7, 1975.
1975: “The Wiz”
“The Wiz” ruled the 29th Annual Tony Awards winning all but one of its eight nominations. In addition, the show was nominated for 10 Drama Desk awards and winning five. “The Wiz” ran for four years, closing January 28, 1979 after 1,672 performances.
1976: “A Chorus Line”
At the 1976 Tonys, “A Chorus Line” took home 10 awards after receiving 13 nominations. That same year the show received seven Drama Desk awards and a Pulitzer Prize for drama. Additionally, 26 ensemble members received special awards from Theatre World.
In 1984, “A Chorus Line” won a Special Tony award for becoming Broadway’s longest-running musical. “A Chorus Line’s” original production closed on April 28, 1990 after nearly 15 years and 6,137 performances.
“Annie” won seven Tonys including best musical at the 31st Annual Tony Awards in 1977. The original production ran for 2,377 performances and has had two Broadway revivals, four touring productions, and a major motion picture.
1978: “On The Twentieth Century”
Although it lost best musical to “Ain’t Misbehavin'” starring Nell Carter (which went on to perform 1604 shows),”On The Twentieth Century” was the front runner in 1978 with nine Tony nominations and five wins. The show’s original production, which starred Imogene Coca, ran for 449 performances.
1979: “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
The top musical at the 33rd Annual Tonys was “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” Winning eight of its nine Tony nominations, as well as nine Drama Desk awards, “Sweeney Todd” ran for a little over a year in its original run closing after 557 performances. It has since had multiple Broadway revivals, a touring production, and a major motion picture.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice wrote the music and lyrics for 1980’s Broadway hit “Evita” starring Patti LuPone. The show received 13 Tony nominations and seven wins, including best musical. The original production of “Evita” ran for 1567 performances.
1981: “42nd Street”
“42nd Street” was nominated for eight Tony awards at the 35th Annual Tonys. The show won two Tonys including best musical and two Drama Desk awards. It went on to have 3,486 performances in its original run.
Although it lost best musical to “Nine,” “Dreamgirls” won seven of its 14 Tony nominations in 1982. The show had 1521 performances in its original run, a 1987 revival, four touring productions, and a major motion picture.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats” received 11 Tony nominations and took home seven awards at the 37th Annual Tonys. It is currently the fourth-longest-running Broadway musical of all time. It had 7,485 performances in its original run, which spanned from October 7, 1982 to September 10, 2000.
1984: “La Cage aux Folles”
“La Cage aux Folles” won six Tonys and three Drama Desk awards in 1984. The original production ran for 1761 performances, and the show has since had two Broadway revivals and five touring productions.
1985: “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
Winning seven Tonys including best musical, and seven Drama Desk awards in 1985, “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” ran for a total of 1,005 performances in its original production.
1986: “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”
Rupert Holmes wasn’t always drinking piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. In 1986, his show, “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” was nominated for 11 Tonys, won five awards including best musical.
The musical, whose title changed to “Drood” in the middle of its run, also won eight of its 14 Drama Desk Award nominations. The original production ran for 608 shows before closing on May 16, 1987.
1987: “Les Misérables”
The fifth longest-running Broadway musical, “Les Misérables” received nine awards, including best musical, at the 41st Annual Tony Awards.The original production ran for over 16 years, from March 12, 1987 to May 18, 2003 and had 6,680 performances. The show has since had two Broadway revivals, five touring productions, and a major motion picture.
1988: “The Phantom of the Opera”
“The Phantom of the Opera” is the longest-running Broadway show and musical of all time. Opening on January 26, 1988, the show is currently in its original production 30 years later and has toured regularly since 1989. It won seven Tonys and seven Drama Desk awards in 1988. As of the writing of this article, “The Phantom of the Opera” has had 12,630 performances.
1989: “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway”
“Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” was an anthology of musical numbers by choreographer, director, dancer, and producer Jerome Robbins. It featured Jason Alexander as the Narrator. “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway” won six Tonys and three Drama Desk awards in 1989. The show closed on September 1, 1990 after 633 performances
1990: “City of Angels”
Winning six of its 11 Tony nominations in 1990, including best musical, and eight Drama Desk Awards, “City of Angels” had 879 performances in its original run.
1991: “The Will Rogers Follies: A Life in Revue”
It went up against “Miss Saigon” whose original run continued for the next 10 years, but “The Will Rogers Follies: A Life in Revue” was the clear winner at the 45th Annual Tony Awards. “Follies” won six Tonys and three Drama Desk awards that year, and ran until September 5, 1993, when it closed after 981 performances.
1992: “Jelly’s Last Jam”
Although “Jelly’s Last Jam” tied with “Crazy For You” for Tony wins in 1992, “Jelly’s” received four more nominations (13 total), and won six Drama Desk awards that year. Starring Gregory Hines and Savion Glover, the musical ran for 569 performances and had a national tour production.
1993: “Kiss of the Spider Woman – The Musical”
Directed by Harold Prince and starring Chita Rivera, “Kiss of the Spider Woman” won seven Tonys and five Drama Desk awards in 1993. The show ran for 904 performances before closing on July 1, 1995.
Winner of four Tonys and six Drama Desk awards, “Passion” was the top Broadway show in 1994. Although it ran for a little under one year (280 performances), it beat out “Beauty and the Beast,” which only received one award at the 48th Annual Tonys, but ran for over 13 years and had 5461 performances.
1995: “Sunset Boulevard”
The original production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard” won seven Tonys in 1995 including best musical. The show ran for 976 performances, had a 2017 revival, and two national tour productions.
“Rent” was the top Broadway musical in 1996, winning four Tonys including best musical, and six Drama Desk awards. The show continued its original run for 12 years and 5,123 performances.
In 1997, the musical “Titanic” won in all five Tony award categories in which it was nominated including best musical. The show ran from April 23, 1997 to March 21, 1999 and held a total of 804 performances and one touring production.
1998: “The Lion King”
“The Lion King” was the biggest Broadway show in 1998. At the 52nd Annual Tony awards, “The Lion King” won 6 categories, including best musicall. Additionally, the musical brought home 8 Drama Desk awards that year.
Currently, “The Lion King” is the third-longest-running Broadway musical, with its original production in its 22nd year, and 8,969 performances as of the time of this article.
A three-act musical review based on the choreography of Bob Fosse, “Fosse” won four Tonys and a Drama Desk award in 1999. The show ran from January 14, 1999 to August 25, 2001, closing after 1,093 performances.
2000: “Kiss Me, Kate”
This historic Broadway revival played 881 performances and won the Tony for best revival this year.
2001: “The Producers”
This now-legendary show made a splash with stars Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane and won 12 Tony wwards, including best musical.
2002: “Mamma Mia!”
The musical, now movie, which revolved around ABBA’s musical catalogue, It began its monster run in 2002 and ran for more than 5,000 performances.
You may know the two films, but you may not know that this show was all the rage in 2003. The musical ran for more than 2,000 performances and took home the coveted Tony award for best musical.
Though this musical famously lost out on the best musical Tony Award to “Avenue Q,” it’s no secret that this is one of the biggest shows in Broadway history. Stars Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth hit superstardom thanks to its success and, judging by the fact that it’s still running, we’d say this one was a huge hit.
A musical take on the film “Monty Python and The Holy Grail,” this musical featured heavy-hitters like Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce, and Sara Ramirez. It took home that year’s Tony for best musical.
2006: “Jersey Boys”
Following the lives and careers of The Four Seasons, this show was an almost-instant hit. It played for more than 4,000 performances and was even quickly-revived as an off-Broadway show when it closed on Broadway in 2017.
2007: “Spring Awakening”
If you know names like Lea Michele, Jonathan Groff, and John Gallagher Jr., you have this iconic show to thank. This rock opera launched its stars into fame and became a cult hit. It took home eight Tony Awards this year, including best musical.
2008: “In the Heights”
Long before he made us all know everything about Alexander Hamilton, composer Lin-Manuel Miranda made a smash when he wrote and starred in the musical “In The Heights.”
The show won the Tony award for best musical in 2008 and is now being put on by regional theatres around the world.
2009: “Billy Elliot the Musical”
This raucous musical, which notably featured a rotating cast of little Billies, took home nine Tony awards this year, including one for best musical.
2010: “American Idiot”
Though it didn’t take home the award for best musical that year, we added this to our list because of its massive appeal to Green-Day fans and musical fans alike who flocked to the theatre to see “Spring Awakening” alum John Gallagher Jr. as well as Green Day front-man Billie Joe Armstrong.
2011: “The Book of Mormon”
This musical made waves for its controversial nature, and it shouldn’t come as any surprise – it came from the minds that created “South Park.” This show took home nine Tonys including best musical and is still running.
Though the original movie wasn’t quite a hit, “Newsies” made a splash when it hit the stage this year. Audiences flocked to the theatre to see the impressive dancing and set of this Disney show.
It won Tony awards for its score and choreography.
2013: “Kinky Boots”
With a Cyndi Lauper score and the incomparable Billy Porter as the starring role, there was no way this show could lose. It took home six Tony awards, including best musical and is stilling running on Broadway.
It’s no secret that Disney is a powerhouse on Broadway. That’s why, despite losing out on best musical that year, this show graces out list – it was the show that everyone wanted to see. Plus, it’s still running on Broadway today.
2015: “Fun Home”
“Fun Home,” a musical based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alison Bechdel, rocked Broadway this year with its sadness, beauty, and uniqueness. The show took home the award for best musical this year and continues to be performed around the world.
This show needs no explanation for why it’s on our list. In 2016, just about everyone knew about “Hamilton.” The show took home 11 Tony Awards and made Miranda a household name.
2017: “Dear Evan Hansen”
A smash hit by composers Pasek and Paul (the geniuses behind “La La Land,” “The Greatest Showman” and many more) had another hit on their hands with the devastating and brilliant “Dear Evan Hansen.”
The show took home six Tony Awards and is still going strong on Broadway.
2018: “Mean Girls”
Adapted from the 2004 hit film “Mean Girls,” the Broadway show of the same name rose in popularity throughout 2018. Tina Fey adapted her own screenplay for the stage.
It opened in April 2018 and is still running as of June 2019. Although it has not won any Tony awards, it was nominated for a whopping 12 categories, including the prestigious title of best musical.
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