Over the years, musicals have impacted thousands of audiences. The combination of storytelling, music and dance has the power to transcend time and place, creating a kind of onstage magic that captivates audiences and provokes thought.
Many onstage performances have even been adapted for the screen, allowing new and classic narratives to reach even more viewers. As these adaptions have gained popularity and brought more people to the theater, several musicals have emerged as all-time favorites.
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Misérablesis a sung-through musical set in 19th century France. In the story, Jean Valjean seeks redemption after his release from a nineteen-year jail sentence. He was convicted of theft after stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. A police inspector named Javert tries to track Valjean down after he breaks his parole, leading to a long, suspenseful pursuit involving a large cast of other characters.
The renowned musical score by Alan Boubil and Claude-Michel Schönberg make it one of the most cherished musicals of all time. In fact, Les Misérables is the second longest running musical in the world. The 2012 film adaption of the musical has boosted its popularity even further.
The Phantom of the Opera
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical The Phantom of the Opera is often considered to be the best musical of all time. The story centers on a beautiful soprano named Christine Daaé who becomes the obsession of an enigmatic, disfigured musical mastermind. The Phantom of the Opera is the longest running show in Broadway’s history, having performed over 10,000 shows and setting a record Broadway gross of over $845 million. The sweeping orchestral sounds and enchanting Overture are part of what make this musical such a success.
One of the more recent Broadway hits is Wicked. Based on the 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, this musical brings you into the wonderful Land of Oz. The musical follows the unlikely friendship of the classic story’s Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, and the Good Witch of the North, G(a)linda. Although both characters are very different in personality and viewpoint, they somehow formed a friendship with each other. This relatable theme of friendship, the spectacular costumes and effects and the great music combine to create a smash hit that is still breaking records.
The Lion King
Based on the popular 1994 animated film, The Lion King has also achieved amazing success on the stage. With music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, a musical score by Hans Zimmer and choral arrangements by Lebo M., it is no wonder viewers find themselves swept up in the familiar tunes. The Lion King is Broadway’s fourth longest running show and highest grossing production. The music, elaborate costumes and stellar choreography combine to create an unforgettable experience for audiences of all ages.
Last on our list is another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical named Cats. Based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, the story follows a tribe of cats called the Jellicles on the night that the decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer to be reborn into a new life. The actors break the fourth wall throughout the production, explaining their tribe’s rituals directly to the audience.
The choreography and music, including the famous standard “Memory,” have contributed to the resounding success of this musical. Cats is Broadway’s third longest running show and has been performed in over 20 languages around the world.
Obviously, these selections are just a few of the many amazing musicals out there. As time goes on and even more musicals are created, we’re excited to see how the list changes. If your child is interested in the power and fun of musical theatre, please sign up for one of our summer camps or workshops!