Top 5 Longest-Running Broadway Musicals

“I dreamed a dream” my show would be more than just a “Memory,” more than just another musical that comes and goes, another pit-stop along the “Circle of Life.” These are the thoughts that must enter the minds of those behind a Broadway production.

‘Cats’ | Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

When it comes to the Broadway stage, the stakes are higher. In terms of ticket sales, your production has to be strong enough to pull people –spanning the nation and beyond – into NYC. When it comes to Broadway, there’s no Netflix alternative to the real deal.

Some Broadway musicals have stood the test of time, proving to be relevant no matter the generation and entertaining no matter the audience. Below, are the top five longest-running Broadway musicals of all time.

5 ‘The Lion King’ (Opening Date: 1997)

The Lion King first hit the Broadway stage on November 13, 1997. With music and lyrics by Elton John and Tim Rice, the show has gone on to claim rights to some of the most iconic Broadway numbers of all time, including “Circle of Life” and “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King.”

The musical won six Tony Awards in 1998, including the award for Best Musical, and won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album in 1999.

Disney’s The Lion King is the highest grossing Broadway show of all time. The Lion King also represents an exception to the rule, in terms of Broadway shows and cinematic imaginings, for the stage production followed the film (The Lion King movie hit cinemas in 1994). However, now, another film is set to follow the stage production.

4 ‘Chicago’ Revival (Opening Date: 1996)

“Come on Babe, why don’t we paint the town?” As soon as you hear the word “Chicago, it’s nearly impossible to prevent the opening lyrics of All That Jazz from filling up your frontal cortex. Chicago – the iconic show following murderesses Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart along their journey towards fame and success – won six Tony Awards in 1997.

Technically, Chicago first opened on Broadway in 1975; however, the show only ran for 936 performances before closing. The revival won all of the awards and catapulted the show into national acclaim. To this day, Chicago holds the record for Broadway’s longest-running revival.

3 ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ (Opening Date: 1988)

The Phantom of the Opera first opened on Broadway on January 26, 1988, and has since been the hailed as one of the Best Musicals to feature an extremely difficult-to-play female lead, as the vocal range required is unconquerable for most.

The Phantom of the Opera has won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Phantom of the Opera has also put on the most performances out of all the shows on this list, boasting over 12,000, while most of the others here rest between 6,000-10,000 performances.

2 ‘Les Miserables’ (Opening Date: 1987)

Arguably the biggest tear-jerker on the list, Les Miserables has been revived twice since opening in 1987 – once in 2006 and again in 2014. The musical won eight Tony awards in 1987 (one of which was Best Musical).

The Les Miserables number “I Dreamed a Dream,” recently performed by Anne Hathaway in the 2012 movie, is one of the most referenced numbers in the show, and has become a cultural phenomenon; however, other famous songs from the hit show include At the End of the Day, One Day More, and Look Down.

1 ‘Cats’ (Opening Date: 1982)

Andrew Lloyd Weber’s career-defining musical Cats boasts one of, if not the, most famous showtune of all time: Memory. The living legend herself Barbra Streisand even went on to cover this song in the ‘80s.

Cats won seven Tony Awards in its opening season and was last revived in 2016. A Cats movie starring Jennifer Hudson, Ian McKellan, Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, James Corden, and more, is set to hit the silver screen later this year.