15 Longest Running Shows in NYC

“Best performance ever!”, “Brilliant cast!”, “Exquisite plot!”, “Mesmerizing songs!”...It's New York show scene we are talking about. Many performances, presented both on Broadway and off-Broadway, have got international acclaim, Tony, Pulitzer, Grammy and numerous prestigious awards. But the most important thing is that they have got enormous audience's love, that's why some of the productions stay on stage for decades. There is a number of pieces, which earned a “legend” title — the most long-running shows in NYC. Phantom of the Opera, The Cats, Chicago, Stomp — each one is a milestone that have entertained several generations of spectators, delivering breathtaking stories and memorable songs. Though most of our Top-15 list are no longer on today, they're still on everyone's lips across the world.


#1. Perfect Crime

The death of psychiatrist W. Harrison Brent alarmed peaceful Connecticut community, and his lovely wife Margaret is the main suspect here. The duplicitous local detective, troubled patients, and the chain of unexpected murders complete the story to make Perfect Crime a curious “who-done-it” with sustainable commercial success.

Unlike the most participants of the list, this legendary off-Broadway performance is not a musical and not the most beloved one, but still a record-holder. The longest-running show in NYC history (around 12,000 shows during three decades) was based on play by the youngest author in history, Warren Manzi, with the leading female actor, Catherine Russell, who has filled the Guinness World Record of the greatest number of the same role performances in history. Probably, all these countable “historical” achievements make the show live, while its reviews leave a lot to be desired.

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#2. Blue Man Group

They started with small disturbances on NYC streets and eventually came to their own world-renowned and award-winning show at Astor Place Theatre, global popularityб and participation in numerous brand campaigns. Chris Wink, Matt Goldman, and Phil Stanton have continued their amazing collaboration for nearly three decades to deliver the unprecedented genre of NYC theatrical shows. Their stage performances are not just theatre: it’s music, acting, technology and science perfectly combined. Although the Blue Man Group was formed in distant 1991, it never stopped to surprise the audience of different ages with their sparkling and innovative world.

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By this glorious UK production the special genre of physical theatre performance was introduced to the NYC scene. STOMP’s American history began in 1994, and the Orpheum Theatre used to house the show for long 21 years, before it moved to another place. Energetic rhythm and stupendous audial effect lie in the unprecedented idea of using human body along with different scrap like tubes, Zippo lighters, matchboxes and garbage cans to produce sound. Besides, the crew possesses this great charisma and sense of humour, which make STOMP so original and long-lasting thing both in the USA and Great Britain.

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#5. Chicago
Now in Its 20th Year on Broadway

Sweet villain-vaudevillian Roxie Hart still rocks the Broadway scene! The Chicago musical seems to be the synonym of a Broadway show. The first NYC production, created by the magic trio of John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Bob Foss, came out in 1975 but was closed two years later. The revival of 1996 was a resounding success, worth both Tony and Grammy awards. Though the production was blocked for nearly two decades, in Chicago it’s the “razzle-dazzle”, the show, that is important, not the story behind it. So it’s fair to put it in the long-running list between the Phantom of the Opera and The Cats, with over 7,500 performances by 2015). Nowadays, the satirical and dynamic play about the corruption and interpretation of the crime is staged worldwide with huge audience acclaim, not to mention the tremendous movie hit based on the plot.

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#6. The Cats

The musical is the jewel among the Andrew Lloyd Weber’s masterpieces, and it’s definitely a shame that it closed after only 19 years of running on Broadway. Yet the Jellicle cats impeccably succeeded in their countless meowing performances, having collected the 7 Tony Awards, including one for the Best Musical. The West End (where the musical originally took its start from) revival last year became a huge joy for the fans of the show, as for the past 15 years it has been staged very fragmentarily abroad: there were a Dutch version, a German version, and a French version of the legendary musical, but none of them lasted for long. Now we should pay a visit to London to eyewitness The Cats selection for rebirth in the Heaviside Layer, however, NY still has the glorious production in its memory.

#7. The Lion King

It’s one of the few examples when the Broadway show is based on a movie. In fact, the animated film, which every kid knows by heart – The Lion King featuring fantastic music by Elton John and Tim Rice, Lebo M, and Hans Zimmer. The general storyline is quite the same with the film, except for some additional scenes and characters transformations (Rafiki has a female incarnation in the stage version). The Disney Company is producing the show, which has engrossed more than $1 billion to the present moment, becoming the highest-grossing production of all times. Being the only travelling Broadway musical right now, the performance has been staged in many cities across the country and abroad, and the West End launched its own production in 1999.

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#8. Les Misérables 12+

Another milestone in Broadway show history, which doesn’t need any introductions, — Les Miserablés. No wonder it received the highest critics acclaim worldwide: the production has all the features of a super hit! Original music by Claude-Michel Schönberg, beautiful English-language libretto by Herbert Kretzmer and, of course, heartbreaking story based on Victor Hugo’s novel. As the most of famous Broadway productions, the show was initially staged at the West End, London. After 16 years of running the Les Miz production closed in 2003 with 8 Tony Awards, 5 Drama Desk Awards, a Grammy and all the records and honors one can imagine in the musical world.

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#9. A Chorus Line

The dynamic theatre backstage is always very enigmatic for the audience: if only one could imagine how many personal dramas, passions and interesting life stories are behind the show. And maybe that is the reason of the A Chorus Line extreme popularity. The plot focused on 17 dancers auditioning for a spot in the chorus line, gives an entertaining and thought-provoking picture of this special performers world. While you explore their feelings, thoughts and choices, they provide one of the greatest musical and dancing performances you’ve ever seen. The Broadway production had proved its hit status for 15 years, from 1975 to 1990, having reached the mark of 6,137 performances. The show was even honoured with a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1976. These days A Chorus Line has been revived in West End and also staged in many other countries, from Singapore to Norway.

#10. Oh! Calcutta!

It’s a shame that the most of the long-running Broadway shows are closed these days, and one can no more enjoy these mesmerizing performances, at least in NYC. The same happened with Oh! Calcutta , an ironic avant-garde revue, originally staged in London by Kenneth Tynan, British drama critic. The first off-Broadway production, with music and lyrics composed by Peter Schickele, Robert Dennis and Stanley Walden, was a great success. However, its Broadway revival in 1976 became even longer and louder (the second to Chicago if compared to other revivals), reaching 5,959 times point. As a revue, the show is composed of various themed sketches. Among the authors of the original production were Samuel Beckett, John Lennon, Sam Shepard, Kenneth Tynan, and many more. This outstanding set made bright and witty observations on people's life and romance, containing a big portion of sex-related topics, male/female controversy and nudity.

#11. Mamma Mia!

Starting the second dozen of the most long-running shows, Mamma Mia! gracefully sticks to its honorable place. September 2015 became the final point of the Broadway production, and who knows, whether the revival happens and when. While its trace still felt in the NYC air, the jukebox musical is considered one of the giants of the present Broadway-show industry. Besides, the show, based on ABBA songs, currently has very successful runs all over Europe. The creative cast consisted of the former members of the Swedish quartet, so the show features all the favorite songs by the 70-80s world chart-leaders. The film adaptation with amazing Meryl Streep in the main role was a huge hit, complementing the staged version. Of course, the original Broadway production, as well as its British congener, has many award nominations, including Tony Award (but, unfortunately, no wins).

#12. Beauty and the Beast

Most people across the globe know the story from the classic Disney animated film, but it makes an extremely successful and long-running musical production as well. 13 years of unconditional fame – from Broadway to the whole world. Though the Tony-awarded NYC show finished its run in 2007 with the record of 5,461 performances, a great number of international productions showed up during the recent years. The total gross collected globally is $1,4 billion. The original stage version of the beautiful fairy-tale about a miserable prince transformed into a beast and charming Belle was initiated by the Disney Theatrical Productions. Fantastic music by Alan Menken, who performed the film soundtrack as well, and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, make the affecting essence of the production.

#13. Rent

The only one rock musical in our list, by American composer and playwright Jonathan Larson. Young and ambitious artists are striving for acclaim and quality life in New York City, residing in the East Village in the midst of HIV/AIDS tendency. The show is loosely based on La Bohème — Giacomo Puccini’s classic opera. Needless to say, that this Broadway production is a multi-awarded thing: several Tony Awards, Drama Desks in the main nominations, and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Since 1996 and to the present moment the show has travelled a lot around the globe, being staged in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, London, Sydney, and Mexico City. 12 years of run, numerous national tours, and tremendous international acclaim prove that the story works great for the audience of any kind.

#14. Wicked

What do you know about “WWW”— the Wicked Witch of the West? While this production is quite new compared to all in the list, it has already won the status of long and beloved. The show containing the alternative story of the witches of OZ was launched in October 2003 at marvelous Gershwin Theatre on Broadway (where it's currently running) and immediately drew tremendous attention of the audience of different ages. 3 Tony Awards, 7 Drama Desks, and one Grammy were highly deserved by this impeccable entertaining piece. According to Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman vision, based on Gregory Maguire’s idea, the rivalry between Glinda the Good and green-skinned Elphaba has an inner story unknown before. It goes back to their youth when they were college roommates. The story reveals some references with classic Baum’s book and the film The Wizard of Oz, but the events described in the show happen years before Dorothy’s arrival to the Land of Oz. This open-minded observation of the mixed nature of good and evil serves like an ethical lesson, vested in beautiful music and sparkling set.

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#15. Jersey Boys

Although this luminous musical entertainment is closing the list, it's still running successfully on stage. So, there's a real chance to see on the top some day. An extremely popular rock-'n'-roll band, Four Seasons, boomed in the 1960s. Several decades after its eventual break-up, one of the former members, Bob Gaudio, decided to share group's special experience with the audience. He gathered a great team, who presented a brilliant documentary-style jukebox musical on the Broadway stage, revealing the history of the ensemble. As every character makes his own musical confession based on the certain period (“season”), the true story of rise and fall, both dramatic and inspiring, can be seen from different perspective. And that's one of the most remarkable things about the show. The original production, premiered in 2005, was appreciated with four Tony Awards and the Laurence Olivier Award for the Best Musical. Since then it has started to spread around the world, still running successfully in some countries.

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