The Highest-Grossing Broadway Musicals of All Time
We might live in a digital age, but entertainment experiences that don’t involve screens will always have their place. In fact, musicals are more popular than ever –– according to the Broadway League, the 2018-2019 season had a total attendance of 14,768,254 and grossed $1,829,312,140, making it the best-attended and highest-grossing season since records began.
Broadway musicals to look forward to in 2020 include “Diana,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Flying Over Sunset.” Any of these could be the next big hit. But in the meantime, here are the 20 highest-grossing Broadway musicals to date.
20. ‘Dear Evan Hansen’
Gross to date: $223,128,511*
* Because many musicals have years-long runs, accurately accounting for inflation is problematic. These are the raw grosses.
“Dear Evan Hansen” made its Broadway debut at the Music Box Theatre on December 4, 2016, with Ben Platt in the title role as a high school senior with a social anxiety disorder. It won six Tony Awards in 2017, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Actor in a Musical for Platt. Evan Hansen is currently played by the 2018 Jimmy Award winner, Andrew Barth Feldman.
Gross to date: $252,181,270
Based on the 1988 John Waters film of the same name (starring Ricki Lake as overweight teen Tracy Turnblad), “Hairspray” first brought its big hair and big laughs to Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre on August 15, 2002. The production won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Direction. After six successful years, its last performance was on Jan. 4, 2009.
18. ‘Beautiful: The Carole King Musical’
Gross to date: $270, 497,162
Based on the early life and career of singer Carole King, “Beautiful” made its Broadway debut at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre Jan. 12, 2014, starring Jessie Mueller as King. On the show’s fifth anniversary, King appeared on stage to perform the closing number “Beautiful” and finale with Chilina Kennedy, who was then in the lead role. The final Broadway performance was on Oct. 27, 2019.
Gross to date: $274,248,128
Jonathan Larson’s rock musical “Rent,” inspired by Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La Boheme,” opened at the Nederlander Theatre on April 29, 1996. The initial cast included Taye Diggs, who went on to star in the TV series “Private Practice,” and Idina Menzel, whose voice is now synonymous with the “Frozen” phenomenon. Alongside its many awards, one of “Rent”’s greatest achievements was introducing the ticket lottery system on Broadway, which gives people the chance to buy tickets at reduced prices.
16. ‘The Producers’
Gross to date: $288,361,724
Adapted from the 1967 film of the same name, “The Producers” broke the record for the largest single-day box-office ticket sales in theater history, taking in more than $3 million when it opened at the St. James Theatre on April 19, 2001. Its 12 Tony Awards broke another record –– that held by “Hello Dolly!” (which won 10) for 37 years. “The Producers” closed on Broadway on April 22, 2007.
15. ‘Mary Poppins’
Gross to date: $294,558,648
Following its success in London’s West End, “Mary Poppins,” based on the series of children’s books by P.L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film, took its magic to Broadway, It opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre on November 16, 2006, with Ashley Brown playing the world’s favorite nanny. The show ended its Broadway run on March 3, 2013, to make way for Disney’s “Aladdin.”
14. ‘Kinky Boots’
Gross to date: $318,990,092
With music and lyrics written by Cyndi Lauper, the musical “Kinky Boots” is based on the 2005 British film of the same name. Inspired by true events, it tells the tale of Charlie Price, who joins forces with a drag queen named Lola to produce a range of high-heeled boots in the hope of saving the failing shoe factory he’s inherited from his father. The Broadway show debuted at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on April 4, 2013, and ran until April 7, 2019. It won six Tony Awards and made Lauper the first woman to win a solo award for Best Score.
13. ‘Miss Saigon’
Gross to date: $332,103,948
Based on Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly,” “Miss Saigon” tells the tale of an ill-fated romance between a young Asian bar girl and a U.S. Marine. It opened at the Broadway Theatre on April 11, 1991, closed on January 28, 2001, and remains one of Broadway’s longest-running shows. When “Miss Saigon” opened on Broadway it broke several records, including advance-tickets sales of $24 million and the highest priced ticket at $100.
12. ‘Les Miserables’
Gross to date: $406,258,901
Adapted from French poet and novelist Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel of the same name, “Les Miserables” originally premiered in French, in Paris, in 1980. The English-speaking version opened at the Broadway Theatre on March 12, 1987, before moving to the Imperial Theatre on October 10, 1990. It remained there until its final performance on May 18, 2003, at which point it became Broadway’s second-longest-running musical, after “Cats.”
11. ‘Beauty and the Beast’
Gross to date: $429,158,458
Adapted from Disney’s Oscar-winning movie of the same name, “Beauty and the Beast” opened at the Palace Theatre on April 18, 1994, starring Susan Egan and Terrence Mann in the lead roles. Despite mixed early reviews, it became a huge commercial success and ran on Broadway for 13 years, closing at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on July 29, 2007.
Gross to date: $432,003,657
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Cats,” based on T.S. Eliot’s 1939 poetry collection “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” was a phenomenal –– and unexpected –– success, holding the record for the longest-running musical in both London’s West End (21 years) and Broadway (18 years) for many years. After its initial Broadway run from Oct. 7, 1982, to Sept. 10, 2000, at the Winter Garden Theatre, it was revived at the Neil Simon Theatre on July 31, 2016, running until December 30, 2017.
Gross to date: $439,941,236
The musical adaptation of Disney’s 1992 hit “Aladdin” opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre on March 20, 2014, and has been produced all over the world since then. The show has won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for James Monroe Iglehart, who was the original Genie.
8. ‘Jersey Boys’
Gross to date: $558,416,092
“Jersey Boys,” the behind-the-scenes hit musical about Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons (and including all their hits, like “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Sherry”), ran on Broadway from Nov. 6, 2005, to Jan. 15, 2017. It won four Tony Awards in 2006, including Best Musical, and scooped the 2009 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
Gross to date: $602,726,052
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s award-winning “Hamilton,” which was inspired by a 2004 biography on American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, has smashed records and won a slew of awards (including the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama) since it made its sell-out, off-Broadway debut at The Public Theatre in February 2015. Its Broadway run at the Richard Rodgers Theatre began on August 6, 2015. In November 2016, it set a Broadway box office record for the most money grossed in a single week in New York City, when it grossed $3.3 million for eight performances.
6. ‘Mamma Mia!’
Gross to date: $624,391,693
Based on the hit songs of ABBA and developed with band members Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus, “Mamma Mia!” enjoyed a Broadway run at the Winter Garden Theatre, and subsequently at the Broadhurst Theatre, from Oct. 18, 2001, until Sept. 12, 2015. One of the most successful “jukebox musicals” of all time, “Mamma Mia!” continues to get audiences dancing and singing in London’s West End, where it made its debut in 1999.
5. ‘The Book of Mormon’
Gross to date: $641,359,648
“The Book of Mormon,” a satirical look at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker (alongside “Avenue Q”’s Robert Lopez), opened at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on March 24, 2011. The show has won nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. The show has benefitted from an unconventional ticket pricing strategy, with the best seats for the most in-demand performances going for as much as $477.
Gross to date: $670,395,781
“Chicago,” which has been at Broadway’s Ambassador Theatre since Nov. 14, 1996, is based on the 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurice Dallas Watkins, examining the concept of the “celebrity criminal.” Its original Broadway run started in 1975, running until 1977, choreographed by Bob Fosse. The 1996 revival holds the record as the longest-running musical revival and the longest-running American musical in U.S. history. It also inspired a 2002 movie adaptation, which won the Oscar for Best Picture.
3. ‘The Phantom of the Opera’
Gross to date: $1,238,060,307
Broadway’s longest-running musical is “The Phantom of the Opera,” which made its debut on January 26, 1988, at the Majestic Theatre and became the first musical to celebrate its 10,000th Broadway performance on Feb. 11, 2012. Based on a 1910 horror novel by Gaston Leroux, it features music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart. As well as being the third-highest-grossing Broadway musical of all time, “The Phantom of the Opera” was the most financially successful entertainment property until the No. 1 movie on this list surpassed it in 2014.
Gross to date: $1,339,766,828
“Wicked” is based on the 1995 novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire, which is a retelling of the 1900 classic “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum and the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz.” The Broadway production made its debut at the Gershwin Theatre on October 30, 2003, with Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, Idina Menzel as Elphaba and Joel Grey as the Wizard. In March 2016, “Wicked” passed $1 billion in total Broadway revenue, becoming only the third Broadway show to do so.
1. ‘The Lion King’
Gross to date: $1,650,928,746
Currently showing at the Minskoff Theatre, where it moved to on June 13, 2006, after making its debut at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Nov. 13, 1997, “The Lion King” is the multi-award-winning adaptation of Disney’s much-loved 1994 animated film. Featuring music by Elton John, the musical won six Tony Awards in 1998, including Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical; the latter made director Julie Taymor the first woman to receive the honor.
Broadway achievements aside, “The Lion King” is also the highest-grossing entertainment property of all time, earning just under $8.1 billion worldwide by December 2017.