The 11 Longest-Running Broadway Shows

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Photo Source: Jeremy Daniel/Deen van Meer/Joan Marcus

“Mamma Mia!” held its final Broadway curtain call in September 2015 after 14 years and well over 5,000 performances. Do you know which other Broadway shows have enjoyed similarly impressive stretches? These are 11 of the Great White Way’s longest-running shows. And here’s to keeping a good thing going!

1. “The Phantom of the Opera”

A worldwide phenomenon and the longest-running Broadway musical in history, “The Phantom of the Opera” opened in 1988 to rave reviews and multiple awards. The epic Andrew Lloyd Webber masterpiece was performed 13,981 times at Broadway’s Majestic Theatre before closing in 2023, wowing audiences for over three decades.

2. “Chicago”

Though Broadway’s original 1975 production may have closed after a (relatively) short two years, the current revival of “Chicago” has been jazzing it up at Broadway’s Ambassador Theatre since 1996. The latest iteration has won numerous awards across its 10,000-plus performances and has featured dozens of star turns (Bebe Neuwirth, James Naughton, and Ann Reinking headlined the original revival). Celebrity headliners have included Jerry Springer, Wendy Williams, Usher, and many more.

3. “The Lion King”

This wildly popular Disney musical directed by Julie Taymor redefined Broadway when it debuted in 1997, wowing audiences of adults and children by creating an animal-filled savannah through life-size puppets and gorgeous African-inspired costumes. Broadway’s highest-grossing musical to date, with over $1.5 billion earned and counting, this family musical will probably not be going anywhere anytime soon. “The Lion King” is, well, king.

4. “Wicked”

Stephen Schwartz knocked it out of the park with this original, family-friendly musical based on Gregory Maguire’s popular 1995 novel of the same name. (Very) smart Broadway casting put Kristin Chenoweth in one of her best roles to date as the bubbly Glinda, with Idina Menzel as the heroic (and green-faced) Elphaba and Norbert Leo Butz as Elphaba’s love interest, Fiyero, in the original production. Numerous actors have made star turns in the same roles ever since. “Wicked” opened on Broadway in 2003 and has had nearly 8,000 performances.

5. “Cats”

Another iconic Webber musical, “Cats” was an instant classic when it debuted on Broadway in 1982. The highly visual, lyrical, and musically driven show based on T.S. Eliot’s poetry collection “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” was unlike anything Broadway had seen before, and it ran for an impressive 18 years before closing in 2000, with a revival in 2016. Fun fact: Elaine Paige, famous for her role as the original Grizabella, was brought into the London cast at the last minute to replace an injured Judi Dench.

6. “Les Misérables”

Before the 2006 revival at the Broadhurst Theatre and the 2014 revival at the Imperial Theatre, the original “Les Mis” enjoyed a record-breaking Broadway run from 1987 to 2003—that’s 16 years, if you’re counting. The epic musical based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name opened on Broadway with Colm Wilkinson in the lead role of former prisoner Jean Valjean and Terrence Mann as police inspector Javert. Also in the original Broadway production? A 9-year-old Lea Michele, who joined in 1995 in her first major role of Young Cosette.

7. “A Chorus Line”

Beyond original when it debuted in 1975, “A Chorus Line” took Broadway by storm despite its minimalist sets and costumes. The Michael Bennett–helmed production was based on real-life interviews with Broadway dancers and took audiences behind the scenes into the hearts and minds of the performers themselves. “A Chorus Line” enjoyed 6,137 performances at the Shubert Theatre before closing in 1990, with a revival in 2006.

8. “Oh! Calcutta!”

This scandalous theatrical revue found mild success when it opened on Broadway in 1971. The production closed after a year and a half and just over 1,000 performances, but it came back strong four years later with a highly successful revival at the Edison Theatre. The 1976 production ran for over a decade, closing in 1989, and boasted 5,959 curtain calls. Perhaps it was all in the timing: Scenes of full nudity and explicit topics might have played slightly better to the early 1980s audience.

9. “Mamma Mia!”

This heartwarming and family-friendly musical based on the songs of ABBA featured colorful costumes and characters along with jukebox tunes that got audiences on their feet for nearly a decade and a half. The show about love, friendship, questionable paternity, and the power of music opened in 2001 and closed in 2015. With 5,758 performances under its (sequined) belt, “Mamma Mia!” is Broadway’s longest-running jukebox musical and ninth longest-running production overall.

10. “Beauty and the Beast”

Another smash success from Disney, “Beauty and the Beast” opened in 1994 and ran for 13 years before closing to make way for “The Little Mermaid.” The crowd-pleasing musical based on the animated film has enjoyed multiple national and international tours in addition to its 5,461 performances on Broadway, and it also paved the way for the numerous Disney musicals that followed. More importantly, its kid-friendly content served as the first Broadway experience for many families and children who would go on to appreciate all that New York theater has to offer.

11. “Rent”

In addition to holding strong on Broadway for more than 12 years, Jonathan Larson’s rock musical defined a whole generation of Broadway fans and created a new theatrical genre that holds strong today. Though in many ways “Rent” was a product of its time—the HIV/AIDS epidemic was at its height during the time of its creation, and the “bohemian” culture of Alphabet City ostensibly no longer exists—the show’s core message of creativity, friendship, and acceptance carried the musical through over a decade of cultural changes and 5,123 performances from 1996 to 2008.