Broadway’s Best Sellers - Are They Worth It?

Broadway hits come at steep prices. Which shows actually deliver?

Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, Wicked
Hamilton, The Book of Mormon, Wicked. Logos

There's just no two ways about it. Broadway tickets are expensive. Even if you score discount tickets, a decent seat will set you back at least $100. (See Where to Find Broadway Discounts Online.) And if you're looking for the biggest hits, well, you'd best take out a second mortgage, 'cause the average sticker price these days is well north of $150.00.

So, it's perfectly reasonable for prospective ticket buyers to want to know whether they'll be getting their money's worth.

I mean, after you buy the tickets, you've also got transportation, dinner, and maybe a souvenir program to shell out for. Who wants to lay out all that cash for a disappointing show?

What follows is a decidedly subjective take on Broadway current top-grossing shows, and whether they deliver on their steep ticket prices. Click through on the shows titles to read my reviews of these shows, where available.

The average grosses listed below are 2016 year-to-date. Bear in mind these grosses don't include revenue lost from two shows canceled on January 23rd because of a blizzard. Also, keep in mind that January is typically the slowest month of the year for Broadway sales. So the fact that these shows are all near or above $1,000,000 a week is a testament to their audience appeal.

Wicked
Average Weekly Box Office: $1,766,000
Average Ticket Price: $126.00
Worth It? Count me among the converted. I love Wicked.

Those who dismiss it as nothing more than spectacle are missing the smart satire in the show, the clever and tuneful score, and a genuinely moving reimagining of the Oz story and its characters.

Hamilton
Average Weekly Box Office: $1,700,000
Average Ticket Price: $167.00
Worth It? I'm one of the very few people who were not blown away by Hamilton.

I mean, it's a very good show, but it's no masterpiece. That said, I don't think I've ever seen a show staged as fluidly and dynamically as Hamilton. But Hamilton doesn't have anywhere near the emotional weight, nor the depth of characterization, of my personal favorite, Fun Home

The Lion King
Average Weekly Box Office: $1,687,000 
Average Ticket Price: $142.00
Worth It? You will never find another show as visually spectacular as The Lion King. I mean, there's simply no other show like it. No one does stunning visuals like director/designer Julie Taymor. However, Taymor isn't so great when it comes to cohesive storytelling (witness the disaster that was Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.) But the score is lovely, and there's plenty of yuk-yuk humor for the kids. 

The Book of Mormon
Average Weekly Box Office: $1,496,000
Average Ticket Price: $175.00
Worth It? The Book of Mormon is frickin' hysterical. It's hands-down the funniest show on Broadway right now, and easily one of the funniest musicals ever written. Go for the abundant, offensive, scatological, sacrilegious humor. Seriously, this show has the most offensive language you're likely to hear anywhere, let alone in a Broadway house. But if you're open-minded and looking for a gut-busting, knee-slapping good time, The Book of Mormon delivers.

 

Aladdin
Average Weekly Box Office: $1,490,000
Average Ticket Price: $111.00 
Worth It? I keep forgetting that Aladdin is playing on Broadway, and has been for almost two years. That's how much of an impression the show made on me. I mean, it's fine for what it is, and there's certainly plenty of money on stage with the elaborate sets and colorful costumes. Also, the magic carpet ride is genuinely mind-blowing. But as a show, it's kind of meandering and a little bland. 

Fiddler on the Roof
Average Weekly Box Office: $1,127,000
Average Ticket Price: $96.00
Worth It? Good God, what a beautiful show. I'm thrilled that Fiddler is selling so well. It's a production full of warm humor and genuine pathos. The show, of course, is a classic. But director Bartlett Sher gives it a fresh new feel, and Danny Burstein is a natural in the Tevye role.

An intensely moving production of one of the most beautiful shows ever written. 


Average Weekly Box Office: $1,124,000
Average Ticket Price: $111.00
Worth It? Another immediately forgettable show. Jukebox shows are fine, if they're well done, but On Your Feet! lacks any distinguishing characteristics. The score is fine, the production is fine, the cast is more than fine. But On Your Feet! feels careworn and predictable and lacks the emotional punch of Beautiful or the visual style of Jersey Boys

School of Rock: The Musical
Average Weekly Box Office:
 $1,063,000
Average Ticket Price: $104.79 
Worth It? What a pleasant surprise to be able to genuinely praise an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Sir Andrew hasn't had a hit in almost thirty years, but thankfully he returns to his rock roots and cranks out quite a few enjoyable, memorable uptempo songs. The ballads are more problematic, but the cast of kids (who really do play their instruments) is absolutely irresistible, and Alex Brightman gives us a star-making turn in the Jack Black role. 

Finding Neverland
Average Weekly Box Office: $916,000
Average Ticket Price: $94.00
Worth It? Good God, what a horrible show. Finding Neverland is one of the worst musicals to hit Broadway in many a season. The score is intolerably generic, the book is halting and hackneyed, and the kids are cloying and irritating. Don't waste your money. Rent the movie and forget this sorry excuse for a musical ever existed. 

An American in Paris
Average Weekly Box Office: $905,000
Average Ticket Price: $100.57 
Worth It? Another show that I have to keep reminding myself that I saw.

A dull and disappointing stage version of the classic Gene Kelly movie. The dance is fine as far as dance goes, but it doesn't always serve the story, and the big final ballet is disappointingly abstract. The leads lack charisma, and the book aims for historical weight and misses the mark. Again, rent the movie.