The 50 Most Overrated Musicals

Some musicals don't deserve the hype

south-pacific-lct.jpg
Paulo Szot and Kelli O'Hara on South Pacific.

Words like "best," "worst," "underrated," and "overrated" are, of course, subjective. They raise inevitable questions: According to whom? By which criteria? What gives anyone the right to make such determinations? Well, in the case of my own lists of the "100 Best Musicals of All Time," "The 50 Worst Musicals Ever," "The 50 Most Underrated Musicals," and the current list of the most overrated, the answers to the above questions are: according to me, by my own subjective criteria, and the same right as anyone else.

 

Here's the thing about lists, though. We love them and we hate them. We love lists that reinforce our own preferences. We hate lists that run counter to those preferences. It's unfortunate that sometimes, rather than accepting that someone might reasonably disagree, some people try to find fault with the list maker. Others call into question the need for making such lists in the first place. Yet, if the traffic on this site is any indication, the people out there reading these posts can't get enough of these lists. 

So, what makes a musical "overrated"? There are many different ways by which a show might earn this dubious distinction. An overrated musical might be a bloated blockbuster that's been running for decades, despite the fact that many more worthy shows have come and gone in those intervening years. (SeeThe Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and Miss Saigon.) Other overrated shows would be the critical success that wins a bunch of awards, perhaps based on the admittedly worthy messages these shows might espouse, and yet the inherent quality of these shows may not warrant the acclaim.

(For example, South Pacific and Kinky Boots.

Other overrated musicals might be sentimental favorites that were really never all that good to begin with (GodspellThe Sound of Music), or relatively obscure shows that have nonetheless gained acclaim among theater insiders, without necessarily warranting that acclaim (which might include the musical Bare, which isn't listed here, or Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party, which is).

 

One major caveat: I'm not necessarily saying that these shows are bad. Some of them I actually enjoy, to a certain extent. Others I'm not really a fan of at all. The point is, they all receive more success and or acclaim than they would seem to deserve. In my humble and decidedly subjective opinion. If you'd like some idea as to why I think these shows ain't all that and a bag of chips, click through on the show titles for my reviews, where available. 

[UPDATE: Based on the recent blockbuster success of Hamilton, and the fact that I personally don't see what all the fuss is about, I have added Hamilton to the list. I'm not saying it's bad. I'm just saying it isn't worth selling your first-born to get a ticket.]

  1. South Pacific

  2. Hamilton 

  3. Mamma Mia!

  4. Pippin

  5. Miss Saigon

  6. The Sound of Music

  7. Kinky Boots 

  8. Billy Elliot

  9. Spring Awakening

  10. Bye Bye Birdie

  11. Cats

  12. Spamalot

  13. Forever Plaid

  14. Jekyll & Hyde

  15. Les Miserables

  16. Funny Girl 

  17. Grease 

  18. Nunsense

  19. Lazarus

  20. Annie  

  21. In the Heights 

  22. Blood Brothers

  23. Legally Blonde

  24. The Lion King

  25. Man of La Mancha

  26. The Wiz

  27. Mary Poppins

  28. Memphis 

  29. Nunsense

  30. Oliver!

  31. Passion

  32. Promises, Promises 

  33. We Will Rock You

  34. The Wild Party (Lippa) 

  35. Evita 

  36. The Rocky Horror Show 

  37. Jesus Christ Superstar 

  38. Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story 

  39. Starlight Express 

  1. Annie Get Your Gun 

  2. Movin' Out

  3. Sweet Charity

  4. The Magic Show 

  5. Damn Yankees 

  6. Footloose 

  7. Anything Goes 

  8. Godspell