The Top 5 Must See Broadway Musicals

If Time Is Short in New York, Don't Miss These Shows

There are a few things to cross off the list when visiting New York City, the city that never sleeps. Of them, one typically finds visiting the Empire State Building, eating a slice of New York pizza, and going to Central Park at the top of the list. Naturally, visiting Times Square and seeing a musical on Broadway makes its way up there as well.

Christopher Caggiano, a musical theater writer, and professor, shares the following musicals to see on Broadway. These must-see shows on Broadway below range from current hits to old time favorites. Additionally, these musicals showcase the current best, most successful, and longest-running musicals on Broadway, plus an example of an old-style show.

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Set as a back story to The Wizard of Oz, critics largely ignored this tale of tolerance and loyalty, but theater goers embraced it.

Financially, Wicked is the most successful musical of all time, and there’s a reason. Wicked offers a moving story of two talented women whose friendship survives many challenges. Plus, the Stephen Schwartz music moves audience members while in the theater and stays with them when they leave.

The following songs from Wicked are well-known:

  • “Defying Gravity”
  • “For Good”
  • “Popular”
  • “The Wizard and I”

While there are rarely discounts available, those who want to see Wicked can often get tickets at face value for weekday shows. Wicked also offers a daily lottery.

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Billy Elliot

Billy Elliot
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Billy Elliot offers raves from almost all quarters both in London and New York.

Billy Elliot tells the touching story of a boy striving to do something different and earn his father’s blessing. This musical takes the movie's story and adds Elton John's music and some electric choreography to it, like in the memorable song “Electricity”.

Discounts are not likely to be available, and Billy typically sells out. Short-notice tickets are often above face value and thus, planning ahead pays off.

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South Pacific

62nd Annual Tony Awards - Show
Theo Wargo / Staff Getty

South Pacific is among one the best shows on Broadway, and it is an example of what some call the “Golden Age” of Broadway. These shows, many of which are by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, mostly feature stories with drama, comedy, and heart.

They also feature beautiful music with strong melodies and rich orchestrations. Lincoln Center’s production of South Pacific won the 2008 Tony for Best Revival and richly deserved it.

The following South Pacific songs are popular:

  • “Some Enchanted Evening”
  • “Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair”
  • “Bali Hai”

It is not likely for discounts to be available for this show. South Pacific continues to sell out, but theater goers can get tickets at face value. It is recommended to plan early.

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The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera
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The Phantom of the Opera is Broadway's longest-running musical. It opened on January 9, 1988, and is still going strong.

Unlike many long-running shows, Phantom is not getting tired and performances remain outstanding. Andrew Lloyd Webber, the show’s composer, has made a mark on Broadway that perhaps only Rodgers, Hammerstein, and Stephen Sondheim can top. Webber's work is clearly a “must see.”

The most memorable songs from the musical are as follows:

  • “The Phantom of the Opera”
  • “Music of the Night”
  • “Think of Me”

Discounts are almost always available for this musical. Phantom continues to sell well, but finding a discounted ticket online is common.

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Next to Normal

Next to Normal
Photo by Paul Cozby

Next to Normal is an example of a new-style Broadway musical with a contemporary score.

This musical is mostly sung through and explores deep and challenging emotional issues. It’s not for everyone, but theater goers who want to understand the full scope of musicals on Broadway now should see Next to Normal.

Discounts tend to be available, surprisingly, and should be taken advantage of when possible.

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Bonus Picks: Any Disney Show

Mary Poppins, Dick Van Dyke and children
Mary Poppins is the most famous nanny ever. Photo (c) Silver Screen Collections / Getty Images

Disney has had a huge impact on Broadway, both in cultivating the family-friendly market and facilitating Times Square’s revitalization. 

Currently represented by The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Mary Poppins, a Disney show is a must, in order to sample a relatively new subset of the Broadway musical.

Discounts are not usually available for The Lion King but tend to be around for The Little Mermaid and Mary Poppins.