Update your Broadway list: 4 must-watch shows
No visit to New York is complete without a visit to Broadway to catch a show. The music, theatre, skill and sheer grandeur of the productions are awe-inspiring. We bring to you a selection of the top four must-watch productions. While three of these are the highest grossing shows on Broadway, one is more recent and makes the list for its sheer size.
The Phantom of the Opera
Almost synonymous with Broadway, The Phantom of the Opera is now in its 31st glorious year. Winner of 70 major theatre awards and seen by more than 140 million people, The Phantom of the Opera is the musical all others are measured against. It was the number one show for the longest time but was recently overtaken by The Lion King and Wicked, in terms of gross earnings. The production has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles Hart. Richard Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber wrote the musical's book together. Based on the eponymous French novel by Gaston Leroux, its central plot revolves around a beautiful soprano, Christine Daaé, who becomes the obsession of a mysterious, disfigured musical genius living in the subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opéra House.
Directed by Harold Prince and produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Theatre Company, the longest-running show in Broadway history, is a must watch.
The Phantom of the Opera plays eights shows a week at the Majestic Theatre
The Lion King
Remember the adorable lion cub, Simba, who grew up to become king of the Pride Lands by overthrowing his evil uncle, Scar? The iconic Disney animated film, The Lion King, was a global blockbuster and its Broadway adaptation opened to a full house in November 1997. Two decades later, it has gone on to become the highest grossing Broadway production of all time, having earned over $1 billion.
Along with Elton John's timeless music and chartbusters such as Hakuna Matata and Can you feel the love tonight, the Broadway show also features additional music by South African artists including composer Lebo M. The result is a fusion of Western popular music and the distinctive sounds and rhythms of Africa.
On stage, director Julie Taymor’s creative vision blends elements of African art and Broadway artisanship to depict anthropomorphic animal characters. Taymor, along with designer Michael Curry, has created hundreds of masks and puppets for the production and when it all comes together on stage, it is spectacular. The book has been adapted by Roger Allers, who co-directed The Lion King animated feature, and Irene Mecchi, who co-wrote the film’s screenplay.
Over 95 million people worldwide have seen the musical and it has earned numerous awards and honours, including six Tony Awards, one for Best Musical and Best Direction of a Musical, making director Julie Taymor the first woman to earn such an honour.
The Lion King plays eight times a week at the Minskoff Theatre, in the heart of Times Square.
Wicked, the Broadway musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz looks at what happened in the Land of Oz, but from a different angle. Based on the 1995 Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, a retelling of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and Frank Baum's classic 1900 novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the musical is told from the perspective of the witches of the Land of Oz.
Long before Dorothy arrives, there is another young woman, Elphaba, born with emerald-green skin and possessing an extraordinary talent. At school she meets a bubbly blonde, Galinda who is exceptionally popular. Their initial rivalry turns into the unlikeliest of friendships, until the world decides to call one “good,” and the other one “wicked.” It's a marvelous story and a must-watch for Wizard of Oz fans. Find out how the Tin Man came about and why the Lion was cowardly.
With a thrilling score that includes the hits Defying Gravity, Popular and For Good, Wicked has been referred to by The New York Times as “the defining musical of the decade.” Time magazine in its review said: “if every musical had the brain, the heart, and the courage of Wicked, Broadway really would be a magical place.”
In July 2017, Wicked surpassed The Phantom of the Opera as Broadway's second-highest grossing show, trailing only The Lion King.
Wicked plays at the Gershwin Theatre.
One of the latest additions to Broadway, King Kong began performances only in October 2018. At the heart of the show is a 2,000-pound, 20-foot-high gorilla puppet which is able to make facial expressions and movements all across the stage. Fifteen puppeteers, mostly onstage, work the beast with ropes, poles and pulleys. Based on the 1932 novel of the same name, King Kong follows the story of young actress Ann Darow and eccentric film maker Carl Denham, as they voyage from the bustling streets of 1930s New York City to an unexplored island in search of the world’s greatest wonder -- a larger-than life gorilla. While there have been several films with the same theme, representing it on Broadway is a marvel. King Kong comes alive on Broadway through an innovative mix of robotics, puppetry and stagecraft.
King Kong is directed and choreographed by Olivier Award-winner Drew McOnie, with a book by Tony Award-winner Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child). It features an electrifying new score by Marius de Vries (La La Land).
King Kong plays at the Broadway Theatre.