Sign In
5 Broadway Musicals That Have History Beyond The Stage
Save to wishlist

5 Broadway Musicals That Have History Beyond The Stage

Picture of Sean Scarisbrick
Updated: 12 December 2015
Broadway is an intrinsic element of New York. Every theater-goer appreciates the beauty of musicals, but not everyone knows of their rich history. These five musicals have rich histories, whether through film or stage adaptations. Each has played an important role in the modern Broadway scene, and they still awe audiences decades after they were originally created.
Broadway Ads in Times Square | © Broadway Tour/Flickr
Broadway Ads in Times Square | © Broadway Tour/Flickr

The Phantom of the Opera

Originally published from 1909 to 1910, The Phantom of the Opera was a novel written by Gaston Leroux. The novel tells the story of a young singer, Christine Daaé, who entices the Phantom, a mysterious man who lives beneath the Paris opera house, with her beautiful voice. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart, and Richard Stilgoe transformed the novel into a musical in 1986. It came to New York in 1988, and it is officially the longest-running Broadway musical. It became a movie in 2004 by director Joel Schumacher, featuring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum.

Majestic Theatre, 245 West 44th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 239 6200

Les Misérables

This well-known story of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict who stole a loaf of bread, and the many people he encounters, like Fantine, Cosette, and Marius, was originally an iconic novel written Victor Hugo and published in 1862. Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boubil wrote a musical version, and it premiered in New York in 1987. The show ran until 2003, and was revived again from 2006 to 2008. In 2012, Tom Hooper directed a film version of Les Mis, and it featured stars like Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Anne Hathaway. It was revived again in 2014, and it continues to attract thespians.

Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 239 6200

New York City HDR | © Martin/Flickr
New York City HDR | © Martin/Flickr

Spring Awakening

Nothing goes well for Melchior Gabor in Spring Awakening, a teenager confused by his oppressive surroundings. Torn between how he is taught to act and how he wants to act, he falls in love with Wendla Bergmann, a girl whose limited knowledge of adulthood causes her grief. Originally written as a play by Frank Wedekind in the 1890s, the play met great controversy in Europe and the US, became a musical with the geniuses of Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, and was performed in New York from 2006 to 2009. The musical was revived in 2015 by the Deaf West Theatre, and it incorporates American Sign Language into the show.

Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 West 47th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 719 4099


Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly are two criminals at the center of this musical set during the 1920s, which was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb. Chicago is based off of a play by Maurine Dallas, also called Chicago, which was based off the murder trials of Belva Gaertner and Beulah Annan in 1924. The musical came to New York in 1975 with the choreography of Bob Fosse, and it ran until 1977. In 1996, the musical was revived and still runs, making Chicago the longest-running revival musical in New York. Chicago was transformed from the stage to screen in 2002 under director Rob Marshall, and it features Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, and Queen Latifah.

Ambassador Theatre, 219 West 49th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 239 6200

The Color Purple

Originally published in 1982, The Color Purple, a novel by Alice Walker, follows the life of Celie and explains the difficulties African-American women faced in the south during the 1930s. A film version, directed by Steven Spielberg, was released in 1985 and featured Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, and Oprah Winfrey. A musical version of The Color Purple by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray appeared in Broadway in 2005 and ran until 2008. The musical will be returning to Broadway once again this November.

Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 West 45th Street, New York, NY, USA +1 212 239 6200

By Sean Scarisbrick

Sean is a graduate student at Hunter College where he studies Middle Eastern history. He is particularly interested in cultural history and language’s contribution to culture. He loves Shakespeare, Malala Yousafzai, Game of Thrones, foreign languages (Arabic, Spanish, and French), and Arabic street art.