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See these classic Broadway shows that have stood the test of time

These hits include long-beloved shows and modern phenomenons alike.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

When Nora slams the door in A Doll’s House this season on Broadway, Elphaba will be defying gravity in Wicked. You might not link these rebellious heroines together, but they offer a reminder that classic Broadway shows come in all stripes and varieties.

Naturally, Golden Age musicals – ones that debuted between 1940 and 1960 – make the cut as classics. Over the decades, these works have become synonymous with quality, spectacular Broadway entertainment. Think The Music Man, Funny Girl, and Camelot, for starters. The same goes for classic plays; works by long-celebrated writers, from Shakespeare to August Wilson, return to Broadway time and time again.

That said, there’s fluidity around what makes a classic. Long-running record breakers are their own sort of classic. Shows that push theatre forward in new directions and forge deep connections with the audience also make the cut. Long story short, if you’re craving something classic on Broadway, there are lots of options.

Discover the Broadway classics playing right now, and get tickets to see why these shows have stood the test of time.

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Classic plays on Broadway

With Tony Awards, Pulitzer Prizes, and a long history of critical and audience acclaim behind them, these plays have earned their place in the classic theatre canon. Check out these classic plays, some of which have been newly revitalized through a modern lens.

Death of a Salesman

Attention must be paid. American dramas don’t come more enduring than Arthur Miller’s 1949 Pulitzer Prize-winning portrait of a postwar middle-class family in crisis. The current production, an import from London and Broadway’s fifth revival, casts Willy Loman and his family as Black. The production starring Wendell Pierce and Sharon D Clarke underscores “how opportunities for upward growth are not equally afforded to everyone,” noted New York Theatre Guide’s five-star review. Miller's play, whose working title was Inside of His Head, plays out in real time and as memories. This revival finds striking ways to get into Willy’s addled mind.

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The Piano Lesson

History always looms large in August Wilson plays. In this 1990 Pulitzer-winning drama set in 1936 in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, a Black family is haunted by the indelible mark of slavery. Reckoning with the past and its troubling specters – in every sense – becomes the key to moving forward in this story “filled with beyond-this-world mystery,” per New York Theatre Guide’s five-star review. Samuel L. Jackson plays the uncle of siblings portrayed by Danielle Brooks and John David Washington, who are at odds over the fate of a priceless ornate piano that holds their family’s history.

Get The Piano Lesson tickets now.

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A Doll’s House

Shut the front door! A telltale sign of a classic play is a long history of revivals. Henrik Ibsen’s landmark play has already run on Broadway 13 times, first in 1889 and most recently in 1997. Oscar winner Jessica Chastain, last on Broadway a decade ago in The Heiress, steps into the role of Nora Helmer, a 19th-century housewife with a festering secret and a growing discontent with her stifling marriage. This adaptation is by Pulitzer Prize finalist Amy Herzog and directed by Jamie Lloyd, who sniffed out fresh magic in Cyrano de Bergerac in 2022. The play runs February 13 to June 4.

Check back for information on A Doll's House tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

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Classic musicals on Broadway

There are plenty of options for classic musical lovers, from Golden Age delights to newer hits that instantly went down as classics. Learn more about these beloved shows below.

Funny Girl

Nearly 60 years after this musical based on the real-life the ups and downs of comedian Fanny Brice became a Broadway classic (and set Barbra Streisand on the path to becoming an icon), the show is back with Glee and Spring Awakening alum Lea Michele. This revival “is the perfect marriage of actress and role,” per New York Theatre Guide’s five-star review. Even when life with her gambler husband Nicky Arnstein (Ramin Karimloo) turns rough for Fanny, the hard times go down easy for audiences with show tunes like “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” “People,” and “The Music That Makes Me Dance.”

Get Funny Girl tickets now.

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Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning 2015 musical has been described as a hip-hop history lesson about the life and times of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, but that’s only partly correct. The superb score is infused with rhythm and blues and jazz, plus melodic and lyrical winks to Rodgers and Hammerstein and Gilbert and Sullivan. Let’s just call this show an instant classic that’s left countless audiences “Satisfied.”

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One metric for measuring a musical classic is how powerful a spell it casts on audiences. Another is its staying power. This musical, which seizes inspiration from The Wizard of Oz, scores sky-high in both categories. The plot follows twists and turns in the friendship between two witches: green outcast Elphaba and popular Glinda. Running since 2003, the girl-power story is famous for sparking repeated visits by theatreergoers who know every lyric to “For Good,” “Popular,” and “Defying Gravity.”

Get Wicked tickets now.

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This 1960 Lerner and Loewe musical has already been revived on Broadway five times, and its classic status gets added heft from numerous touring and regional productions. The plot revolves around a high-stakes love triangle in which King Arthur’s marriage to Guenevere is threatened by her relationship with Sir Lancelot – roles respectively played by Andrew Burnap, Phillipa Soo, and Jordan Donica. The story is newly adapted by Aaron Sorkin in the production directed by Barlett Sher.

Check back for information on Camelot tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

Sweeney Todd

Every Stephen Sondheim show is a classic. This dark-toned 1979 musical thriller follows the eponymous barber hellbent on revenge and his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, who bakes the worst pies in London. Against a story of abductions, murder, and cannibalism, the score of this Tony-winning show is gorgeous. Josh Groban and Annaleigh Ashford step into the roles of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett in this third revival on Broadway.

Check back for information on Sweeney Todd tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

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Classic long-runners on Broadway

When it comes to staying power, some shows are in a league of their own. So it goes for the three longest-running shows in Broadway history, which have all become modern classics.

The Phantom of the Opera

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical take on Gaston Leroux’s 1910 romantic novel of the same name follows a soprano stalked by an obsessed, masked mystery man who haunts the Paris Opera House. The score is lush. The staging is magical. The show that launched in 1988, and is set to close on April 16, has logged nearly 14,000 performances, making it Broadway’s longest-running show.

Get The Phantom of the Opera tickets now.

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This revival of John Kander and Fred Ebb’s 1975 successful show about Windy City merry murderesses Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart proves the staying power of all that jazz. The stripped- down production that began off Broadway in 1996 is a lesson in transforming something simple into something enduring. The show is also known for its revolving door of celebrity replacements in the leading roles. As of 2022, the show has razzle-dazzled audiences at more than 10,000 performances.

Get Chicago tickets now.

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The Lion King

Even with only the glorious first 20 minutes of this 1997 stage adaptation of the animated Disney film, the show would still be a classic. Songs by Elton John and Tim Rice soar as we follow a lion cub who learns hard lessons about the the “Circle of Life” and finds his place in the world. As of 2022, the show has run for nearly 10,000 performances.

Get The Lion King tickets now.

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