No trip to The Big Apple is complete without a visit to the theatres of Broadway – but if you’re a newcomer to world of music theatre, choosing which show to see can be a real gamble.
Rather than picking a title at random, make your selection from our shortlist of the best shows on Broadway and you won’t be left wanting on your next business trip to New York.
If you only have time for one Broadway show, make it If/Then at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
Broadway legend Idina Menzel – the voice of Elsa in ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen, Elphaba in Wicked and Maureen in Rent – stars as Elizabeth Vaughan, a recently-divorced urban planner who moves to New York City for a fresh start.
There she meets Kate (LaChanze) and Lucas (Anthony Rapp: another familiar face from Rent), always finds herself indecisive, asking “What if?” and dwelling on what might have been.
The show follows her as ‘Liz’ – the path she’d have taken as friends with Kate – and ‘Beth’, should she instead choose to befriend Lucas.
Not convinced? Watch Menzel’s showstopper ‘Always Starting Over’:
2. The Book of Mormon
Winning nine Tony Awards in its premiere year including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score, The Book of Mormon is a satirical masterpiece from Trey Parker and Matt Stone – the creators of South Park – and songwriter Robert Lopez.
Two young missionaries are sent to Uganda to share the Book of Mormon, which only one of them has read, with local villagers stricken with poverty, AIDS and famine.
Trouble ensues when the pair encounter the local warlord who, shall we say, has very different beliefs.
Here’s the opening group number, ‘Hello’, as performed at the 2012 Tony Awards:
Another multi-award winner, Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked is a different take on The Wizard of Oz: following Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, born green and shunned by society,
She’s introduced to the very pink Glinda, the Good Witch of the South at Shiz University, joining her on a quest to help the Wonderful Wizard of Oz – who turns out to be not as ‘wonderful’ as they’d first imagined.
Elphaba speaks out while Glinda is too afraid to do so, and we’ll leave the rest there short of spoiling the ending.
Watch Idina Menzel – the original Elphaba – perform ‘Defying Gravity’ in concert form as part of her Barefoot at the Symphony tour:
(Menzel has since moved on from Wicked and now appears on stage in If/Then).
4. The Lion King
Running in New York since 1997, playing over 7,000 performances in The Big Apple alone and seen by a collective audience of over 75 million people worldwide, there’s no denying The Lion King’s place in our top five.
Simba, a young lion prince, is disowned and booted from his pride by his cruel uncle Scar, who claims that the cub killed his own father (King Mufasa) – leaving Scar free to take Mufasa’s place at the throne.
After spending years in exile with new friends Timon and Pumbaa – a meerkat and a warthog – it’s time for Simba to return and fight for his former pride.
‘Shadowland’, performed by character Nala before disappearing into the unknown, shows the power of the full Broadway ensemble:
There’s an old saying in show business: “never work with children or animals”, yet this show is full of the former and the school’s principal Miss Trunchbull arguably acts like the latter, both of which combine to make a serious exception to the informal rule.
Based on the classic novel by Roald Dahl, Matilda follows the story of a bright girl born to otherwise-dim parents, who believe that physical looks and illegal trickery have more appeal than a proper education, and that their daughter should follow in their footsteps.
Matilda’s genius is first realised by her teacher Miss Honey, and as we quickly discover, that genius is superhuman.
Astoundingly, the children all sing in tune and perform perfectly-executed choreography that would even present a challenge to adult Broadway actors, as seen here at the 2013 Tony Awards:
Also read: Snap up half-price tickets to Broadway shows in New York
Which shows have you seen and enjoyed on Broadway, and would you see them again or expand your reach by trying something different next time? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT
Hi Guest, join in the discussion on The best shows to see on Broadway in New York City
24 Oct 2010
Total posts 2549
I loved Beautiful: The Carole King Story and Jersey Boys.
Qantas - Platinum (Lifetime Gold)
25 Apr 2013
Total posts 55
Saw The Book of Mormon on Broadway tonight, it was fantastic, best show in a long time, book ahead though, I'd been too late to buy tickets on two previous visits..... So pleased we finally pulled it off :)
Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer
19 Jun 2013
Total posts 8
Disagree entirely with If/Then at the top of the list. If it is your first sejourn into musical theatre or you are a regular this is NOT the one to see. But the other 4 are a must. Obviously, if you've seen the other 4 give this one a go, but go at take a look at the huge list at the TKTS booth in Times Square. You will not struggle with advertisement so you will be able to see and pick one that takes your fancy.
25 Mar 2015
Total posts 1
For a few weeks leading up to a trip to NYC, I study what's generally available daily on the TKTS website. I make a list of shows I'd like to see in order of preference. I don't try to see the smash hits - they'll probably come to Australia - and they won't come up on the TKTS list anyway. I want to see the shows that i won't be able to see in Australia. Catching new shows while still in previews means you might see a potential new smash hit before everyone else (it can also mean you could see a flop but I think the gamble is worth it.) Buy your tickets at TKTS - it's cheaper and the line moves quickly. You can use the express line if you can show a ticket stub from another show you've just seen.