Musical Theater is a world filled with stunning lights, jaw-dropping costumes, larger-than-life sets, and amazing talent. For decades, Broadway has dazzled audiences from all over the world, including audiences here in Philadelphia. Have you ever thought, “I’ve never seen a Broadway show before! Which one should I see first?”. You’re in luck! We have compiled a list of the best shows to see or listen to if you are new to Broadway. Then check out some of them LIVE when they come to Philadelphia this year as part of our 2023-24 Broadway season!
1. The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera is a story of passion and desire with a classic love triangle on an epic scale. With iconic songs such as “All I Ask of You” and “Think of Me”, this show is perfect for all the romantics out there and is a pure spectacle of theater achievements. The stunning costumes and set design create a breathtaking experience that has solidified the show as the longest-running musical on Broadway.
2. Disney’s The Lion King
“Can you feel the love tonight?” Fall in love with one of Disney’s most beloved musicals, The Lion King with this award-winning stage production. Based on the 1994 animated film, this show features the well-known hits like “Circle of Life” and “Hakuna Matata” alongside new music written by superstars Elton John and Tim Rice!
The smash hit of the 21st century, you've likely heard of Hamilton by now - and for good reason! With its hip-hop inspired music and new take on historical storytelling, this Pulitzer Prize, Tony, and Grammy Award-winning show has introduced an entire generation and more to the world of Broadway. Listen to the cast album on all streaming services and check out the professionally filmed version of the Original Broadway Cast on Disney+.
Many know the story of Dorothy defeating the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz, but this show transports audiences to the Emerald City to meet Elphaba and learn about Oz life before Dorothy dropped in. Wicked is arguably one of the most “Popular” musical of its time, catapulting Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth to star status.. With 10 Tony Awards and gravity defying spectacles, this show is the definition of a classic musical. And Philly is in luck as Wicked returns to the Academy of Music, November 1 - 26, 2023!
5. Mamma Mia!
Are you a Broadway beginner who isn’t fully sold on the showtunes? Featuring songs from Swedish pop sensation ABBA, a jukebox musical like Mamma Mia! just might be your ticket to your greatest adventure yet. Visit the island of Kalokairi and watch the drama unfold as a young bride-to-be searches for her father, all the while growing closer to her mother and learning about Mom’s coming-of-age story. Get ready to dance your heart out again as Mamma Mia! comes again August 6 - 11, 2024 at the Academy of Music!
Want a show that makes you get up and dance? Break it down with Henry VIII’s six wives as they tell you the truth about their stories all in the musical styles of female pop icons like Rhianna, Beyonce, Adele, and more. SIX is jam packed with upbeat dance numbers and a message of female empowerment. With just a 90-minute runtime, this show is the perfect place to start your Broadway journey.
Welcome to the 60’s! Transport yourself back to the heart of the Civil Rights movement to follow teenager Tracy Turnblad as she chases after her dreams and stands up for what she believes is right. Hairspray will make you laugh, cry, and dance in your seat with unbelievably catchy music, infectious dancing, plus crazy & colorful costumes and sets.
8. West Side Story
A reimagining of the classic tale of star-crossed lovers Romeo & Juliet, West Side Story frames their main characters in mid-century New York City. The warring sides of white New Yorkers and immigrant Puerto Ricans living on the same block, this show tackles forbidden love, gang violence, and community with iconic choreography classic songs – like “Maria” and “America.” A mainstay of musical theater, this show has been revived multiple times and made into 2 feature films including one in 2021 directed by Stephen Spielberg.
Annie is undeniably an American classic about a young orphan looking for her parents in the New York City during the Great Depression of the 1920’s. Based on a beloved cartoon series, the musical has seen countless film adaptations and is often performed in local theaters across the nation. The whole family is sure to be completely captivated by the magic of Little Orphan Annie and Daddy Warbucks. The plot is heartfelt and will leave you feeling uplifted and inspired.
10. Into The Woods
One of acclaimed songwriter and composer Stephen Sondheim’s most famous works, Into the Woods reimagines classic fairy tale characters like Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and more that we know and love as you’ve never seen them before. With its smart lyrics and catchy score, this musical classic will transport you to a fantastical realm that you just won’t want to leave. And did you know? We actually won a Tony Award for producing another of Sondheim’s works, Company in 2022!
Moral of the story: it’s never too late to become a theater lover! The musical theater world has vast variety, so you are bound to find a theatrical experience to ignite your imagination and capture your hears. Use these 10 shows as your stepping stone and dive head first into a whole new world with musical theater.