Whether it’s long-standing shows or a limited-run production, Broadway offers the best theater New York – and the world – has to offer. With over 40 theaters and a never-ending list of shows coming and going, it’s often hard to choose what to see. So, we’re going to give you our best Broadway shows for 2023.
Hadestown by Anaïs Mitchell
Greek myth is all the rage at the moment and Hadestown has added fuel to that hellfire. The musical based on the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice had a long road to Broadway but now it’s here, we don’t know what we would have done without it.
After workshops that started back in 2006, Hadestown finally landed a run on Broadway in 2019. It was an instant hit and garnered 14 Tony Award nominations of which it won eight.
The modern retelling of the ancient myth shows a young woman who chooses to sell her soul to Hades in a bid to ease her suffering. However, she is soon forced to work in his factory and her lover, a wannabe musician, attempts to save her from her miserable fate all set to an incredible soundtrack.
Currently playing at Walter Kerr Theater.
Kimberly Akimbo by David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori
This year’s Best Musical winner at the Tony Awards, Kimberly Akimbo, is a touching and joyful show centring Kimberly Levaco – a 16-year-old high schooler who suffers from an incredibly rare condition that makes her age rapidly – played by 63-year-old Victoria Clark.
The show, based on David Lindsay-Abaire’s 2001 play of the same name, is a clever and darkly absurd comedy about a teenager dying of old age. It’s set to a playful and uplifting score from Caroline, Or Change’s Jeanine Tesori and it’ll leave you with a newfound verve for life.
Currently playing at Booth Theater.
Moulin Rouge! The Musical by John Logan
This red-hot stage adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s film of the same name enchanted audiences when it opened in June 2019. Even COVID-19 couldn’t slow down its momentum. After nine months of packed audiences and rave reviews, Moulin Rouge! The Musical was forced to close due to multiple cast members contracting the virus. They hoped to reopen a few weeks later but a few weeks turned into over a year when the whole of Broadway went dark. When doors reopened, audiences flocked to the windmill for the extravagant show and they weren’t disappointed.
Winning 10 Tony Awards – including Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (for Aaron Tveit) and Best Choreography – this tragic, brash, raunchy love story is filled with glitter and heart.
Currently playing at Al Hirschfeld Theater.
The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone
You won’t know whether to laugh, cringe, or sing along with this dark satire that’s been winning over audiences since 2011. The Book of Mormon follows two young Mormon missionaries who are sent to Uganda to recruit local people to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Once there, they’re made to face the realities of the world and the inconceivable hardships people have to undertake resulting in their faith being rocked.
From the creators of South Park, this tongue-in-cheek, outrageous, incredibly dark comedy musical makes social commentary no one thought possible (or appropriate) to make. But with nine Tony Awards under its belt and a run that looks infinite, it’s definitely a crowd-pleaser.
Currently playing at Eugene O’Neill Theater.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler
If A-listers are the name of your game, you’ll lose your head if you miss this killer revival.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is arguably one of the greatest Broadway musicals of all time. Written by the late-great Stephen Sondheim, it features his signature and irreplaceable sound along with a true crime story you won’t be able to resist.
The current revival has won praise from all, with much of that admiration going to the show’s stars Josh Groban, Annaleigh Ashford, Jordan Fisher, and Gaten Matarazzo.
Sometimes a musical leaves you with a tune you’re humming for weeks afterwards. But sometimes, you’ll remember a costume look for the rest of your life. Here are our favorite truly iconic costumes that, in some cases, became even bigger than the shows they were in.
The Glinda bubble dress
Wicked costume designer Susan Hilferty had the unique challenge of creating costumes that reminded audiences of The Wizard of Oz, but that also placed characters in the musical’s much darker story. This enormous flouncy gown for Glinda’s entrance at the top of the show is all overstated femininity, while putting Glinda in blue instead of the pink she wears in The Wizard of Oz signals that we’re in for a very different story – and avoids any copyright violations. You can even buy the Glinda dress for American Girl dolls.
Honorary mention: The Fiyero Pants. Father/son duo Norbert Leo Butz and Aaron Tveit are among the many Fiyeros who have donned the vaguely Edwardian white jodhpurs that Fiyero wears to the Ozdust Ballroom.
Mark’s Sweater in Rent
The blue sweater with the red horizontal stripe – we immediately associate it with Rent’s Mark Cohen, and Anthony Rapp’s original 1996 performance in the role. (Add the black-and-white striped scarf and a mic taped to your cheek and you’ve got a great Halloween costume.) Costume designer Angela Wendt described the sweater as “not too flamboyant but still interesting enough,” for Mark to wear for the entire show. It might be the most comfortable costume in the show, compared to Roger’s rockstar leather, or Angel’s Mrs. Claus drag look, but also the most memorable.
Morales’ long sleeve color block leotard in A Chorus Line, tied with Cassie’s bright red leotard and skirt
A Chorus Line happens in real time over the course of a cattle call audition, and the performers are in one costume over the course of the show. The differences in each auditionee’s choice of dance garb telegraphs so much information about each character. Cassie’s red leotard, with its long sleeves and skirt, is far less utilitarian and more elegant than everything else onstage, immediately commanding attention, and creating unique stage pictures for Donna McKechnie’s virtuosic number “The Music and the Mirror.” Diana Morales, originally played by Priscilla Lopez, wears a jewel-toned sweater over her leotard and tights – equal parts practical and vibrant.
Dolly Levi’s Red Dress
The Hello Dolly revival did not directly draw from the original Broadway production, but there was one visual that the show would simply be incomplete without – the red ensemble Dolly wears to descend the staircase into the Harmonia Gardens restaurant, which she also wears for the titular song. The v-neck bustled ballgown would be memorable enough, but Carol Channing, Pearl Bailey, Bette Midler, Donna Murphy, and Bernadette Peters all also donned a 2-foot-tall red feathered headdress.
The Phantom Mask
A plain white mask that covers the right half of the Phantom’s face for most of the show became synonymous with Phantom itself, eventually serving as its key art and Playbill cover. It’s maybe the simplest costume on this list, and arguably the most powerful.
This year’s 76th Annual Tony Awards will be broadcast live from the United Palace in Washington Heights on Sunday, June 11th. As this year’s nominated shows head into the final stretch of their awards campaigns, Broadway’s Best Shows is here to remind you that no one is guaranteed a Tony, not even Aaron Tveit. Here is a list of our top 10 surprise upset wins, across 76 years of Tony history.
10. Christopher Ashley wins for directing Come From Away – 2017
Conventional wisdom had the category as a showdown between Michael Greif for Dear Evan Hansen and Rachel Chavkin for Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, parallel to the competition happening over in the Best Musical category. Perhaps because Greif and Chavkin split the vote, Christopher Ashley was genuinely flabbergasted when he won his first Tony. Ashley was previously nominated in the same category for Memphis and The Rocky Horror Show.
The cast of Come From Away performs in the 2017 Tonys:
9. 1978 Best Play
The Pulitzer Prize-winning The Gin Game was the anticipated winner for best play – that, or Chapter Two, a comedy about grief from Broadway heavyweight Neil Simon. However, the Tony voters chose the lesser-known Irish playwright Hugh Leonard, for Da, a memory play about a man traveling back to the suburbs of Dublin to cope with the death of his adopted father.
Cicely Tyson and James Earl Jones in the 2015 revival of The Gin Game:
8. Follies and the 2012 Revivals category
For whatever reason, Follies has particularly bad Tonys luck, as we also discuss below. Its revival in 2011, starring Bernadette Peters, Jan Maxwell, and Elaine Paige, was not a major commercial success, but it was expected to win the Best Revival category against Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Porgy & Bess. Instead, the Diane Paulus-directed Porgy won the statue.
Norm Lewis, Audra McDonald, and the company of Porgy & Bess perform at the 2012 Tonys:
The always delightful Danny Burstein performs a song from Follies at the 2012 Tonys broadcast:
7. Children of a Lesser God wins Best Play – 1980
Best known for its 1986 film adaptation starring Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God was a watershed moment for portrayals of Deaf people in theater, exploring the complex issue of Deaf schools insisting students learn to speak, instead of using ASL. Its original star Phyllis Frelich was the first Deaf person ever to win a Tony Award. It beat out Talley’s Folly, a romance by Lanford Wilson that won the Pulitzer and was expected to win, and Bent, a gut wrenching drama about queer people in Nazi concentration camps by Martin Sherman.
Children of a Lesser God was also revived on Broadway in 2018, with direction by Kenny Leon:
6. Marissa Jaret Winokur wins Best Actress
While Hairspray was expected to win Best Musical in 2003, Bernadette Peters was the favorite to win the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance as Mama Rose in Gypsy. Peters had previously won for Song and Dance and Annie Get Your Gun. But it was Marissa Janet Winokur, in her Broadway principal debut as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, who ended up winning.
Marissa’s acceptance speech:
5. Kinky Boots wins Best Musical
Prevailing wisdom said that Matilda, like the many British mega-musicals before it, was going to sweep the 2013 Tony awards. In a battle between the lovably sassy British drag queens and the lovably sassy British schoolchildren (only in New York!), it was the American-produced Kinky Boots that won out. Why? Perhaps its surprise win at the Drama League Awards earlier that month moved the needle, or perhaps the almost entirely American Tony voter pool wanted to support one of its own. While both shows were uplifting, Kinky Boots’ pro-LGBTQ+ rights message may have resonated extra hard. (Matilda ended up just fine though – it ran for four years on Broadway, and is still open in the West End.)
4. 2007 Best Actor in a Musical
Theater fans are still arguing over whether Raúl Esparza should have won for Company over David Hyde Pierce for Curtains. Esparza gave a heart wrenching performance as Bobby in John Doyle’s stripped down reimagining of the Sondheim classic. While the rest of the cast played their own instruments throughout the show, Esparza-as-Bobby only sits down in front of a piano to accompany himself in the finale, “Being Alive.” Sondheim is notoriously tricky for pianists, and to also act and sing it at the same time is a rare feat:
But it was beloved Frasier star David Hyde Pierce who won out, for his portrayal of a sensitive and theater-obsessed police detective in Curtains. Pierce, who had put himself into musical theater bootcamp to prepare for his debut in Spamalot a few years prior, may have been helped by his reputation as the nicest person in showbusiness, and the goodwill he had amassed by choosing to come back to Broadway after winning four Emmys for Frasier. Below, DHP and the company of Curtains perform at the Tonys:
3. 1972 – Follies loses best musical
A piece of Tonys trivia that always surprises theater lovers: Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece Follies did not win the 1972 Tony Award for Best Musical. That award went to Two Gentlemen of Verona, a groovy Shakspeare adaptation by Galt McDermot, the composer behind Hair, in collaboration with playwright John Guare. It also beat out heavyweights like Grease and Ain’t Supposed to Die A Natural Death, and Jesus Christ Superstar wasn’t even nominated in the category.There are a few theories for why this happened: first, 2 Gents is a much frothier, more optimistic show than Follies. It was a diverting entertainment that left audiences joyful, while Follies matched the dark reality of the national mood amidst the Vietnam war, Watergate, and Greatest Generation discontent. 2 Gents takes a firm antiwar stance, but it didn’t confront middle-aged Tony voters with their unhappy marriages they way Follies did. At the same time, voters may have picked 2 Gents to save face after Hair was a massive cultural moment back in 1968 but didn’t win any Tonys, making the awards seem out of touch.
2 Gents was revived off-Broadway in 2005 at the Delacorte with Norm Lewis, Oscar Isaac, Rosario Dawson, John Cariani, and Renee Elise Goldsberry. Here’s Goldsberry and Lewis performing “Night Letter” from that production:
2. Nine beats Dreamgirls
Dreamgirls was an instant, massive smash when it opened to rave reviews in December of 1981. Loosely based on the story of Diana Ross and The Supremes, and with an energetic Motown-inspired score, the production starred Jennifer Holliday and Sheryl Lee Ralph. Nine, a baroque exploration of an Italian film director’s psychosexual whirlwind based on Federico Fellini’s film 8½, had its first *workshop* performance in February of 1982, and opened on Broadway the day of the Tonys cutoff in May. Dreamgirls, directed by Michael Bennett of A Chorus Line fame,was at the Shubert-owned Imperial, and Nine played at the Nederlander-owned Rodgers right next door, and was directed by Tommy Tune. Even juicier, Bennett and Tune had once been dear friends, with Bennett having taken Tune under his wing (if you can take someone who’s 6’6” under your wing.) When Nine was quickly announced to open in the 1981-1982 season, on the final day of Tonys eligibility no less, Bennett called Tune and begged/threatened him to take the show out of town and bring it to New York next year instead. Tune refused. So the story goes, during the Tonys campaigning period in May 1982, the Dreamgirls team refused to step into restaurants the Nine people went to, and vice-versa. The American Theatre Wing, the producer of the Tony Awards, amped up the drama by seating the teams on opposite sides of the Imperial Theatre for the ceremony in June. The producers of Nine pushed their narrative as the scrappy show that could, and that Dreamgirls, backed by the mighty Shubert Organization, didn’t need – or deserve – a vote. Many in the industry were grateful for how fierce the competition got, since Broadway hadn’t had a huge hit since 1975’s A Chorus Line, and the brewing feud got lots of press. While Dreamgirls won many awards at the ceremony, including Best Actress for Jennifer Holliday, Nine shocked the world and won Best Musical. It ran for two years on Broadway, and was also revived in 2003 – when it won again, for Best Revival. Dreamgirls ran for four years, and was only briefly revived in 1987, although its historical impact as a Broadway show with three-dimensional roles for Black women and the way it tackles fatphobia, racism, and colorism in the music industry makes Nine’s womanizer-genius focus look a bit hollow in retrospect.
Jennifer Holliday brings down the house with “I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”:
The cast of Nine performs at the Tonys:
Avenue Q bests Wicked
Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked was the enormous smash of the 2003-2004 Broadway season, its creative team and producers all established industry veterans. Avenue Q, a weirder but better-reviewed show by then-unknowns Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx, and Jeff Whitty, wasn’t expected to do well at the Tonys, or last longer than a few months on Broadway. In spring 2004, the country was also gearing up for the 2004 presidential election, and the Avenue Q producers crafted a campaign that both parodied politics and spoke to voters directly: “Vote Your Heart,” pleaded the red, white, and blue posters and buttons, and the puppets even participated in a mock debate. The producers were using a strategy first used by Nine in 1982, the last time a Best Musical race was this excruciating (see below). They appealed to the Tony voters, all 700 or so of them, to support the underdog, the subtext being that Wicked would do well regardless of whether it won, while a Best Musical win could make or break Avenue Q’s future. The campaign worked, and the little puppet show written by newcomers won not just Best Musical, but Best Book and Score of a Musical as well. Avenue Q ran on Broadway for 6 years, and Off-Broadway for another 10. Wicked seems to be doing okay too.
Note the shock on the producer’s faces when they announce that Avenue Q won: