Timeless Classics: Longest-Running Broadway Shows of All Time

If a show makes it to Broadway, that’s a feat in itself. To stay on Broadway — and run for hundreds, if not thousands of performances — is a huge honor that only a handful of shows have achieved.

Some productions earn immediate Tony Awards glory, basking in the spotlight of critical acclaim, while others carve out a niche as beloved cult classics or bid farewell after a fleeting moment under the lights. It takes something particularly special for a show to gain enough momentum to outlive any given awards season and become a true Broadway phenomenon.

Among the realm of such Broadway legends is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, which reigns supreme as the longest-running musical in Broadway’s illustrious history. With an impressive 13,981 performances at The Majestic Theatre, the Phantom held sway until its final bow in April 2023. Though the curtain fell on Phantom’s remarkable 35-year run, other enduring shows continue to chip away at its formidable legacy.

We’re pulling back the curtain on Broadway’s long-running sensations, detailing what makes these productions timeless. Here are the five longest-running Broadway productions of all time — let the show begin!

Loading Events

5. Cats

Number of Performances: 7,485

Opening Date: October 7, 1982

Closing Date: September 10, 2000

Address: The Winter Garden Theatre, 1634 Broadway, New York, NY 10019

Jellicles can and jellicles do! Cats was a runaway hit when it premiered on Broadway in the early ‘80s, and with the benefit of hindsight, it was something of an unexpected one. A musical based on a 1939 book of feline-centric poems by T.S. Eliot? Told all in song? As the cats spend a night making the “Jellicle choice” to send one of their own up to the Heaviside Layer and be reincarnated? Ok, sure, why not!

Despite its rather loose head-scratcher of a plot, Cats was unstoppable through the late 20th century and appealed to all ages with its mix of balletic — and often acrobatic — choreography, over-the-top costuming and, you know, the actors on stage letting loose as a herd of cats. The eclectic musical numbers were particularly memorable as well, ranging from the rock of “The Rum Tum Tugger” and pastiche of “Gus: The Theatre Cat” to Grizabella’s heartbreaking ballad “Memory.”

4. Wicked

Number of Performances: 7,855 (and counting)

Opening Date: October 30, 2003

Address: The Gershwin Theatre, 222 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019

One short day in the Emerald City? More like two decades and counting! In October 2023, Wicked celebrated 20 years on Broadway with no signs of stopping the magic any time soon. By now, the story of the Tony-winning sensation is iconic, telling the tale of the Witches of Oz long before Dorothy dropped in. And the show’s music is no less beloved by generations of theater kids, from the wide-eyed optimism of “The Wizard and I” and fizzy confidence boost of “Popular” to Act I showstopper “Defying Gravity” and closing duet “For Good,” which warms and breaks audiences’ hearts all at once.

While Wicked continues to delight audiences of all ages eight times a week at the Gershwin Theatre, it’ll soon get a surefire boost from its long-awaited two-part big-screen adaptation starring Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, the first film of which will hit theaters nationwide on November 27.

Get tickets to Wicked on Ticketmaster.

3. The Lion King

Number of Performances: 10,316 (and counting)

Opening Date: November 13, 1997

Address: The Minksoff Theatre, 200 W 45th St, New York, NY 10036

The circle of life has certainly stood the test of time ever since The Lion King debuted on Broadway in 1997. Directed by Julie Taymor with music by Elton John and Tim Rice, the stage adaptation of Disney’s cherished 1994 animated feature may be the third longest running musical in history, but it’s already the highest-grossing Broadway production of all time having raked in more than $1.8 billion.

Part of The Lion King’s record-setting success is the pure majesty of the production, filled with actors portraying Simba, Nala, Scar, Mufasa, Rafiki, Timon, Pumbaa and more favorite characters and gigantic, hollow puppets turning the Minskoff Theatre into an eye-popping African savanna to the tunes of “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” “He Lives In You” and, of course, “Hakuna Matata.”

Get tickets to The Lion King on Ticketmaster.

2. Chicago (1996 revival)

Number of Performances: 10,697 (and counting)

Opening Date: November 14, 1996

Address: The Ambassador Theatre, 219 W 49th St, New York, NY 10019

Now that the Phantom, Christine and Raoul have passed the point of no return, Chicago has pop-six-squished its way into the spotlight as the current longest-running show on the Great White Way.

For years, the murderous Kander and Ebb revival (which reopened in 1996 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, then the Shubert Theatre, before moving to its current home at the Ambassador Theatre) has benefitted from a rotating roster of celebrities being booked in the cell block. Renée Zellweger, Catherine-Zeta Jones and Richard Gere may have starred in the 2002 Oscar-winning movie musical, but everyone from Brandy, Ashlee Simpson and Erika Jayne have played Roxie Hart with Patti LaBelle, Kandi Burruss and Jinkx Monsoon as Matron “Mama” Morton and the likes of Taye Diggs, Usher and Colman Domingo as razzle dazzle man Billy Flynn.

Currently, Vanderpump Rules star Ariana Madix is riding her post-Scandoval fame to new heights in her Broadway debut as Roxie through April 7, 2024, while two-time RuPaul’s Drag Race winner and all-around drag legend Monsoon is set to return as Mama Morton for a run of 20 shows this summer after making her debut in early 2023.

Get tickets to Chicago on Ticketmaster.

1. The Phantom of the Opera

Number of Performances: 13,981

Opening Date: January 26, 1988

Closing Date: April 16, 2023

Address: The Majestic Theatre, 245 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036

The Phantom of the Opera remains the crown jewel when considering Broadway shows that have gone the distance. For more than 35 years, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s transfixed audiences with the story of ingénue Christine Daaé’s rise to stardom at the Paris Opera House thanks to the tutelage and dark machinations of her “Angel of Music,” the mysterious Phantom who lives in the underbelly of the theater.

Nowadays, Phantom represents something of a bygone era on Broadway: a lavish melodrama filled with eye-popping spectacle, a truly tortured love triangle and a score rooted in opera rather than musical theater. There’s no more magical image than the moment the Phantom takes Christine through the mirror and down into the depths of the Opera House by boat as the pair sing the show’s famous title song. And no other show on Broadway involves a giant chandelier crashing down onto the audience. The curtain may have fallen on Phantom, but  “The Music of the Night” will live on in the hearts of theater lovers for years to come.

Loading Events


You Might Like

Arts & Theatre

Ease on Down the Road: Top Broadway Shows in April 2024

As the Tony Awards deadline fast approacheth, a fresh Broadway season is in full swing, with dozens of musicals and plays opening throughout the spring. The ...

Arts & Theatre

Step Inside: Lena Horne Theatre, A Venue Worth Losing Your Head Over

Divorced, beheaded, live! Home to the popular concert musical SIX, you’ll find the Lena Horne Theatre on the north end of Manhattan’s Theater District....

Arts & Theatre

Can’t-Miss Touring Broadway Shows to See This Year

Not in NYC? Not a problem. A promising assortment of amazing shows continue to hit the road after (or amid) impressive runs on Broadway — and we’ve rounded u...