The Walt Disney Company is a seemingly unstoppable cultural juggernaut that has insinuated its way into every possible form of entertainment. As of 2019, four of the 17 top grossing musicals of all time have been Disney productions, which is significant because Disney has only been producing musicals on Broadway for 25 years.
Nevertheless, the Mouse House does not yet have the monopoly on quality musical theater content. Here are some of the most popular shows ever on Broadway that have nothing to do with Disney, or at least, they didn’t at the time that they first debuted. This list was curated on the basis of total revenues, attendance figures, positive Broadway play reviews, and cultural significance.
Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, “Wicked” tells the story of the 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz” from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West, here named Elphaba. Fans of the novel will be pleased to see that Elphaba retains her sympathetic characterization but will be surprised by the ending, which differs significantly from the book.
- Phantom of the Opera
The 1911 novel by Gaston Leroux has seen countless adaptations into various formats throughout the decades. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is perhaps second only to the 1925 silent film version starring Lon Chaney in terms of popularity. “Phantom” has been running nearly 25 years and is the only show on Broadway to exceed 10,000 performances in a single run.
The life of the United States’ first treasury secretary may have only been the obvious subject for a hip-hop musical to one man, Broadway scribe Lin-Manuel Miranda. Fortunately, he figuratively put a pencil to his temple and connected it to his brain to bring the Revolutionary War hero and framer of the U.S. Constitution back into the public consciousness at a watershed moment when the founding father’s insights into government and politics have become acutely relevant.
- Les Miserables
Another musical with revolutionary themes, this one takes place in 19th century France and is based on the novel by Victor Hugo. Dealing with themes of poverty, cruelty, compassion, and ultimately redemption, it contains some of the most beautiful ballads ever sung on a Broadway stage, including “Bring Him Home,” “I Dreamed a Dream,” and “On My Own.”
Of the shows on this list, the first three are still running on Broadway. Tickets can sometimes be hard to come by, but if you have the means, you can witness them in all their glory without having to pay the Mouse a single cent.