The Longest Running Broadway Show
While some Broadway shows come and go relatively quickly, others have some serious staying power. That’s the case for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, The Phantom of the Opera, which currently holds the title of Broadway’s longest-running show. The show opened on January 26, 1988, and it went on to win seven Tony Awards that year, including Best Musical.
The Phantom of the Opera is an elaborate show that requires a ton of resources to perform. The Majestic Theatre, where the show is performed on Broadway, uses 150 trap doors in the production. Each performance also requires a massive team of 125 cast, crew, orchestra members, and house personnel. And the attention to detail extends to the wardrobe as well. Each performance features a total of 230 costumes and 111 wigs, made of human, yak, and synthetic hair.
Despite the massive amount of resources that are required to make The Phantom of the Opera happen, the effort is well worth it. The show has been the largest single generator of income and jobs in Broadway and U.S. theatrical history. And the worldwide impact of the production is even greater. The Phantom of the Opera has played to over 140 million people in 35 countries around the world with an estimated total gross of $6 billion in worldwide box office sales.
Disney’s Biggest Broadway Success
Another Broadway mainstay is Disney’s The Lion King. The show opened in November 1997, making it the third longest-running show on Broadway, behind The Phantom of the Opera and the 1996 revival of Chicago. But despite its shorter run, The Lion King currently holds the title of the highest-grossing show in Broadway history at $1.68 billion. One factor that helped The Lion King earn the crown is its average ticket price of $107, compared to The Phantom of the Opera at $54 and Chicago at $73.
Much like The Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King is an elaborate production with plenty of details for the audience to enjoy. The Lion King is known for its use of puppets, with 232 seen throughout the show. The largest puppets are the giraffes that appear during “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King,” which stand at 18 feet tall. These giraffe puppets are operated by actors on stilts. And the giraffes aren’t the only characters with difficult costumes to navigate. Pumbaa’s costume weighs 45 pounds and is worn like a backpack.
In addition to the Broadway box office success of The Lion King, the show also took home 6 Tony Awards in 1998, including Best Musical. The show’s director Julie Taymor also became the first woman to win a Tony Award for Direction of a Musical. Between its critical and financial success, The Lion King proves that Disney is a powerhouse of content, even beyond the iconic Mickey Mouse and Disney Princesses.
A Twist On A Classic Tale
Since debuting in October 2003, Wicked has given Broadway audiences a look into The Wizard of Oz from another perspective. The story focuses on Elphaba, otherwise known as the Wicked Witch of the West. Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the music and lyrics for the show, was inspired to bring this story to the stage after reading Gregory Maguire’s book Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.
Maguire is also to credit for naming the lead character, Elphaba. In L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, the Wicked Witch of the West wasn’t given a name. As a nod to the author of the original stories, Maguire used Baum’s initials to craft the character’s name, and thus, L.F.B became “Elphaba.” Idina Menzel is known for her award-winning role as Elphaba on Broadway, but her experience ended on an unfortunate note. Menzel missed her final performance as Elphaba after falling several feet through a trap door during a show the day before.
Wicked is still going strong on Broadway, with the show set to return on September 14th. But if you can’t make it to a live performance of the show, don’t worry. The musical is set to get a movie adaptation in the near future, with In the Heights director Jon M. Chu signed on to helm the project.
Martin Luther King Jr.