9 Long-running Broadway Shows Everyone Needs to See Once

These shows have managed to thrive for thousands of performances for a reason.

Times Square by night
Photo: Zsolt Hlinka/Getty Images

Planning your first visit to New York City can be overwhelming. And if your plans include a Broadway show, it can get even more confusing. The good news: As pandemic regulations become less restrictive, theater is staging a major comeback in Manhattan.

In April, 15 shows opened on Broadway, with mega star power on stage, from Daniel Craig in "Macbeth" to Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick in "Plaza Suite." But if it's your first time in Manhattan, a safer bet might be one of the long-running shows that have managed to thrive for thousands of performances.

Here are nine, starting with the oldest, that have been running at least five years.

Ben Crawford as "The Phantom" in "Phantom of The Opera" on Broadway at The Majestic Theater in New York City.
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The Phantom of the Opera

Majestic Theatre, 245 W. 45th St.; thephantomoftheopera.com

The longest-running show in Broadway history has been astonishing audiences with bravura performances — not to mention its crashing chandelier — since Jan. 26, 1988. You'll recognize many of the songs in this musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the story of a mysterious masked maestro who lives beneath the Paris Opera and the soprano who falls under his spell. The 1988 Tony winner for best musical is the perfect show for a romantic weekend.

Chicago

Ambassador Theatre, 219 W. 49 St.; chicagothemusical.com

The revival of the show about two sexy murderesses, set in the jazzy '20s, has been running since 1996, thanks in part to creative — and sometimes surprising — casting. Baywatch alum Pamela Anderson, who plays the leading role through June 5, is getting unexpectedly good reviews. But before she came along others gracing the stage in various parts included Christie Brinkley, Billy Ray Cyrus, Melanie Griffith, George Hamilton, Jennifer Holliday, Huey Lewis, Jerry Springer, Sofia Vergara, and Chandra Wilson. Still, even if there's not a famous name on the marquee, the show is great fun.

The Lion King

Minskoff Theatre, 200 W. 45 St.; lionking.com

The lavish spectacle came to Broadway in 1997, bringing the beloved Disney animated movie to the stage. It's the perfect entertainment if you're bringing the family, as the animals come to life in the form of more than 200 brilliant puppets, including an elephant worked by four actors. (Get an aisle seat if you can, because many of the animals march through the theater.) It's a beautiful show — just be warned that you'll be humming Elton John and Tim Rice songs like "Circle of Life" and "Hakuna Matata" for days.

Ginna Claire Mason and Lindsay Pearce during curtain call of the Broadway reopening of "Wicked" at Gershwin in New York City.
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Wicked

Gershwin Theatre, 22 W. 51 St.; wickedthemusical.com

In the Land of Oz, pre-Dorothy, two witches — the nerdy (and very green) Elphaba and the extremely popular Glinda — become unlikely friends while at university. Many critics didn't love the show when it opened in 2003, but guess what? Word of mouth beat back the mixed reviews and the show has soared with gorgeous ballads ("Defying Gravity" and "For Good") and a life-affirming message about friendship and standing up for what you believe in.

The Book of Mormon marquee at the entrance to the Eugene O'Neill Theatre.
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The Book of Mormon

Eugene O'Neill Theatre, 230 W. 49 St.; bookofmormonbroadway.com

If you're on a business trip, this raunchy, irreverent show by the writers of South Park makes for an interesting night out with colleagues. Running since 2011, the satirical show is set in Uganda, where two Mormon missionaries try to spread the teachings of the church to local residents more concerned about famine, HIV/AIDS, and the actions of a warlord. Following the pandemic shutdown, writers tweaked the show to, as The New York Times put it, "elevate the main Black female character and clarify the satire." Note, the show remains unsuitable for children under 17.

Aladdin

New Amsterdam Theatre, 214 W. 42 St.; aladdinthemusical.com

Another good choice for the family, the Disney classic is stunning — yes, the magic carpet really flies — and the story is heartwarming as ever. The music is terrific; the stage version, which opened in 2014, adds new songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman written for the film but not used. But the show truly lives on the energy of the Genie, whose high-octane "Friend Like Me" still stops the show after all these years.

A view of a newly installed "September 14" sign is displayed on the Hamilton marquee at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in Times Square
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Hamilton

Richard Rogers Theatre, 226 W. 46 St.; hamiltonmusical.com

The hottest ticket in town for years after its 2015 opening, you can finally get tickets to Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony and Pulitzer–winning musical without requiring a second mortgage. With a rap-influenced score and a diverse cast of actors portraying Alexander Hamilton and other American founding fathers, the show is probably the most fun you'll ever have at a history lesson. Even if you saw the Disney+ movie, there's nothing like, as they sing in the show, being "in the room where it happens."

Dear Evan Hansen

Music Box Theatre, 239 W. 45 St.; dearevanhansen.com

An endearing and thought-provoking look at how a teen manages his social anxiety, the show (running since 2016) makes for some great talking points if you're traveling with high schoolers. But it's not light entertainment — the show deals with divorce, bullying, and suicide and is not appropriate for young children. Be prepared to have it in your head for days, along with its haunting anthem of inclusion, "You Will Be Found."

A view outside "Come From Away" at The Schoenfeld Theatre in New York City.
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Come From Away

Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, 236 W. 45 St.; comefromaway.com

This powerful musical, running since 2017, tells the story of how the intrepid residents of the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, came to the aid of thousands of travelers left stranded when their planes were forced to land there after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The show is a testament to the power of kindness in the face of devastating tragedy, and a lot of what you'll see on stage really happened (even some of the names are the same). Bring tissues.

How to Get Tickets

The simplest way to get advance tickets for Broadway is to consult the show's website, which in most cases will direct you to Telecharge or Ticketmaster. Get on the show's mailing list — you might get offered discounts. Or check out TheaterMania, TodayTix, or StubHub for other possible discounts. If you decide last minute, go directly to the box office at the theater on the day of the show and see if there have been any returns. Or have a real New York experience and line up for day-of-show discounted tickets at the TDF booth in Times Square (Broadway and 47th Street).

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