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The 9 Longest-Running Broadway Musical Revivals

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |


In honor of ‘Chicago’ celebrating 9,000 performances

Chicago, a musical about an ambitious housewife who dreams of becoming a star and uses her experiences with the Illinois penal system to build a case for her celebrity, is the longest-running revival in musical history, having recently celebrated 9,000 performances. Staged as a vaudeville to tell the story of Roxie Hart, the current production – which, you may not have realized, has been running since it opened in 1996 – remains a must-see, even after its 9,000 plus performances. In honor of Chicago’s revival record, let’s take a look at the nine longest-running musical revivals to play on a Broadway stage. 

Charlotte D’Amboise as Roxie Hart in the record-breaking musical ‘Chicago’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel)

Charlotte D’Amboise as Roxie Hart in the record-breaking musical ‘Chicago’ (Photo: Jeremy Daniel)

Show Boat (1994)
947 performances

Harold Prince’s acclaimed 1994 revival of the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein, II/ P.G. Wodehouse musical Show Boat, based on Edna Ferber’s sprawling novel of the same name, proved that this revered classic was just as powerful and moving as it was when it originally premiered in 1927. The epic story of a traveling theater troupe that sails up and down the rivers of the Midwest bravely tackled topics of racial inequality and miscegenation, setting a new standard for musical theater storytelling. This revival won five Tony Awards, including Best Revival, Best Choreography (Susan Stroman) and Best Director (Prince).

 

Les Miserables (2014)
1,024 performances

The original 1987 Broadway run of Les Miserables ran an astronomical 6,680 performances, and remains in the top ten longest-running musicals of all time – currently holding at #5 – so it should be no surprise that the 2014 revival appears on this list. There is just something about the struggling characters of Victor Hugo’s novel, paired with the score by Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer that speaks to the hope in each of us. Ramin Karimloo, Will Swenson, Caissie Levy and Nikki M. James were all part of the revival’s talented cast.

 

Annie Get Your Gun (1999)
1,045 performances

With a score by Irving Berlin and a book by Herbert and Dorothy Fields, the original 1946 production of Annie Get Your Gun was an unqualified hit starring the late, great Ethel Merman. The musical follows the story of sharpshooter Annie Oakley, from her humble beginnings through her rise to stardom. The 1999 revival of the show featured a revised book by celebrated librettist Peter Stone. Graciela Daniele directed Bernadette Peters in the title role, followed by a string of star replacements that included Susan Lucci, Cheryl Ladd, Reba McEntire and Crystal Bernard.

 

Guys & Dolls (1992)
1,143 performances

Director Jerry Zaks found every ounce of humor and charm in Guys & Dolls when the musical was revived in 1992. The musical, with a score by Frank Loesser, is adapted from a series of short stories by Damon Runyon. Loveable gamblers and determined missionaries come head-to-head in Times Square in one of Broadway’s most enduring musical comedies. This revival was particularly lauded for its cast, which included Faith Prince and Nathan Lane

 

Grease (1994)
1,505 performances

The 1994 revival of Grease featured a parade of stars rotating through the production. The show’s headlining star was, of course, Rosie O’Donnell in the role of Rizzo, with Brooke Shields and Linda Blair eventually taking over as replacements. The original production ran 3,388 performances, and a successful film version made Grease a hot ticket when it returned to Broadway with direction and choreography by Jeff Calhoun. Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s infectious score proved to be as fun and danceable as ever. 

 

42nd Street (2001)
1,524 performances)

The original Broadway production of 42nd Street, itself drawing from the song catalogue of Harry Warren and Al Dubin and the handful of films for which they had written, was an enormous success on Broadway, running 3,486 performances. (Not bad for that old tale about the diva star who is injured and the understudy must go on in her place.) A song and dance extravaganza with original choreography by the late Gower Champion (who, in a heartbreaking turn, died on the day of the show’s opening), 42nd Street couldn’t stay away from Broadway for long. The show returned in 2001 with Michael Cumpsty, Kate Levering and Christine Ebersole (winning her first Tony Award) in the leads. Randy Skinner, who was dance assistant for the original production, choreographed the revival.

 

Cabaret (1998)
2,377 performances

An amalgam of the original production, new material and music written for the film version, the 1998 revival of Cabaret found a seedier, darker side to the Kander and Ebb musical that won the Best Musical Tony Award in 1967. The 1998 revival was based on a production that was staged at London’s Donmar Warehouse, under the direction of Sam Mendes, with Rob Marshall co-directing and choreographing for the transfer. The production played in a cabaret-style setting, first at the Henry Miller Theatre and then at Broadway’s Studio 54. Alan Cumming, Natasha Richardson and Ron Rifkin all won Tony Awards for their performances, as did the production, which scored a Best Revival Tony. 

 

Oh! Calcutta! (1976)
5,959 performances

The most well-attended musical revue to ever play Broadway (and also the fleshiest), Oh! Calcutta! is mostly remembered for its ribald sketches on sex, and for its extended sequences of nudity. The original production, conceived by British drama critic Kenneth Tynan, opened in 1970 and ran for 1,314 performances. The revival in 1976, however, blew the original out of the ballpark, lasting 5,959 performances. Both productions were directed by Jacques Levy and choreographed by Margo Sappington. 

 

Chicago (1996)
9,000+ performances

The original Broadway production of Chicago (1975) was a solid hit, running 936 performances, with Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach shining under Bob Fosse’s direction and choreography. That production, however, was somewhat eclipsed by the popularity of the long-running A Chorus Line. The 1996 Broadway revival of Chicago started out as a presentation of City Center’s Encores!, a series that celebrates forgotten, underappreciated musicals. Starring James Naughton, Bebe Neuwirth and Ann Reinking, with choreography by Reinking and direction by Walter Bobbie, the concert was so well-received that it was quickly moved to Broadway, where it has remained ensconced for over two decades. The John Kander and Fred Ebb score remains as sharp and clever as ever, and Ebb and Fosse’s libretto pointed, witty and oozing with satire. Audiences cannot get enough of its “Razzle Dazzle.”

 

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at markrobinsonwrites.com.

 

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