There is no question that theater is one of the most popular forms of entertainment. Every year, new plays and musicals are produced, each hoping to become the next big hit.
This blog post will take a look at some of the most popular plays of all time. Whether you’re a theater lover or simply curious about what’s been successful in the past, you’ll want to read on!
1. The Mousetrap
The longest-running play in history is also British: Agatha Christie’s whodunit The Mousetrap. This murder mystery has been entertaining audiences since 1952 when it made its debut in London’s West End under the direction of Peter Cotes. It only abruptly ended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The play began life as a short radio play. It was written as a birthday present for Queen Mary, the consort of King George V. The story was based on the real-life case of Dennis O’Neill, who died after he and his brother were abused while in foster care.
2. Romeo and Juliet
What’s a list of the most popular plays without one from Shakespeare? Probably the most notable of them all is Romeo and Juliet.
Romeo and Juliet is perhaps one of Shakespeare’s best-known tragedies due to its timeless themes of romance, family conflict, and deep sadness. It follows the story of two young lovers whose deaths ultimately bring peace to their families.
3. Sound of Music
The Sound of Music is one of the most popular musicals in history that it eventually become a hit movie. Thousands of productions of this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic have been performed since it debuted on Broadway in 1959.
The play tells the story of Maria, a young woman who steps in with her family to become a governess for seven children orphaned by their mother’s death during World War II. The story is magical and heartwarming, and the score is a tapestry of some of the finest songs in musical theater history.
4. Phantom of the Opera
Phantom of the Opera, an Andrew Lloyd Webber classic about a mysterious “phantom” who haunts a Paris opera house, comes in at number four on our list. The play itself is the longest-running musical in Broadway history and has been produced thousands of times on stages around the world.
Billy Flynn, what’s it gonna be? This Tony Award-winning musical about razzle-dazzle criminals who find a way to get off scot-free is one of Broadway’s most popular shows. Inspired by the real-life 1920s murder cases of Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner, Chicago has been entertaining audiences since 1975.
Grease is the word! And a word to the wise: don’t mess with Danny Zuko, Sandy Olsen, or any other characters in the coming-of-age musical that captures teenage life during the 1950s.
Since debuting on Broadway in 1972, this show has been performed thousands of times all over the world and is one of the longest-running shows in history.
7. Les Miserables
The story of Jean Valjean and the tragic events that led him to steal a loaf of bread has been thrilling audiences since it first opened in Paris in 1985. Les Miserables tells the tale of redemption, love, and determination as Valjean tries to escape his dark past by living life with honor.
Cats is a record-holder for the longest-running show on Broadway with a staggering over 8,000 performances before Phantom beat it. It was first performed in 1982 and ran for a decade before closing in 2000.
The play tells the whimsical tale of a tribe of cats known as Jellicles and their special night where they make an annual journey to the Heavyside Layer, a mystical land where they believe they go when they die.
9. The Wizard of Oz
The most popular soundtrack in history is also the most popular film score ever written: The Wizard of Oz. This musical masterpiece, composed by Harold Arlen and EY Harburg, has been performed countless times on television and in theaters all around the world since it came out in 1939. Since then, it’s been remade as a television special, a Broadway play, and a 3-D movie extravaganza.
10. Mary Poppins
While it may not be the most popular musical of all time, Mary Poppins is definitely one of the most beloved because of its stunning songs and magical story.
Unlike other plays on the list, this was a movie first back in 1964 starring Julie Andrews playing the iconic English nanny who flew through the air with an umbrella to take care of the Banks children in London. It later became a musical in 2004 with its first production at West End.
The next time you want to get your feet wet on theater watching, you can always begin with the most beloved such as the ones on the list.