The Secret Musical Fountain of Youth

What is the secret for a musical’s long run? Is it casting choices? Is it the time when it opened? Is it what the competition looks like? These all have a varying impact on the number of performances a show does before it closes. But there is one element which all ten of the top running Broadway shows have in common which could be the secret to success . . .


The top 10 long-running shows on Broadway are:

  1. The Phantom of the Opera
  2. Chicago
  3. The Lion King
  4. Cats
  5. Les Miserablés
  6. A Chorus Line
  7. Oh! Calcutta!
  8. Mamma Mia!
  9. Beauty and the Beast
  10. Rent

With the top three shows are still running today. And if you want your show to end up in the top ten, then surely you need to learn from the best!

So what do all of these long-running shows have in common? Is it the award winning composers and lyricists? No – Rent and Les Miserablés were the first big hits for their production team. Is it because they reach out to a certain demographic? No – within these ten shows there is something for everybody with Mamma Mia! for the jukebox fans, Cats and Phantom for the traditionalists, The Lion King for the families and Rent for the rebellious under 30s.

The answer is a lot more cinematic . . . each of these shows released a movie either while their show was still running on Broadway or before it opened!

There is an inherent fear around capturing a live performance for public release. It is assumed that potential audience members will choose that option over the live alternative because of the two greatest motivators in customer behaviour; time and convenience. But this doesn’t seem to be the case – especially since none of these shows closed within weeks of releasing a recorded version. Many, in fact, were spurned on to greater revenue heights for the year following the film release!

So why is the movie release important? It has surely come about because the producers want to tap into a larger pool of people with a product that has already proven itself successful. But the benefits extend beyond a simple revenue raiser for the production.

Each of the top ten long-running shows have become mainstream musicals . . . even Rent and Les Miserablés which would be rather out-of-the-comfort-zone for the non-theatre goer. Releasing these movie versions has essentially given audiences a tester. A low-cost alternative to seeing the show live where seats can cost upwards of $150.00. As such, with the ease of convenience in distribution (no longer do audiences have to be in New York) and the increased accessibility due to price, more audiences are giving them a go and ultimately returning to see it live in a New York theatre extending the show’s longevity!