With the fifth Broadway revival of Oklahoma! currently on the boards and the fifth revival of West Side Story opening later this season, we decided to take a look at which musicals have graced Broadway marquees the most.
A few caveats: If we looked at all of Broadway history, the list would be overwhelmingly dominated by the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, many of which enjoyed multiple simultaneous productions during early Broadway history when copyright law didn’t exist and “bootleg” productions were rampant. As a result, we started our list with the show that, to many, created modern musical theatre: Show Boat. Only shows that premiered on or after December 27, 1927—the date Show Boat opened on Broadway—were considered for this list.
Also important to realize is that throughout the 1950s, City Center (now home to the Encores! concert series) presented a number of brief summer revivals of popular musicals, which, while not major revivals, were considered Broadway productions nonetheless. Those productions are included in this list.
Without further ado, here are the most-revived musicals in Broadway history in the last 90 years:
Musicals with four Broadway revivals, in alphabetical order:
12. Man of La Mancha, music by Mitch Leigh, lyrics by Joe Darion, book by Dale Wasserman
Premiered in 1965
Revivals in 1972, 1977, 1992, and 2002
11. My Fair Lady, music by Frederick Loewe, book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Premiered in 1956
Revivals in 1976, 1981, 1993, and 2018
10. Pal Joey, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart, book by John O’Hara
Premiered in 1940
Revivals in 1952, 1963, 1976, and 2008
Musicals with five Broadway revivals, in alphabetical order:
9. Carousel, music by Richard Rodgers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Premiered in 1945
Revivals in 1949, 1954, 1957, 1994, and 2018
6. Oklahoma!, music by Richard Rodgers, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Premiered in 1943
Revivals in 1951, 1953, 1979, 2002, and 2019
4. West Side Story, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents
Premiered in 1957
Revivals in 1960, 1964, 1980, 2009, and 2020
Musicals with six Broadway revivals, in alphabetical order:
3. Show Boat, music by Jerome Kern, book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II
Premiered in 1927
Revivals in 1932, 1946, 1948, 1954, 1983, and 1994
Though Oklahoma! changed everything for the genre of musical theatre, the show built on work Oscar Hammerstein began when he wrote Show Boat. Based on the Edna Ferber novel of the same name, Show Boat combined the forms of musical comedy and operetta to create the first true dramatic piece of musical theatre. It also featured one of the great classic scores, containing such songs as “Make Believe,” “Ol’ Man River,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” “You Are Love,” “Why Do I Love You?,” and “Bill.” Show Boat’s first revival came in 1936, a re-mount of the original production that starred much of the original Broadway cast. A 1946 revival offered a new production with slight revisions to better match the way musicals were produced by that time. City Center presented two brief revivals in 1948 and 1954, after which Show Boat was not seen on Broadway until 1983. The original orchestra books and scores to Show Boat had been lost for decades until they were discovered in a Queens warehouse in the early 1980s. This discovery allowed Houston Grand Opera to produce a version of Show Boat that reverted to more of the original 1927 version. After playing Houston and Washington, D.C., this production came to Broadway in 1983. A little over ten years later, Hal Prince made his own revision of the show, incorporating elements from almost every version of Show Boat—plus some material cut from the original production. Prince’s revival, which opened in 1994, remains Show Boat’s most successful revival to date; it won six 1995 Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical and ran for 947 performances.
Adapted from John Gay’s 1728 The Beggar’s Opera, The Threepenny Opera premiered in Germany as Die Dreigroschenoper in 1928, launching the career of Weill’s wife, Lotte Lenya. The work became a success all over Europe; when Threepenny Opera premiered on Broadway, it had already been translated into 18 languages. The work first came to America as a film, which opened in 1931. An English translation of the piece opened on Broadway in 1933, but only ran for 12 performances. The show found success in 1954, when composer and lyricist Marc Blitzstein (The Cradle Will Rock) wrote his own adaptation of the show. The new version opened Off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel theatre, with a cast that included Bea Arthur, Lotte Lenya, Jerry Orbach, Ed Asner, and Charlotte Rae. This production was so successful it moved to Broadway a few months later, where it played 96 performances and then moved back Off-Broadway. The same production returned to Broadway again in 1955, where it then remained for over six years. Blitzstein’s translations of “The Ballad of Mack the Knife” and “Pirate Jenny” led to both songs becoming standards, firmly establishing Threepenny Opera’s place in musical theatre history. Over a decade later, another new version of the show’s text was made by Ralph Manheim and John Willett for a run at the outdoor Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. This production, which starred Ellen Greene and Raúl Julia, later transferred to the Vivian Beaumont Theatre on Broadway, where it ran for 307 performances. The show returned to Broadway in 1989, this time billed as 3 Penny Opera, with another new translation by Michael Feingold. This production starred Sting, along with Georgia Brown, Maureen McGovern, and Kim Criswell. Roundabout Theatre Company produced Broadway’s most recent Threepenny in 2006. Actor and playwright Wallace Shawn (probably best known today as the voice of Rex in the Toy Story movies) provided the adaptation for this go-around, with a cast that included Alan Cumming, Nellie McKay, Cyndi Lauper, Jim Dale, and Ana Gasteyer.
And the winner, with seven Broadway revivals:
Based on DuBose Heyward’s novel and stage play Porgy about a disabled black beggar who lives in the fictional South Carolina slum Catfish Row, Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess was billed as a folk opera. The writing style marked a departure for the Gershwins, who were mostly known on Broadway for their more traditional musical comedies. Despite the operatic asperations of the work, they decided to open Porgy and Bess on Broadway, where it played a brief run in 1935. Though some of the score was immediately popular—most notably “Summertime”—the work did not seem to catch on with early audiences. A drastically cut version of the work, produced by Cheryl Crawford, played New Jersey summer stock in 1942, later transferring to Broadway where it played the better part of a year. This production returned for two brief Broadway runs in 1943 and 1944. A 1952 production that restored most of the cuts Crawford had made toured Europe in 1952, playing Broadway’s Ziegfeld theatre for 305 performances in 1953. The piece then entered a dormant period, not receiving a major staging until Houston Grand Opera’s landmark 1976 production that truly established the significance of the piece for the first time. The first major production to be produced by an opera company, this version restored the complete original score, including material cut even from the first Broadway production. The piece was being definitively presented as opera, as had been Gershwin’s original vision. Houston Grand Opera’s production dramatically influenced public perception and opinion of the work, which has now become a true American classic. This production, directed by Jack O’Brien, came to Broadway in 1976, where it ran for 122 performances and won the 1977 Tony Award for Most Innovative Production of a Revival. A new production again directed by Jack O’Brien but also featuring new choreography by George Faison played Radio City Music Hall for 45 performances in 1983, a production that was deemed Tony eligible and received two 1983 Tony Award nominations. A 2011 production with a new book adaptation by Suzan-Lori Parks famously tried to make a version of Porgy and Bess that could be fully at home on the musical theatre stage. Spoken dialogue replaced the work’s original recitatives, and new orchestrations were made by William David Brohn and Christopher Jahnke to replace Gershwin’s originals. The production’s all-star cast included Audra McDonald as Bess, Norm Lewis as Porgy, and David Alan Grier as Sporting Life. The production won Best Revival of a Musical at the 2012 Tony Awards, and Audra McDonald won Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical.