The 10 Best Broadway Musicals of the Decade
Here are our picks for the shows that will stand the test of time.
More than 100 new musicals opened on Broadway over the past 10 years, and we've spent the past few weeks looking back on them all to come up with our favorites of the decade. The voting among our eight editorial staff members got a little contentious at times, but in the end, we were able to come up with a list that pleased us all. Here is our decade-end 10-best list, presented in alphabetical order to avoid any more infighting.
1. Bandstand (2017)
Compared with some of the other titles on this list, Bandstand was a blip on the Broadway radar, only running for 190 total performances. But Rob Taylor and Richard Oberacker's musical told an important story that often gets overlooked in the entertainment industry. Exploring how music helps a group of World War II vets readjust to civilian life, Bandstand deals with topics like PTSD and loss, presenting the struggles of each character with accuracy and sensitivity. It's a shame it didn't run longer (and it's a huge shame that stars Corey Cott and Laura Osnes didn't get Tony nominations), but at least Andy Blankenbuehler's excellent production (for which he won the Best Choreography Tony) was filmed for posterity.
2. The Band's Visit (2018)
The Band's Visit was certainly "something different" for Broadway: a quiet musical based on a quiet Israeli film about a group of musicians stranded in the wrong city, where nothing much happened. No one expected it to land on the Great White Way, but we're glad it did, since it made a Broadway star (and Tony winner) out of Katrina Lenk (for her sultry turn as Dina) and led songwriter David Yazbek to his own long-awaited first Tony. Its blend of sweetness and longing didn't last very long at the Barrymore, but like the band's visit in the show itself, it certainly made an impact.
3. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (2010)
TheaterMania chief critic Zachary Stewart lobbied hard for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson to make our list. In his words, "it presaged the moment of political populism we find the world in today." While Broadway didn't really take to the incendiary piece, which transformed our seventh president into an emo rock star, Bloody Bloody introduced the uptown theater world to book writer and director Alex Timbers, now the mastermind behind Beetlejuice and Moulin Rouge! The Musical, and composer and lyricist Michael Friedman, whose death in 2017 is still a wound from which we haven't recovered. Let's hope a very timely revival is in the works for the start of the roaring (20)20s.
4. The Book of Mormon (2011)
I'll never forget seeing the second preview of The Book of Mormon. It was the best $50 I ever spent (thank you, TheaterMania discount codes), and I laughed my ass off in the last seat of the last row in the balcony. Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and Robert Lopez's incendiary but loving homage to religion was the funniest musical comedy Broadway had seen since The Producers, and there's absolutely no question as to why it's still packing in audiences across the world almost 10 years later.
5. The Bridges of Madison County (2014)
Was there a sexier musical this decade than Jason Robert Brown and Marsha Norman's adaptation of The Bridges of Madison County? If so, I don't want to hear about it. We at TheaterMania just loved this show, particularly Brown's gloriously romantic score (seriously, I've worn out two different CD copies of the cast recording) and the erotically charged central performances of Kelli O'Hara and Steven Pasquale. Many of us saw this show three times, an extraordinary number considering it only played 137 performances, but it was worth it to live in that music.
6. Hadestown (2019)
The greatest (and smartest) Broadway musical of 2019 was Hadestown, Anaïs Mitchell's retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth that was flavored with the sounds of New Orleans jazz and American folk music. Created in collaboration with director Rachel Chavkin, Hadestown is an epic, sexy musical at once visually stunning (Mitchell, Chavkin, and designers Rachel Hauck, Bradley King, Nevin Steinberg, and Jessica Paz all won statues this year) and heartbreaking. That's thanks to wrenching performances by leads Reeve Carney and Eva Noblezada and supporting scene stealers Amber Gray, Patrick Page, and André De Shields, who, at 73, took home his very first Tony Award for his commanding turn as Hermes.
7. Hamilton (2015)
Rarely has a musical entered the public consciousness the way Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton has, a masterful example of the public relations machine at work. But Hamilton — and Miranda himself — deserved all the accolades it received. It's a show for the ages, synthesizing the timeworn traditions of the musical-theater form and the experimental style of hip-hop to create a story about America's past as told by the present. With collaborators Thomas Kail (director), Andy Blankenbuehler (choreography), and Alex Lacamoire (musical direction), Miranda has also created a work that stands up to repeat viewings. You always discover something new, and current leading men Austin Scott and Daniel Breaker are as commanding as original leads Miranda and Leslie Odom Jr.
8. Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 (2016)
Director Rachel Chavkin makes the list a second time with this production — the brainchild of her longtime collaborator, book writer, and composer Dave Malloy. Malloy transformed a small chunk of Tolstoy's War and Peace into a sprawling, immersive "electropop opera," which took over the Imperial Theatre. Actors and musicians ran amok throughout the auditorium and audience members sat at banquettes onstage eating pierogies and playing egg shakers as a grand Russian nightclub came to life before them. The end of the run was mired in controversy, but let us not forget the daring nature of the Great Comet, which changed hundreds of years of what we thought was theatrically possible in less than three hours.
9. Once (2012)
Based on the Irish film of the same title and featuring Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová's Oscar-winning song "Falling Slowly" as its centerpiece, the stage adaptation of Once was mesmerizing in its beauty. We loved everything about it, from John Tiffany's actor-as-musician staging to Steven Hoggett's expressive choreography. It was just one of those shows that you didn't want to end.
10. Waitress (2016)
Waitress, with a score by Sara Bareilles and book by Jessie Nelson, is a great show that managed to defy the odds. This adaptation of Adrienne Shelly's film opened the same season as Hamilton and didn't get very many Tony nominations, but it's managed to survive for four years with a series of powerhouse ladies in the leading role. It's a genuine crowd-pleaser, with at least one song that has landed in the audition books for every aspiring female musical-theater actor: the 11 o'clock ballad "She Used to Be Mine." Waitress was a tasty confection that didn't sugarcoat its emotions, and it was a real gift to have it around for so long.