Broadway Musicals That Changed Theater Forever

There’s something about Broadway musicals that keeps us coming back for more! It’s true for me, at least. If you are reading this, chances are that you love them just as much as I do. Personally, I think Broadway musicals entice me to get lost in a world of dancing, singing, and emotions. Keep reading to learn about some groundbreaking Broadway musicals that changed theater forever.

Groundbreaking Broadway Musicals

Once upon a time, a theater producer in New York was juggling two performances in 1866. One included a melodrama about a man's regretful journey after selling his soul to the devil, while the second was a revue with a group of attractive French dancers. A fire devastated the venue he had reserved for the dancers. So then, he chose to include the dancers in the dramatization because he didn’t have a place to hold the second performance.

The uncanny challenge resulted in the first-ever Broadway musical. A Broadway musical is a live drama with music and narration that advances the plot. Called the "book," it also helps prevent the performance from being merely a collection of songs. The Black Crook, the title of the first musical, was so well-liked that it went on tour for decades.

Since then, Broadway musicals have covered just about every topic you can think of. While there have been numerous impactful musicals, I have gathered a list of the top Broadway musicals that changed the theater.

  1. The Black Crook

The Black Crook is rarely, if ever, recreated in modern times. But the show's symbolic status as the first musical on Broadway means that its symbolic significance transcends the show's real content. 

Although academics disagree about whether it was the first, it unquestionably ranks as one of the most significant phenomena in musical theater history, inventing the form we would all recognize as the modern musical. When a faltering show and a dispersed dance company were combined, some songs were added, and a hit was created in 1866. After 474 performances, the production went on tour around the nation.

       2. Kiss Me, Kate

Regarding the development of musical theater as an art form, 1948's Kiss Me, Kate, is not particularly revolutionary. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful show-within-a-show where each story illuminates a masterfully crafted, intricate musical comedy. 

Sam and Bella Spewack cleverly translated the Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, and Cole Porter composed the catchy score. The fact that Kiss Me, Kate was the first show to win the Tony Award for Best Musical is what made it a significant milestone in the history of Broadway.

       3. West Side Story

With her work in Oklahoma, Carousel, and Brigadoon, Agnes de Mille pushed the limits of musical theater storytelling through dance. Jerome Robbins elevated the form to its apex with the 1957 staging of West Side Story.

Robbins brought dance to the forefront, making it a crucial part of how musical theater stories are delivered, equaling the text and score in importance. He conveyed a developing passion between a girl from one side and a boy from the other by using movement to show the fighting between opposing street gangs.

Bottom Line

Many Broadway musicals resonate with audiences of different age groups during different eras. They are a popular form of entertainment even today. While several things make them a crowd favorite, many people love Broadway musicals for the featured music. If you like jazz music, help the genre grow by supporting individual artists. You can check out my songs at

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