The Lion King

The 4 Top Grossing & Longest Running Current Broadway Shows

No trip to New York is complete without seeing a Broadway show. The most famous theatre district in the world, Broadway is a 13 mile strip in Manhattan that is full of culture, lights, and theatre magic. The most popular shows on Broadway are the musicals, to the point that the very word “Broadway” has become synonymous with the American style of musicals made famous by the Great White Way. There’s no business like show business, but what many don’t realize is that show business can be big business.

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Here’s a list of the highest grossing, longest running, and most significant Broadway shows going on right now. We only included shows that are still going: unfortunately, “Mamma Mia” ended its first run in 2015, so it barely missed this list. However, it is the most popular “jukebox” musical of all time (a musical that uses popular music). If you want to see the longest-running Broadway shows to date, check out Playbill’s comprehensive list

Here are 4 current shows that embody the spirit of Broadway, and are also busting box office records:

Wicked

There haven’t been very many new Broadway shows that have crept their way onto the list of the longest running and highest grossing Broadway musicals. “Wicked” is not only an exception to this rule; it’s gross has been exceptional. Debuting in 2003, the story of the Wicked Witch of the West’s untold and ill-fated friendship with Glinda the Good Witch and how she came to become one of our culture’s most famous villains has made over a billion dollars. And as long as it’s run continues, it’ll soon unseat “Mamma Mia” to become the 8th longest running Broadway musical of all time. Currently, “Wicked” sits at 9th place for all time.

Chicago

The only show on this list to spawn a film adaptation that went on to win Academy Award for Best Picture, the revival of 1975’s “Chicago” has been running ever since it reopened in 1996. This makes it the second longest running Broadway musical of all time, and the longest running show to debut on Broadway. Like many Broadway musicals, it had its origins in a different medium: a non-musical play written by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about a pair of female murderers: the star Velma Kelly and her rival, the fame hungry Roxie Hart, as they try to make themselves famous while awaiting trial. The original show was choreographed and directed by the legendary Bob Fosse, who dramatized this busy portion of his life in the 1979 film “All That Jazz” (he was also directing a film based on the life of Lenny Bruce, entitled “Lenny”).

The Phantom of the Opera

The story of “The Phantom of the Opera” is an odd one. The Gaston Leroux novel had already been adapted twice into film with Lon Chaney and Claude Reins portraying the title role, respectively, when Andrew Lloyd Webber crafted the definitive stage version of this tale about a soprano’s obsession with a maimed and musically gifted recluse who lives under the Palais Garner. Now,  “Phantom” is synonymous with Broadway — and with good reason: it’s been running since 1988, which means it currently holds the title of the longest-running musical in the world. Not only that, but “Phantom” was also the most financially successful musical until it was surpassed in 2014 by…

The Lion King

“The Lion King” is truly a dynamo in the world of Broadway. It launched the career of Julie Taymor, who went on to become the first woman to win a Tony for directing for her work on the show. She also won a Tony for the costume designs and even helped with the script. “The Lion King” is based on the Disney blockbuster, which follows the coming of age, framing of, and triumphant return of the rightful king of the Pride Lands, Simba. “The Lion King” may only be the third longest running Broadway show, but it’s the highest grossing, which is incredibly impressive when you consider it started its run nine years after “The Phantom of the Opera.” Boasting innovative puppet work and the music of Elton John, “The Lion King” on stage stands alongside the film as an inspiring example of what each respective medium can do.

Have a great experience with one of these shows or want to talk about your favorite show? Sound off in the comments! And learn more about musical theatre at NYFA!

5 Films That Play Out The Monomyth

Monomyth diagram

A lot of people think that there are only a handful of stories out there to tell, and every script falls under one of those plots. One of those stories could be the hero’s journey, or the monomyth, a concept developed by writer Joseph Campbell in his work The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Borrowing the term from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, Campbell describes the monomyth as a recurring pattern shared by multiple famous works from different times and cultures. Needless to say, it is a concept with which any student enrolled in screenwriting school would be intimately familiar.

This pattern focuses on a single protagonist following a distinct arc, with many of the same beats on that arc. Figures that follow this epic journey include Moses, Jesus Christ and the Buddha. But it’s not just classic stories that use the monomyth—it can be found throughout modern pop-culture, and is the foundation for many of the superhero and Young Adult themed franchises dominating Hollywood right now.

Here, then, are just five famous examples of the omnipresent monomyth:

1. The Matrix

The first step in the hero’s journey is the call to action, where a seemingly normal person in a normal, mundane life is brought into the larger, more fantastical world. In this case, cubicle drone Thomas Anderson follows the white rabbit and ends up discovering the Matrix and the Real World. He gains amazing powers and saves both worlds as Neo.

Neo in his cubicle in The Matrix

2. Men in Black

Following the same path as Neo is NYPD Officer James Edwards, who finds out that aliens live among us when he joins the MiB as Agent J. A crucial component of the monomyth is supernatural aid in the form of a mentor or guide. Neo had Morpheus and Agent J had Agent K.

Will Smith’s lead character must enter the Belly of the Whale, the monomyth step where the hero separates fully from the normal world, never able to return. Edwards does this when his identity and even his fingerprints are erased, permanently becoming Agent J.

3. The Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen is a recent example of the monomyth, a normal girl from humble roots who enters the strange world of the Capital and the Arena and uses her superior skills at archery, hunting, and problem solving to take down tough competition and an entire evil empire. While doing so, she must follow the Road of Trials, the first step of the monomythic second major arc, Initiation. This includes winning over sponsors and allies while impressing the Gamemakers during training, and then competing in the Hunger Games itself.

Katniss Everdeen with bow in The Hunger Games

4. The Lion King

While science fiction and fantasy often use the monomyth, it doesn’t mean it can’t be found in genres. One famous example is The Lion King, itself an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. After Simba is cast out into the strange jungle world outside of his pride, he makes peace with his new life and surroundings, enjoying the good life with his two mentors, Timon and Pumbaa. This stage is called the Apotheosis, a period of recharging before the hero’s return arc, often after he or she has even died. In this case, Simba didn’t physically die, but his ties to his Pride have. This step follows Atonement with the Father, which Simba does much more literally while speaking with the ghost of his dad, Mustafa.

5. Star Wars

Luke Skywalker on Tatooine

Not necessarily the entire trilogy (or hexalogy, or soon-to-be ennealogy) but specifically episode IV, A New Hope, is a classic example of the monomyth. In the span of the first film, Luke Skywalker goes from an innocent farmer on a backwater planet to a wielder of the Force and the hero of the empire. He becomes the Master of Two Worlds, the penultimate step of the monomyth, when he joins his material piloting skills with his spiritual Jedi abilities to make a one-in-a-million shot to destroy the Death Star and save the day. This also becomes Luke’s Freedom to Live, the final step. Luke would have more training and would confront his father in the future, but when describing the monomyth, Joseph Campbell wasn’t thinking of the era of never-ending sequels and spin-offs. Nobody’s perfect.