When folks start planning a trip to New York City a few non-negotiable stops arise. The Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Terminal, Central Park and often – a show on Broadway!
And whether you’re a thespian, aflame with a passion for theatre and performance or just a tourist following an itinerary, the best shows on Broadway will equally rock your socks.
If this is your first rodeo and you’re a little nervous I’m here to lend a helping hand. Having grown up going to the theater with my family, I think everyone should make an effort to see at least one performance.
In this article I’ll share all my tips & tricks for enjoying the best Broadway shows. From where to get tickets which plays to see, I’ll make the process painless.
But let’s cut the small talk, let’s chat about everything you need to know!
They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway. They say there’s always magic in the air.The Drifters
Table of Contents
What is a “Broadway” Show?
With all the fuss about Broadway this and Broadway that you probably haven’t slowed down enough to consider what the heck a Broadway show actually is.
In layman’s terms, Broadway is a collection of 41 professional theaters in New York City with a capacity to seat 500 or more spectators.
When a performance debuts at one of these theaters it’s going on Broadway (theaters with smaller capacities are called Off-Broadway).
The name comes from the major road, Broadway, which is where majority of the theaters are scattered near. The area between 40th and 54th Streets is what’s known as the Theater District and the hub of all the shows.
If you have something important to say, Broadway and New York are great places to say it.Yakov Smirnoff
How to save a buck on Broadway
Broadway shows are notoriously expensive. Being able to swing the price of tickets (especially for an entire family) is no easy feat.
But there are a few tips and tricks to help you see a show and still afford rent. With proper planning, a little flexibility and a sprinkling of luck you can see the best Broadway shows at a fraction of the price. Let’s chat about a few ways to save some coin.
Buy rush tickets:
Broadway theaters don’t like to leave empty seats, so on the day of a performance they’ll sell what’s known as “rush” tickets at a fraction of their normal value.
Some are for crummy seats nobody else wanted, others are single seats in-between two groups, but on occasion they’re great seats that just slipped through the cracks (lucky you).
Some plays will make you go to the box-office to buy your rush tickets in person and others have digital rush tickets you can buy online.
The Playbill website is a great resource for finding rush tickets. They’ll even give you the cost and tell you how to get your hands on ’em!
Book less-desirable times:
If you’re visiting New York City you’ll likely have a gem of a privilege that locals don’t have – an open schedule.
Lucky you! You can book tickets to the best Broadway shows during times most locals will be at work. Early, weekday tickets are considerably less expensive than a Saturday night performance.
The best Broadway shows often have lotteries you can enter that (with a little bit of luck) can score you some inexpensive tickets. They’ll be anywhere between $20 to $50 which is a steal for the best Broadway shows in 2023.
Every play has its own way of doing things so you’ll have to do a little bit of research on the back end. The Playbill website is a valuable resource for this, since it’ll tell you which plays have lotteries, when they open, how to enter.
Just remember – lotteries aren’t a sure-fire way to score tickets. If you’re in New York City for a limited time and there’s a play you‘re dying to see I recommend just buying tickets ahead of time so your spot is safe and secured.
For reference – I’ve entered the Hamilton lottery religiously for a year and only won tickets once. A friend who visited NYC for a week though was able to see three of the best plays on Broadway by winning lotteries – so it really is luck of the draw.
Keep an eye on events:
There are a few events and days of the year when the best shows on Broadway are available free or severely discounted.
If you have flexibility in your schedule or find yourself in the city during these dates your wallet will be happy.
Below I’ll outline these events:
- Kids Night on Broadway: Kids (18 years and younger) get to see the best Broadway shows for free so long as they’re accompanied by a full-paying adult. In 2023 the event is on August 29th.
- Broadway Week: Held twice a year, Broadway Week boasts a deal almost too good to be true: a two-for-one! The event usually runs for a little more than an actual week and is held in the Summer and in the Winter.
- Broadway in Bryant Park: Some of the best shows on Broadway perform concerts in Bryant Park annually every summer. Although it’s not a full performance, you still get to enjoy the brightest stars and scratch that theatrical itch for free.
Check Prices at the TKTS Ticket Booth:
The TKTS Ticket Booth has been providing New Yorkers with a way to save some cash on the best Broadway shows since 1973.
The booth is operated by the Theatre Development Fund, a non-profit with a goal of making theater more accessible and advertises tickets for as much as 50% off.
They currently operate two booths: the main outpost is in Father Duffy Square in Times Square (under the famous red-steps). The second is at the Lincoln Center, which typically has shorter lines but is often out of the way
Similar to rush tickets, these are for same-day performances and you’re not guaranteed a seat – it’s subject to availability. You’ll have to walk up to the booth and chat with the workers like at an old fashioned ticket booth.
Tickets are replenished throughout the day, so I suggest downloading the TKTS App. It won’t let you purchase tickets online, but it’ll tell you what becomes available so you can get in line ASAP.
And speaking of getting in line, the wait sometimes can be over an hour! But if you want to see the best shows on Broadway at a fraction of the cost, the TKTS Ticket Booth is ol’ faithful.
Come along and listen to the lullaby of BroadwayFrank Sinatra
The Best Shows on Broadway
There are two sides to every story, and Wicked tells the account of the Wizard of Oz from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West.
The musical reintroduces a lot of the original characters from the Wizard of Oz but touches on their origins, before Dorothy arrived. It’s one of the best shows on Broadway to watch with kids, with the official website recommending it for those eight and older.
Since debuting on Broadway in 2003, Wicked has gone on to become the second-highest grossing Broadway show of all time (with a whopping $1,190,774,930).
And watching Wicked on Broadway is a perfect way to suit up for the upcoming film adaption of the musical. A two part series, the first film is slated to premier in late 2024 with power-house actresses Cynthia Erivo, Ariana Grande and Michelle Yeoh cast in major roles.
Address: Gershwin Theater | 222 W 51st St, New York, NY 10019
Dust off your magic carpets, Aladdin is one of the best shows on Broadway and you’re not going to want to miss it.
Premiering in 2014, the Disney phenom has had tremendous success. It’s become the 10th highest grossing Broadway production of all time, and it’s not all in thanks to the movie.
It follows the premise of the film, where a young man wins three wishes from a genie and uses them to capture a princess’ heart. Aladdin has three songs that were cut from the original film and mixes in additional four new ones.
Needless to say this is one of the best Broadway shows for kids. The dance numbers and musical scores will have them wide-eyed and bushy tailed through both acts.
But don’t think for a second mom & dad will be snoozing in their seat. Aladdin is one of the best shows on Broadway for the whole family, heck I’d even take myself here on a date for the entertainment level alone!
Address: New Amsterdam Theater | 214 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036
#8. The Book of Mormon
Created by the same guys who brought us South Park, The Book of Mormon is an unadulterated comedy through and through. It’s one of the best Broadway shows for those in need of a good laugh.
The musical revolves around two missionaries of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are spreading their faith in a remote Ugandan Village.
As you’d expect with South Park, The Book of Mormon is crude and has no holds barred. Curse words, explicit topics and a full disregard for politeness help make the raw musical hilarious.
When searching for the best Broadway shows for kids I’d steer clear of the Book of Mormon. Although I’ll admit when I was a younger lad I found jokes like the ones made here hilarious – behind my parent’s backs (sorry, mom).
Truth be told the Book of Mormon isn’t appropriate for any one, regardless of age, but that’s what makes it one of the best shows on Broadway.
Address: Eugene O’Neill Theatre | 230 W 49th St, New York, NY 10019
#7. Good Night, Oscar
Unlike most of the popular Broadway shows that are fun and high-flying, Good Night, Oscar has some weight to it.
Award-winning actor Sean Hayes plays the lead role of Oscar Levant, a talented composer and pianist who struggles to overcome his demons. He was a prodigy under George Gershwin, but unfortunately lives in Gershwin’s shadow.
The 100 minute, one act play spends the first 75 minutes establishing the character, but then has an eventful last 25. It’s not the best Broadway show to watch with kids since it takes a while to set up, and they might get bored.
Hayes’ performance is so riveting it netted him the 2023 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play. Normally known for light and cheery characters, the role of Levant gave Hayes an opportunity to show-off his versatility and he ran with it.
Good Night, Oscar touches on mental health in a refreshing and heartfelt way. The somber tones are balanced by Levant’s witty attitude and the play is well situated among the best shows on Broadway in 2023.
Address: Belasco Theatre | 111 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036
As a lover of all things Greek mythology, you’ll understand my excitement when I first heard of Hadestown. It’s one of the best Broadway shows, bringing the audience along as the story of Orpheus and Eurydice unfolds.
The musical tells a slight variation of the myth, but the premise remains the same. Eurydice is condemned in Hadestown (the underworld), and Orpheus’ mission is to save her.
Hades says Orpheus can lead Eurydice out of Hadestown so long as he doesn’t turn around and look at her. I won’t say whether or not he succeeds, you’ll just have to watch and find out.
After its 2019 Broadway premier, Hadestown was nominated for an extraordinary 14 Tony Award nominations, winning eight of them – including Best Musical.
As far as age-range goes, the official Hadestown website says the musical is for those 8+ years old. There aren’t any suggestive scenes or curse words, but I’d personally recommend it for teenagers and above.
Something to note – Hadestown has a consistent use of strobe-light effects throughout the musical. This isn’t one of the best shows on Broadway if those with photo-sensitivity.
Address: Walter Kerr Theatre | 219 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036
#5. & Juliet
Sorry Shakespeare, & Juliet tells an alternative ending to Romeo & Juliet that is a little more entertaining than yours. 😉
After a world-stopping run on West End (the U.K’s equivalent of Broadway) the jukebox musical made its long anticipated U.S. debut in November of 2022. It’s been one of the best Broadway shows since.
The musical is fun and high-energy, ideal for audiences of all ages who think a woman’s story shouldn’t end just because her relationship does.
The choreography makes you want to jump on stage and join the number. Iconic pop songs (including five by Britney Spears) will have you singing along wondering why it wasn’t made sooner.
It’s also one of the best Broadway shows for kids, the plot is easy to follow and entertaining. Teenagers will walk away with a smile, but there are some f-bombs and provocative songs that might be unsuitable for younger kids.
Address: Stephen Sondheim Theatre | 124 W 43rd St, New York, NY 10036
#4. Sweeney Todd
The character Sweeney Todd has existed on pages and imaginations since mid 1800’s, and the current musical is one of the best shows on Broadway in 2023.
Through various adaptations and tales he’s commonly portrayed as a psychotic barber who murders his patrons with a straight-razor. He then gives their bodies to his partner to be cooked into meat pies.
The musical explains why Todd kills and introduces an ensemble of other characters, but the subject matter is undoubtedly ripe for younger viewers.
But even with the grim plot Sweeney Todd is such an entertaining watch. The lead (Josh Groban) plays an intense Sweeney Todd that has you hooked on every syllable sung.
Sweeney Todd is one of the best Broadway shows because it makes you forget you’re watching a Broadway show. The production value is off the charts, it’s like being there in the room with the cast yourself!
Address: Lunt-Fontanne Theatre | 205 W 46th St, New York, NY 10036
#3. Some Like It Hot
Some Like It Hot is a story for the ages. It was first a French film, being released in 1935 before being remade in America in 1959, (and starring Marilyn Monroe) becoming one of the best movies of all time.
In December of 2022 the musical debuted on Broadway and it’s been a home-run ever since. During the most recent Tony Awards, Some Like It Hot led the way with an impressive 13 nominations!
The story revolves around two musicians (Jerry & Joe) who witness a mob-murder. They then attempt to escape prohibition-era Chicago by dressing as women and joining an all female jazz band.
There are electric dance numbers that are impossible to take your eyes off of and J. Harrison Ghee (who plays Jerry) has a Tony-winning performance. You won’t want to blink, it’s one of the best shows on Broadway!
At its core Some Like It Hot is a comedy, but it touches on deeper issues along the way. Love and gender identity are touched on in a light but heartfelt way and the musical is recommended for teenagers and adults.
Address: Shubert Theater | 225 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036
#2. Moulin Rouge
The prettiest set on Broadway belongs to Moulin Rouge, no ifs, ands or buts about it. From the second you walk into the theater your jaw will be on the floor, but the set alone doesn’t make it one of the best shows on Broadway.
The jukebox musical is a love story, explaining the romance between a young poet and a cabaret dancer at the iconic Moulin Rouge. It was originally a movie before debuting on Broadway in 2019.
With early 20th century Paris as a backdrop, the piece feels timeless but the high flying can-can dancing and modern music (like songs by Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Madonna) keep the energy bubbling.
Moulin Rouge is one of the best Broadway shows for those with an itch to see a musical but can’t decide on what to see. If forced to use only one word to describe it I’d use: electric.
Address: Al Hirschfeld Theatre | 302 W 45th St, New York, NY 10036
I unabashedly love Hamilton, but it’s not without due reason; it’s the best Broadway show for every audience!
Tourist dads in Old Navy Fourth of July T-shirts will enjoy it as much as a teenager who only takes out their headphones long enough to say huh? The musical is captivating from beginning to end.
The story of Alexander Hamilton’s life is told through rhythm and rap, covering everything from the founding of America to his love life to his legacy.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece has the hardware to back up this ranking of #1 best Broadway show too.
The musical broke (and still holds the record) for most Tony Award nominations (16) and won 11 of them, including Best Musical.
It’s fun the whole family can partake in, but some of the material is likely to go over small children’s heads. There is some swearing and war scenes, as well as a number about Hamilton’s affair.
Address: Richard Rodgers Theatre | 226 W 46th St, New York, NY
Best Broadway Shows in New York City (Post Summary)
In sum, these are the Broadway shows in NYC:
- Moulin Rouge
- Some Like It Hot
- Sweeney Todd
- & Juliet
- Good Night, Oscar
- The Book of Mormon
Map of the best NYC Broadway shows
And there you have it my friends – a quick roundup of the best Broadway shows in New York City. I hope you enjoyed the post!