Musicals have been something of a subject for debate in recent years, with various attempts to adapt them showing mixed results. However, some shows don’t need Hollywood’s big screen to pull in massive profits. Take, for example, this array of the highest grossing musicals of all time.
Based on a novel of the same name by French cultural icon Victor Hugo, Les Mis is one of the most widely recognized musicals out there, and with good reason. Featuring a timeless tale of hope in the face of oppression and adversity, the songs of Les Mis speak to something we can most of us relate to. With the release of the movie musical in 2012 skyrocketing the show’s influence even further, it’s no surprise this classic is on this list.
The youngest show on this list, Hamilton hit Broadway like a storm in 2015, solidifying playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda’s position as one of the all-time greats in his field. Scoring a record-breaking 16 Tony Award nominations and 11 wins, Hamilton was a smashing success with both fans and critics alike. With its minimalist design and modern storytelling approaches, the show may have set a trend for musicals well into the future.
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark
With its troubled production, originally negative reviews, and bloated budget, it might be surprising to see this show on the list. Despite its many flaws, however, the sheer spectacle of Turn Off the Dark, along with an aggressive rework, allowed it to secure a spot among the highest grossing musicals of all time. Of course, it’s hard to lose money when you have the name of the world’s most popular superhero attached.
A tear-jerking tale of love and loss set in noisy New York City, RENT absolutely swept the Tony Awards in the year of its debut. Unfortunately, the show’s playwright, Jonathan Larson, had to receive his awards posthumously. Larson had died unexpectedly while RENT was in previews, the result of an undiagnosed case of Marfan syndrome.
What can you really say about Cats? Unlike many other popular shows that rely predominantly on song to wow the crowd, this weird production focuses almost entirely on dance, though “Memory” makes for a beloved centerpiece ballad. With the release of the live action film, a whole new audience has finally been introduced to the bizarre jellicle reality of this feline fever dream.
The Lion King
If you follow musical theater news, you’ve probably at least heard about this show, but it might surprise you to know that it ranks number one on the list of the highest grossing musicals of all time. Unlike some other productions on this list, The Lion King had the advantage of transitioning from a movie into a musical, rather than the other way around. Already a household name when it debuted on Broadway, the show’s impressive score and technical triumphs cinched its place as a legend in theater history.