100+ Popular Musicals That You Should Know

Are you living in fear of being shamed for not having seen or listened to a particular musical or cast album? Well, in order to keep up with the super fans, you can always go through this list and make sure you are familiar with the most popular musicals out there from every decade!

Disclaimer: This is not a list of what I personally believe to be the best musicals, but rather the famous musicals that tend to come up most in the dreaded statement, “WHAT!? You haven’t seen/listened to [THIS MUSICAL]?” These are the popular musicals everyone should know.


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Popular Jazz Age Musicals

Anything Goes

Music/Lyrics: Cole Porter  Book: Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse

Musical Type: Jazz Age (1934)


Girl Crazy

Music: George Gershwin  Lyrics: Ira Gershwin  Book: Guy Bolton, John McGowan

Musical Type: Jazz Age (1930)


Lady, Be Good!

Music: George Gershwin  Lyrics: Ira Gershwin  Book: Guy Bolton, Fred Thompson

Musical Type: Jazz Age (1924)


Oh, Kay!

Music: George Gershwin  Lyrics: Ira Gershwin  Book: Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse

Musical Type: Jazz Age (1926)


Porgy and Bess

Music: George Gershwin  Lyrics: Ira Gershwin  LibrettoDuBose Heyward

Musical Type: Opera (1935)


Show Boat

Music: Jerome Kern  Lyrics/Book: Oscar Hammerstein II

Musical Type: Jazz Age (1927)


Popular Golden Age Musicals

Annie Get Your Gun

Music/Lyrics: Irving Berlin  Book: Dorothy Fields, Herbert Fields

Musical Type: Golden Age (1946)


Carousel

Music: Richard Rodgers  Book/Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II

Musical Type: Golden Age (1945)


Cinderella

Music: Richard Rodgers  Lyrics/Book: Oscar Hammerstein II  Book: Douglas Carter Beane

Musical Type: 1957 Film/Contemporary Musical (2013)


Damn Yankees

Music: Richard Adler  Lyrics: Jerry Ross  Book: George Abbott, Douglass Wallop

Musical Type: Golden Age (1955)


Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Music: Jule Styne  Lyrics: Leo Robin  Book: Joseph Fields, Anita Loos

Musical Type: Golden Age (1949)


Guys and Dolls

Music/Lyrics: Frank Loesser  Book: Jo Swerling, Abe Burrows

Musical Type: Golden Age (1950)


Gypsy

Music: Jule Styne  Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim  Book: Arthur Laurents

Musical Type: Golden Age (1959)


Kismet

Music/Lyrics: Alexander Borodin, Robert Wright, George Forrest  Book: Lederer, Davis

Musical Type: Golden Age (1953)


Kiss Me, Kate

Music/Lyrics: Cole Porter  Book: Bella Spewack, Samuel Spewack

Musical Type: Golden Age (1948)


My Fair Lady

Music: Frederick Loewe  Lyrics/Book: Alan Jay Lerner

Musical Type: Golden Age (1956)


Oklahoma!

Music: Richard Rodgers  Book/Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II

Musical Type: Golden Age (1943)


On the Town

Music: Leonard Bernstein  Lyrics/Book: Betty Comden, Adolph Green

Musical Type: Golden Age (1944)


Once Upon a Mattress

Music: Mary Rodgers  Lyrics/Book: Marshall Barer  Book: Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller

Musical Type: Golden Age (1959)


Peter Pan

Music: Moose Charlap, Jule Styne  Lyrics: Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden, Adolph Green  Book: Sir J.M. Barrie

Musical Type: Golden Age (1954)


South Pacific

Music: Richard Rodgers  Lyrics/Book: Oscar Hammerstein II  Book: Joshua Logan

Musical Type: Golden Age (1949)


The King and I

Music: Richard Rodgers  Book/Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II

Musical Type: Golden Age (1951)


The Music Man

Music/Lyrics/Book: Meredith Willson  Book: Franklin Lacey

Musical Type: Golden Age (1957)


The Sound of Music

Music: Richard Rodgers  Lyrics: Oscar Hammerstein II  Book: Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse

Musical Type: Golden Age (1959)


West Side Story

Music: Leonard Bernstein  Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim  Book: Arthur Laurents

Musical Type: Golden Age (1957)


Wonderful Town

Music: Leonard Bernstein  Lyrics: Betty Comden, Adolph Green  Book: Fields, Chodorov

Musical Type: Golden Age (1953)


Popular Post-Golden Age Musicals

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Music/Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim  Book: Burt Shevelove, Larry Gelbart

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1962)


Bye Bye Birdie

Music: Charles Strouse  Lyrics: Lee Adams  Book: Michael Stewart

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1960)


Cabaret

Music: John Kander  Lyrics: Fred Ebb  Book: Joe Masteroff

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1966)


Camelot

Music: Frederick Loewe  Lyrics/Book: Alan Jay Lerner

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1960)


Fiddler on the Roof

Music: Jerry Bock  Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick  Book: Joseph Stein

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1964)


Funny Girl

Music: Jule Styne  Lyrics: Bob Merrill  Book: Isobel Lennart

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1964)


Hair

Music: Galt MacDermot  Lyrics/Book: Gerome Ragni, James Rado

Musical Type: Post Golden Age (1967)


Hello, Dolly!

Music/Lyrics: Jerry Herman  Book: Michael Stewart

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1964)


Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber  Lyrics: Tim Rice

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1968)


Oliver!

Music/Lyrics/Book: Lionel Bart

Musical Type: Post-Golden Age (1960)


Sweet Charity

Music: Cy Coleman  Lyrics: Dorothy Fields  Book: Neil Simon

Musical Type: Post Golden Age (1966)


Popular 1970s Musicals

A Chorus Line

Music: Marvin Hamlisch  Lyrics: Edward Kleban  Book: James Kirkwood Jr., Nicholas Dante

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1975)


Annie

Music: Charles Strouse  Lyrics: Martin Charnin  Book:  Thomas Meehan

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1976)


Chicago

Music: John Kander  Lyrics/Book: Fred Ebb  Book: Bob Fosse

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1975)


Company

Music/Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim  Book: George Furth

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1970)


Evita

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber  Lyrics: Tim Rice

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1976)


Follies

Music/Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim  Book: James Goldman

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1971)


Grease

Music/Lyrics/Book: Jim Jacobs, Warren Casey

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1971)


Godspell

Music/Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz  Book: John-Michael Tebelak

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1971)


Jesus Christ Superstar

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber  Lyrics: Tim Rice

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1970)


Pippin

Music/Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz  Book: Roger O. Hirson, Bob Fosse

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1972)


Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Music/Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim  Book: Hugh Wheeler

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1979)


The Rocky Horror Show

Music/Lyrics/Book: Richard O’Brien

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1973)


The Wiz

Music/Lyrics: Smalls, Graphenreed, Wheeler, Faison, Vandross, Walzer  Book: William Brown

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1974)


Popular 1980s Musicals

42nd Street

Music: Harry Warren  Lyrics: Al Dubin, Johnny Mercer  Book: Michael Stewart, Mark Bramble

Musical Type: 1933 Film/Pre-Contemporary Musical (1980)


Cats

Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber  Lyrics: T.S. Eliot, Trevor Nunn, Richard Stilgoe

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1981)


Dreamgirls

Music: Henry Krieger  Lyrics/Book: Tom Eyen

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1981)


Fame

Music: Steve Margoshes  Lyrics: Jacques Levy

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1988)


Into the Woods

Music/Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim  Book: James Lapine

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1986)


Les Misérables

Music/Book: Claude-Michel Schönberg  Lyrics/Book: Alan Boublil  Lyrics: Jean-Marc Natel

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1980)


Little Shop of Horrors

Music: Alan Menken  Lyrics/Book: Howard Ashman

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1982)


Miss Saigon

Music/Book: Claude-Michel Schönberg  Lyrics/Book: Alain Boublil  Lyrics: Richard Maltby Jr.

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1989)


Singin’ in the Rain

Music: Nacio Herb Brown  Lyrics: Arthur Freed  Book: Adolph Green, Betty Comden

Musical Type: 1952 Film/Pre-Contemporary Musical (1983)


Sunday in the Park with George

Music/Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim  Book: James Lapine

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1984)


The Phantom of the Opera

Music/Book: Andrew Lloyd Webber  Lyrics/Book: Richard Stilgoe  Book: Charles Hart

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1986)


The Wizard of Oz

Music: Harold Arlen, Herbert Stothart  Lyrics:  E.Y. Harburg  Book: John Kane

Musical Type: 1939 Film/Pre-Contemporary Musical (1987)


Popular 1990s Musicals

Aida

Music: Elton John  Lyrics: Tim Rice  Book: Linda Woolverton, Robert Falls, David Henry Hwang

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1998)


Beauty and the Beast

Music: Alan Menken  Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Tim Rice  Book: Linda Woolverton

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1994)


Falsettos

Music/Lyrics/Book: William Finn  Book: James Lapine

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1992)


Footloose

Music: Tom Snow  Lyrics/Book: Dean Pitchford  Book: Walter Bobbie

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1998)


Mamma Mia!

Music/Lyrics: Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus  Book: Catherine Johnson

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary/Jukebox (1999)


Ragtime

Music: Stephen Flaherty  Lyrics: Lynn Ahrens  Book: Terrence McNally

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1996)


Rent

Music/Lyrics/Book: Jonathan Larson

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1996)


The Lion King

Music: Elton John  Lyrics: Tim Rice  Book: Rodger Allers, Irene Mecchi

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1997)


The Who’s Tommy

Music/Lyrics/Book: Pete Townshend  Book: Des McAnuff

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary (1992)


Popular Musicals from the 2000s

Avenue Q

Music/Lyrics: Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx  Book: Jeff Whitty

Musical Type: Contemporary (2003)


Billy Elliot

Music: Elton John  Lyrics/Book: Lee Hall

Musical Type: Contemporary (2005)


Hadestown

Music/Lyrics/Book: Anaïs Mitchell

Musical Type: Contemporary (2006)


Hairspray

Music/Lyrics: Marc Shaiman  Lyrics: Scott Wittman  Book: Mark O’Donnell, Thomas Meehan

Musical Type: Contemporary (2002)


High School Musical

Music/Lyrics: Various  Book: David Simpatico

Musical Type: Contemporary (2007)


In the Heights

Music/Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda  Book: Quiara Alegría Hudes

Musical Type: Contemporary (2005)


Jersey Boys

Music: Bob Gaudio  Lyrics: Bob Crewe  Book: Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice

Musical Type: Contemporary/Jukebox (2004)


Mary Poppins

Music/Lyrics: Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, George Stiles, Anthony Drewe  Book: Julian Fellowes

Musical Type: 1964 Film/Contemporary Musical (2004)


Next to Normal

Music: Tom Kitt  Lyrics/Book: Brian Yorkey

Musical Type: Contemporary (2008)


Rock of Ages

Music/Lyrics: Various  Book: Chris D’Arienzo

Musical Type: Contemporary/Jukebox (2005)


Seussical

Music/Book: Stephen Flaherty  Lyrics/Book: Lynn Ahrens

Musical Type: Contemporary (2000)


Spamalot

Music: John Du Prez  Music/Lyrics/Book: Eric Idle

Musical Type: Contemporary (2004)


Spring Awakening

Music: Duncan Sheik  Lyrics/Book: Steven Sater

Musical Type: Contemporary (2006)


The Addams Family

Music/Lyrics: Andrew Lippa  Book: Marshall Brickman, Rick Elice

Musical Type: Contemporary (2009)


The Last Five Years

Music/Lyrics/Book: Jason Robert Brown

Musical Type: Contemporary (2001)


The Little Mermaid

Music: Alan Menken  Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Glenn Slater  Book: Doug Wright

Musical Type: 1989 Film/Contemporary Musical (2007)


The Producers

Music/Lyrics/Book: Mel Brooks  Book: Thomas Meehan

Musical Type: 1967 Film/Contemporary Musical (2001)


Thoroughly Modern Millie

Music:  Jeanine Tesori  Lyrics/Book: Dick Scanlan  Book: Richard Morris

Musical Type: Contemporary (2002)


Tick, Tick… Boom!

Music/Lyrics/Book: Jonathan Larson

Musical Type: Pre-Contemporary/Contemporary (1990/2001)


Wicked

Music/Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz  Book: Winnie Holzman

Musical Type: Contemporary (2003)


Popular Musicals from the 2010s

& Juliet

Music/Lyrics: Max Martin, Various  Book: David West Read

Musical Type: Contemporary/Jukebox (2019)


Ain’t Too Proud

Music/Lyrics: The Temptations  Book: Dominique Morisseau

Musical Type: Contemporary/Jukebox (2017)


Aladdin

Music: Alan Menken  Lyrics/Book: Chad Beguelin  Lyrics: Tim Rice, Howard Ashman

Musical Type: 1992 Film/Contemporary Musical (2011)


Anastasia

Music: Stephen Flaherty  Lyrics: Lynn Ahrens  Book: Terrence McNally

Musical Type: Contemporary (2016)


Be More Chill

Music/Lyrics: Joe Iconis  Book: Joe Tracz

Musical Type: Contemporary (2015)


Beetlejuice

Music/Lyrics: Eddie Perfect  Book: Scott Brown, Anthony King

Musical Type: Contemporary (2018)


Come From Away

Music/Lyrics/Book: Irene Sankoff, David Hein

Musical Type: Contemporary (2013)


Dear Evan Hansen

Music: Justin Paul  Lyrics: Benj Pasek  Book: Steven Levenson

Musical Type: Contemporary (2015)


Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Music: Dan Gillespie Sells  Lyrics/Book: Tom MacRae

Musical Type: Contemporary (2017)


Frozen

Music/Lyrics: Robert Lopez, Kristen Anderson-Lopez  Book: Jennifer Lee

Musical Type: Contemporary (2017)


Fun Home

Music: Jeanine Tesori  Lyrics/Book: Lisa Kron

Musical Type: Contemporary (2013)


Hamilton

Music/Lyrics/Book: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Musical Type: Contemporary (2015)


Heathers

Music/Lyrics/Book: Laurence O’Keefe, Kevin Murphy

Musical Type: Contemporary (2010)


Kinky Boots

Music/Lyrics: Cyndi Lauper  Book: Harvey Fierstein

Musical Type: Contemporary (2012)


Matilda

Music/Lyrics: Tim Minchin  Book: Dennis Kelly

Musical Type: Contemporary (2010)


Motown: The Musical

Music/Lyrics: Various  Book: Berry Gordy

Musical Type: Contemporary/Jukebox (2013)


Moulin Rouge!

Music/Lyrics: Various  Book: John Logan

Musical Type: Contemporary/Jukebox (2018)


Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Music/Lyrics/Book: Dave Malloy

Musical Type: Contemporary (2012)


Newsies

Music: Alan Menken  Lyrics: Jack Feldman  Book: Harvey Fierstein

Musical Type: 1992 Film/Contemporary Musical (2011)


Six

Music/Lyrics/Book: Toby Marlow, Lucy Moss

Musical Type: Contemporary (2017)


Something Rotten!

Music/Lyrics/Book: Karey Kirkpatrick  Music/Lyrics: Wayne Kirkpatrick  Book: John O’Farrell

Musical Type: Contemporary (2015)


The Book of Mormon

Music/Lyrics/Book: Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone

Musical Type: Contemporary (2011)


The Greatest Showman

Music/Lyrics: Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, John Debney, Joseph Trapanese

Musical Type: Contemporary Film (2017)


The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals

Music/Lyrics: Jeff Blim  Book: Nick Lang, Matt Lang

Musical Type: Contemporary (2018)


The Prom

Music: Matthew Sklar  Lyrics/Book: Chad Beguelin  Book: Bob Martin

Musical Type: Contemporary (2016)


Waitress

Music/Lyrics: Sara Bareilles  Book: Jessie Nelson

Musical Type: Contemporary (2015)


All Musicals:

• Musicals of the 1920s

• Musicals of the 1930s

• Golden Age Musicals (1940 – 1959)

• Post-Golden Age Musicals (1960 – 1969)

• Musicals of the 1970s

• Musicals of the 1980s

• Musicals of the 1990s 

• Musicals of the 2000s

Musicals of the 2010s

Musicals of the 2020s


You Might Also Like:


Current Broadway Shows

Musicals About New York City

Musicals Based on Movies

Musicals Set in London

Rock Musicals


Looking for more? Check out these DIY Rep Books for EVERY vocal type!

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Which of these popular musicals is your favorite?

Have you seen or performed in any of these popular musicals? Make sure to share in the comments below! And if you like these types of lists, check out the musical database. That’s where you’ll find musicals sorted by composer, theme, setting, and more!


Stacy Karyn, author of Popular Musicals.
Author: Stacy Karyn

Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theatre Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She has a TESOL drama certificate, a BA in theatre, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.


 

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