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The King and I
Photograph: Paul KolnikThe King and I

The best musicals now on BroadwayHD

Watch these classic musical theater performances from the comfort of your couch

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman
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Not everyone can get out to actual Broadway productions, and fans of musical theater are hungry for shows they can watch from home. That's where BroadwayHD comes in. A streaming service aimed at theater lovers, BroadwayHD offers some 300 whole, high-quality, professionally filmed live theater performances from Broadway, London's West End and beyond. (Some have been acquired from existing catalogs, while others have been created especially for the channel.) Subscriptions cost $11.99 a month—and for new subscribers, the first week is free.

But how can you choose among the many shows on offer? That's where we come in.  BroadwayHD is currently streaming 69 different musicals. Here are the ones we think you won't want to miss. One note: BroadwayHD offers several musicals that were shot as feature films (including The Phantom of the Opera, Fiddler on the Roof and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) or as made-for-TV movies (such as Bye Bye Birdie or the Bette Midler Gypsy), but we have limited this list to recordings of live stage productions.

RECOMMENDED: Complete list of Broadway and Off Broadway musicals currently playing in NYC 

Best Musicals Currently on BroadwayHD

If escapism is what you're looking for, look no farther than this 1980 tale of a plucky understudy who becomes as star. A tap-happy paean to musical theater itself, it's the quintessential manifesto of Broadway's show-must-go-on ideology. The 1933 source film is an anti-Depression treatment; the musical supplements the story with extra standards from the Harry Warren–Al Dubin songbook and massive cloudbursts of synchronized dance. This filmed version captures the 2017 West End revival, with choreography by Randy Skinner that draws on Gower Champion's original staging at several key moments. 
Highlight: As belts begin to tighten and wallets begin to thin, the exuberant production number "We're in the Money" (1:05) may be just the thing to take your mind off your troubles.

Kelli O'Hara and Ken Watanabe starred in the 2015 Lincoln Center Theater revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein's classic 1951 romantic drama about culture clash between the King of Siam and an English governess in the 1860s. Directed by Bartlett Sher, this opulent production includes gorgeous period costumes and a lush rendition of the score (which includes such standards as "Hello, You Lovers," "Getting to Know You" and "Something Wonderful"); O'Hara gives a measured, beautifully sung performance as the I of the storm, for which she won a Tony Award (as did Ruthie Ann Miles as the King's head wife). This version was filmed during the production's London run in 2018.
Highlight: As Anna and the King traverse the stage in a polka in "Shall We Dance" (2:08), and her enormous lavender dress floats around her like a cloud, we permit ourselves to imagine, if only for a moment, that this kind of thing can happen.

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Elaine Stritch's Broadway career stretched back to the 1940s, but its apotheosis was this 2001 solo show, cowritten with John Lahr. In a sense, Stritch had always been a grumpy old showbiz lady; she just had to wait for her actual age to catch up. She was her own best character role, amd her curmudgeonly, whiskey-drenched style exploded with honesty, rue and mordant wit. Filmed at the Old Vic in London and first shown by HBO in 2004, this version captures a woman ready, willing and eager to strip show business glamour down to its weary bones.
Highlight: Stritch's lengthy story (0:35) about understudying Ethel Merman on Broadway while simultaneously playing a supporting role in Pal Joey in New Haven—punctuated with verses from that show's wry song "Zip"—is masterful.

The musical team behind Fiddler on the Roof, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, also wrote the score for this delightful and beautifully crafted 1963 romantic comedy, adapted from the same Hungarian play that also inspired the films The Shop Around the Corner and You've Got Mail. Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi play squabbling coworkers who don't realize that they're also pen-pal lovers; Jane Krakowski and Gavin Creel are the comic secondary characters. Everything about Scott Ellis's 2016 production—the very first Broadway production to be live-streamed on BroadwayHD—feels like opening prettily wrapped little gift boxes.
Highlight: Benanti serves up a very tasty rendition of the show's most famous song, "Vanilla Ice Cream" (1:41), but stick around to see Levi sail through the musical's title number right afterward.

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The legendary director-choreographer Bob Fosse took Stephen Schwartz and Tony O. Hirson's 1972 musical—a parable about a medieval prince on a journey of self-discovery, stuffed with delightful songs—and turned it into mesmerizing exercise in rotting-showbiz style. This version, recorded for Canadian television in 1981, is less than ideal: It truncates several numbers, sometimes at the expense of sense, and cuts "I Guess I'll Miss the Man" entirely. But it's an indispensable record of Fosse's staging and Ben Vereen's deceptively ingratiating performance as the Leading Player. The Greatest American Hero's William Katt has the title role in a mop of blond curls; Chita Rivera has a memorable number that finds her using a crown as a garter.
Highlight: The opening number, "Magic to Do" (0:01), is a vaguely sinister invitation to the entertainments to come. At first we see only an eerie arrangement of glowing hands, and when the ensemble emerges, led by a sinuous Vereen, its members are is oozily eroticized and intent.

In the first act of this 1987 classic, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine weave the stories of Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and the beanstalk-climbing Jack into a witty farcical basket, held together by the tale of a baker and his wife who seek to end a witch’s curse. In Act II, the characters’ happy endings unravel into a violent mess of retribution and recrimination. Into the Woods doesn’t just rewrite the morals of its stories; it examines the subjective and elective qualities of morality itself, with unsettling conclusions. This recording captures the musical's innovative, Olivier Award–winning 2010 revival at the Regent's Park in London, directed by Timothy Sheader and starring Hannah Waddingham as the Witch, Mark Hadfield as the Baker and Jenna Russell as the Baker's Wife (plus Judi Dench as the recorded voice of the Giant). Though not as definitive as the original production, it puts interesting spins on the material.
Highlight: This production puts greater emphasis than most on the story of the Baker, which reaches its crisis point in a touching rendition of "No More" (2:09).

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William Finn and James Lapine’s intimate, obstinate, heart-shattering 1992 musical returned to Broadway in this 2016 revival. The spiky first half is a nervy, yappy exploration of masculinity and its discontents; the second, written a decade later, rises to the challenge of AIDS with songs that are sparky, funny, wrenching and sweet. Directed by Lapine, the show is about a specific Jewish family in the early 1980s; while its story of a man (Christian Borle) who leaves his wife and child for a male lover (Andrew Rannells) may be less novel today, its larger truths continue to resonate. Seeing it now is like opening a time capsule and finding a mirror. 
Highlight: In the comic-neurosis showcase "I'm Breaking Down" (0:29), abandoned wife Stephanie J. Block—who would go on to win a Tony for The Cher Show—goes hilariously bananas. 

Like many Rodgers and Hammerstein shows, 1945's Carousel is darker than many people remember. In 19th-century Maine, the moony Julie Jordan is drawn, moth to flame, to the charismatic carnival barker Billy Bigelow; their unhappy marriage is set against a seemingly idyllic seaside world of busting-out-all-over Junes and real nice clambakes. Although Billy's domestic violence is treated as a deep moral failure, the show's treatment of the question understandably raises hackles. But this 2013 New York Philharmonic concert staging, recorded for Live From Lincoln Center, offers a stately and stirring account of the material, flawed though it may be. Top Broadway stars (Kelli O’Hara as Julie, Jessie Mueller and Jason Danieley as the secondary couple, John Cullum as the Starkeeper) share the stage with opera headliners (Nathan Gunn as Billy, Stephanie Blythe as Julie's close cousin Nettie).
Highlight: Carousel's historical importance may be in the "bench scene" (when dialogue slides into song) and Billy's epic "Soliloquy," but the anthemic "You'll Never Walk Alone" (1:37) is the score's crowing jewel, and mezzo Blythe delivers it on a rich, plush pillow of sound.

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The peerless Audra McDonald won a record-breaking sixth Tony Award for her performance as jazz icon Billie Holiday in Lanie Robertson's cabaret-style solo show, whose 14 songs include such Holiday favorites as "Don't Explain" and "God Bless the Child." Directed with restraint by Lonny Price, the show is a moving glimpse into the final days of a brilliant talent that was, by then, too frequently wasted. McDonald brings the pain as required and delivers Holiday’s broken-horn stylings with rough aplomb.
Highlight: To ease yourself into McDonald's performance as Holiday you may want to start with something light, such as "Crazy He Calls Me" (0:13), but the dramatic highlight of the night is her riveting performance of the anti-lynching song "Strange Fruit" (1:00). 

Based on the wonderful 2000 movie about a boy who dreams of a life in ballet—to the bafflement and alarm of his family of miners in Northern England—Elton John and Lee Hall's 2005 musical was a sensation in the West End and on Broadway (where it won 10 Tony Awards). It's an inspiring underdog story, excitingly staged by Stephen Daldry. This version, recorded for live cinematic broadcast at London's Victoria Palace Theatre in 2014, stars the gifted young Elliott Hanna in the title role and Ruthie Henshall as his dance teacher.
Highlight: Billy's climactic five-minute solo song and dance, "Electricity" (2:07), is this show's version of A Chorus Line's  "The Music and the Mirror": a live-wire combination of joy and nerves that makes the rest of the musical's troubled world fall away. 

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The ballet world's Christopher Wheeldon directed and choreographed this elegant 2015 adaptation of Vincente Minnelli’s 1951 movie musical about—guess what?—an American in Paris. On Broadway, a pre-Cats Robbie Fairchild played an American soldier in the wake of World War II, and Leanne Cope was the lovely local dancer who captured his heart; they reprise their roles in this version, filmed in London in 2018. Songs by George and Ira Gershwin and sets by Bob Crowley help transport you to a world of retro romance in the City of Lights.
Highlight: As in the movie, the centerpiece is a long ballet sequence (1:52) set to the George Gershwin orchestral piece that gives the musical its name—and at the heart of that is a ravishing four-minute pas de deux (1:57) between Fairchild and Cope.

This kicky 2013 crowd-pleaser is the very model of a modern major musical. Adapted from a 2005 English indie film, Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper’s fizzy pop tuner tells of a struggling English footwear factory saved from collapse by a self-possessed drag queen named Lola. Directed by Jerry Mitchell, the show feels familiar at every step, but the musical holds up for the same reason the factory's products do: solid craftsmanship and care. And since it is set in Northampton, this is a rare example of an American musical that feels more authentic in its West End incarnation—which is what this filmed version captures. 
Highlight: It's hard to compete with the memory of Billy Porter's grand Broadway performance as Lola, but Matt Henry tailors the goods to fit his own strengths in his big second-act number, "Hold Me in Your Heart" (1:44). 

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Carol Burnett returned to the Broadway musical stage for the first time in 35 years in this 1999 revue of songs by Stephen Sondheim. There's only a whisper of a plot—an older couple, a younger couple and a fifth man face relationship difficulties at a party of some kind—but it's a good way to hear a collection of tunes by one of Broadway's true masters, culled from shows including CompanyA Little Night Music and Merrily We Roll Along. In addition to Burnett, the talented cast includes George Hearn, Ruthie Henshall, John Barrowman and Bronson Pinchot. 
Highlight: Getting back to her musical-theater roots—she rocketed to stardom in 1959's Once Upon a Mattress—Burnett lays it on the line to her unsatisfactory husband (played by Hearn) in the bitter Follies waltz "Could I Leave You?" (0:44). 

Begun when Andrew Lloyd Webber was still a teenager, this was the composer first success with librettist Tim Rice: a cheeky pop-rock Bible story about a flashy dresser who gets sold into slavery and then rises to power after a false accusation of sexual assault. This direct-to-video 1999 film version is pure camp and a lot of fun. Donny Osmond has the central role. and is frequently without shirt much less coat. Maria Friedman does most of the vocal lifting as the Narrator; Richard Attenborough and Joan Collins have cameos as, respectively, Jacob and Potiphar's Wife.
Highlight: In "Close Every Door to Me" (0:29), a loincloth-clad Osmond sings a radiantly earnest power ballad in a cage surrounded by a children holding candles. Like we said: Pure camp. 

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Is Cats good or bad? That's a question with no answer. Cats is beyond good and bad. Cats is CatsCats is a show about cats singing light verse by T.S. Eliot in a junkyard. Cats is about Andrew Lloyd Webber having to write a lot more melodies than he usually does, and pulling a lot of catchy ones out of his hat. Cats is about furred-out and heavily made-up human dancers doing weirdly sexy catlike moves. It's all ridiculous and it's all kind of magical. If you've only seen the instant camp classic that was the 2019 film adaptation, you owe it to yourself to check out this 1998 live recording of the stage version, which doesn't make a lot more sense but at least doesn't try to as much. (Bonus: This version doesn't have that terrible new song.)
Highlight: The opening number, "Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats," will stick in your head for weeks whether you want it to or not—hint: you won't—but the real gold comes later when Elaine Paige, London's original Grizabella the Glamour Cat, returns to the role to roar out a searing version of the show's takeaway tune, "Memory" (1:43).

Guilty Pleasure Musicals Currently on BroadwayHD

Andrew Lloyd Webber's disastrous 2010 sequel to The Phantom of the Opera picks up ten years after the original story (set in the 1880s) but somehow lands in 1907 Coney Island, where the Phantom reunites with his stalking victim, Christine Daaé, and other characters from the first show. The whole thing plays like very misguided Phantom fanfic; after negative reviews in London, the musical never came to New York as had been announced. Happily, an Australian production starring Ben Lewis and Anna O'Byrne was recorded in 2011, providing a record of this fascinating failure.
Highlight: In "The Beauty Underneath" (0:55), the Phantom yells a rock song as he leads a boy (his son with Christine, we soon learn) through an insane subterranean hall of mirrors populated by caged freaks, pinhead children, writhing women, a skeleton monster, a mermaid and a guy on a penny-farthing bicycle. This number must be seen by everyone.

Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse's 1990s musical drags Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 mad-scientist tale through a sludge of dreary portentousness. Yet it has accrued a following despite the dunderheaded lyrics and the ceaseless aural aggression of the music, in which most songs end in some form of screaming. There's no denying that Wildhorn has a gift for juicy melodies, but the rest of the show is pure kitsch—and never more so than in this 2001 film of the show, starring David Hasselhoff in the dual title role. 
Highlight: No lover of Broadway camp should miss the climactic “Confrontation” (1:57) between our antihero’s two identities, performed by a sweaty, chest-baring Hasselhoff as a hair-flipping coup de théâtre. “God damn you, Hyde!” Jekyll screams. “You take all your evil deeds and you rot in hell!” Hyde retorts: “I’ll see you there, Jekyll!” The Hoff, God bless him, gives this everything he's got and more.  

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