With Broadway dark for the foreseeable future, fans of musical theater are hungry for shows they can watch from home. That's where BroadwayHD comes in. A streaming service specifically aimed at theater lovers, BroadwayHD offers a slate of almost 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 just $8.99 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 53 different musicals. Here are the ones we think you won't want to miss.
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Best Musicals Currently on BroadwayHD
If escapism from a world in crisis 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.
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 s supporting role in Pal Joey in New Haven—punctuated with verses from that show's wry song "Zip"—is masterful.
Before Hugh Jackman strapped on his Wolverine claws and became an action-movie star, he was a musical-theater leading man in his native Australia. But his international breakout was as Curly in the 1998 West End production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's game-changing 1943 tuner. Trevor Nunn's production is far more traditional than the Oklahoma! we saw on Broadway last season, but it's still a darker show than you may think, and Shuler Hensley makes a strong impression as the villainous Jud Fry (for which he won a Tony when the production moved to Broadway a few years later). But the radiantly charismatic Jackman is the reason to watch: Whenever he's onscreen, everything goes his way.
Highlight: Jackman's opening song, "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'" (0:03), ropes you right in, but stick around to watch him charm the heck out of a local farmgirl—and the audience—in "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top."
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.
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.
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).
In Stewart Lee’s outrageous and exuberant high-low extravaganza, the title character doesn’t sing; everyone around him does, though, in styles ranging from highfalutin baroque compositions (at one point, the f-word is melismatically stretched to sit on some 200 notes) to Busby Berkeley glamour. After splashing in fabulous mud, the show literally goes to Hell in its second half. Beneath its sublime-to-ridiculous jokes, this wild ride is onto something about reality-show culture and the poignancy of its debased participants—which more or less includes all of us now. This recording captures a 2005 English performance; it would be another 13 years before a full production of the show reached new New York.
Highlight: As the audience taunts her, a full-figured guest named Shawntel (the power-voiced Alison Jiear) takes to the stripper pole in the sincere disco anthem "I Just Wanna Dance" (0:46).
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. 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.
This 2010 event marked the 25th anniversary of the London premiere of the international sensation Les Misérables. Although it's a concert and not a full staging, the sweep and impact of Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer's pop operetta shines through. Alfi Boe leads the cast as escaped convict Jean Valjean; the supporting players include Norm Lewis as Javert, Lea Salonga as Fantine, a terrific Samantha Barks as Éponine and a somewhat overwhelmed Nick Jonas as Marius. Matt Lucas and Jenny Galloway lick every scrap of meat from their roles as the comically horrid Thénardiers.
Highlight: At the end of the night, original star Colm Wilkinson joins Boe and two other former Valjeans for a moving rendition of the plaintive "Bring Him Home" (2:28), followed by a reprise of the rousing first-act finale, "One Day More" (2:33) with nearly all of the original principal London cast, including Roger Allam, Frances Ruffelle, Michael Ball and Rebecca Caine. (Missing from action: Patti LuPone.)
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).
Despite what we said above, many Broadway aficionados consider Gypsy, not Sweeney, the greatest Broadway musical of all time. This 1993 version, with Bette Midler as Mama Rose—the monstrously driven stage mother who drags her daughters through vaudeville drudgery and eventually to unlikely burlesque stardom—doesn't quite capture what makes the show so thrilling onstage; unlike the other shows on this list, it was recorded as a television movie, and its attempts at realism don't always jibe with the theatrical nature of the material. But Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's score is glorious, and Midler has moments of poignancy and verve.
Highlight: Midler and the film are at their best in their more intimate moments, such as "Small World" (0:16), in which Rose casts a line to hook talent agent Herbie (Peter Riegert) into her life.
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 Company, A 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).
Is Cats good or bad? It's a question without an answer. Cats is beyond good and bad. Cats Cats. Cats 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 ridicuous 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 squeeze out a soaring 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 things plays like extremely misguided Phantom fan fiction; 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.