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Photograph: The Phantom of the Opera
Photograph: The Phantom of the Opera

The longest-running shows on Broadway and Off Broadway

The shows must go on and on and on. Here is our guide to New York City’s long-running plays and musicals.

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman
&
David Cote
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There’s no science to explain why a given play or a musical becomes one of the longest-running shows in New York. Critical acclaim and Tony Awards can have something to do with it, combined with word of mouth, media exposure, canny marketing and cheap tickets. But beyond that, there is a certain point where a theater production can keep running mainly on momentum. (How else to account for Perfect Crime?) This list of major shows that have been playing for more than five years turns out to be quite diverse, with Broadway powerhouses such as The Lion King and Wicked rubbing shoulders with Off Broadway institutions like Stomp and Blue Man Group and the newfangled immersive adventure Sleep No More. Just don't assume they'll always be around: Even Cats wasn't really forever. Here are the shows in NYC that have been running for more than ten years.

Longest-running shows on Broadway and off

  • Theater
  • Drama
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown West

Since 1987
A wily cop tries to psych out a possibly homicidal shrink in Warren Manzi’s moldy, convoluted Off Broadway whodunit. Catherine Russell, who has starred in the show since it opened, holds the world record for most performances in a female role.

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Blue Man Group
  • Theater
  • Comedy
  • price 4 of 4
  • Noho

Since 1991
Three deadpan blue-skinned men with extraterrestrial imaginations carry this tourist fave, a show as smart as it is ridiculous. For sheer weird, exuberant fun, it's hard to top this long-running treat. 

  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown West

Since 1996
The original 1975 production of this cynical tale of Jazz Age murder and media was overshadowed by A Chorus Line, but the show's revival is now the longest-running American musical of all time: number one with a bullet.

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  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown West

Since 2003
Thanks to Winnie Holzman’s witty book, Stephen Schwartz’s pop-inflected score and Joe Mantello's extravagant staging, this revisionist history of the Land of Oz sells out Broadway's biggest theater every night. 

  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
  • Hell's Kitchen

Since 2005
Ten months after concluding an 11-year run on Broadway, this hit-packed behind-the-music biography of the Four Seasons followed Avenue Q's example and returned for a downscaled Off Broadway run at New World Stages.

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  • Theater
  • Musicals
  • price 4 of 4
  • Midtown West

Since 2011
A collaboration between the South Park team of Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q's Robert Lopez, this highly irreverent musical brims with cheerful obscenity, sharp satire and catchy tunes.

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  • Theater
  • Interactive
  • Chelsea

Since 2011 
Punchdrunk’s dark, sleek, gorgeous installation is awe-inspiring in both its size and detail. Silent audience members in creepy white masks are set free in a six-floor labyrinth of wonders, while roving attractive actor-dancers plays out enigmatic scenes inspired by 
Macbeth and Hitchcock. (Originally scheduled to return this fall, the show's reopening has now been pushed to February.)

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