The Best Broadway Musicals of the '70s

Over 1.4K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best Broadway Musicals of the '70s

What were the most popular and greatest Broadway musicals of the 70s? This list ranks the top Broadway musicals that first debuted in the 1970s. From Annie to Godspell, the 1970s produced some of the most groundbreaking shows in musical theater history. This list has the top Broadway musicals from the 1970s as ranked by theater lovers.

The 1970s proved to be a great time for change and growth on Broadway. Gone were the days of Oklahoma! and other conventional Broadway styles. Shows such as A Chorus Line found major success by combining music with dancing and other such theatrics. Musical Broadway in the 70s also saw the rise of two famous composers, Andrew Lloyd Webber (Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar) and Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd).

In the 70s, movie musicals also saw a rise following the success of Grease both on stage and off. Rock music began dominating the stage, over traditional Broadway styles, and thrived in shows such as The Me Nobody Knows and gave birth to the "rock opera," like Jesus Christ Superstar, by combining dialogue and music. 

The 1970s proved to be a decade of innovation and excitement in both musical and Broadway history. Vote up the best 1970s Broadway musical below and see where the musicals you think are the greatest of this era rank.
Most divisive: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Ranked by
  • A Chorus Line
    1
    Edward Kleban , Nicholas Dante, Marvin Hamlisch
    376 votes
    • Characters: Zach, Sheila Bryant, Greg Gardner, Mike Costa, Don Kerr
    A Chorus Line is a musical with music by Marvin Hamlisch, lyrics by Edward Kleban and a book by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante. Centred on seventeen Broadway dancers auditioning for spots on a chorus line, the musical is set on the bare stage of a Broadway theatre during an audition for a musical. A Chorus Line provides a glimpse into the personalities of the performers and the choreographer as they describe the events that have shaped their lives and their decisions to become dancers. Following several workshops and an Off-Broadway production, A Chorus Line opened at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway July 25, 1975, directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett. An unprecedented box office and critical hit, the musical received twelve Tony Award nominations and won nine, in addition to the 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The original Broadway production ran for 6,137 performances, becoming the longest-running production in Broadway history until surpassed by Cats in 1997, and the longest-running Broadway musical originally produced in the US, until surpassed in 2011 by Chicago. It remains the sixth longest-running Broadway show ever.
  • Chicago
    2
    Bob Fosse , Fred Ebb, John Kander
    426 votes
    • Characters: Velma Kelly, Billy Flynn, Roxie Hart, Amos Hart, Matron "Mama" Morton
    Chicago (Chicago: A Musical Vaudeville) is an American musical with music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Ebb and Bob Fosse. Set in Jazz-age Chicago, the musical is based on a 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins about actual criminals and crimes she reported on. The story is a satire on corruption in the administration of criminal justice and the concept of the "celebrity criminal". The original Broadway production opened in 1975 at the 46th Street Theatre and ran for 936 performances until 1977. Bob Fosse choreographed the original production, and his style is strongly identified with the show. Following a West End debut in 1979 which ran for 600 performances, Chicago was revived on Broadway in 1996, and a year later in the West End. The 1996 Broadway production holds the record as the longest-running musical revival and the longest-running American musical in Broadway history. It is the second longest-running show to ever run on Broadway, behind only The Phantom of the Opera, having played its 7,486th performance on November 23, 2014, surpassing Cats. The West End revival became the longest-running American musical in West End history. Chicago has been staged in numerous productions around the world, and has toured extensively in the United States and United Kingdom. The 2002 film version of the musical won the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  • Evita
    3

    Evita

    Andrew Lloyd Webber , Tim Rice
    253 votes
    • Characters: Che Guevara, Eva Perón, Juan Perón, Perón's Mistress, Agustín Magaldi
    Evita is a musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. It concentrates on the life of Argentine political leader Eva Perón, the second wife of Argentine president Juan Perón. The story follows Evita's early life, rise to power, charity work, and eventual death. The musical began as a rock opera concept album released in 1976. Its success led to productions in London's West End in 1978, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical, and on Broadway a year later, where it was the first British musical to receive the Tony Award for Best Musical. This has been followed by a string of professional tours and worldwide productions and numerous cast albums, as well as a major 1996 film of the musical starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas. The musical was revived in London in 2006, and on Broadway in 2012, and toured the UK again in 2013-14 before running for 55 West End performances at the Dominion Theatre in September–October, 2014.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
    4
    Hugh Wheeler , Stephen Sondheim
    345 votes
    • Characters: Sweeney Todd, Judge Turpin, Adolfo Pirelli, Mrs. Lovett, Tobias Ragg
    Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a 1979 musical thriller with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Hugh Wheeler. The musical is based on the 1973 play Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Christopher Bond. Set in 19th century England, the musical tells the story of Benjamin Barker, alias Sweeney Todd, who returns to London after 15 years' transportation on trumped-up charges, to take revenge on the judge who banished him. Sweeney Todd opened on Broadway in 1979 and in the West End in 1980. In addition to several revivals the musical has been presented by opera companies. It won the Tony Award for Best Musical and Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
  • Company
    5
    George Furth , Stephen Sondheim
    215 votes
    • Characters: Jenny, Marta, Harry, Larry, Susan
    Company is a 1970 musical comedy with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth. The original production was nominated for a record-setting fourteen Tony Awards and won six. Originally titled Threes, its plot revolves around Robert (a single man unable to commit fully to a steady relationship, let alone marriage), the five married couples who are his best friends, and his three girlfriends. Unlike most book musicals, which follow a clearly delineated plot, Company is a concept musical composed of short vignettes, presented in no particular chronological order, linked by a celebration for Robert's 35th birthday. Company was among the first musicals to deal with adult themes and relationships. As Sondheim puts it, "Broadway theater has been for many years supported by upper-middle-class people with upper-middle-class problems. These people really want to escape that world when they go to the theatre, and then here we are with Company talking about how we're going to bring it right back in their faces."
  • Grease
    6
    Warren Casey , Jim Jacobs
    383 votes
    • Characters: Sandy Olsson, Betty Rizzo, Danny Zuko, Frenchy, Principal McGee
    Grease is a 1971 musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Named after the 1950s United States working-class youth subculture known as greasers, the musical is set in 1959 at fictional Rydell High School (based on William Howard Taft School in Chicago, Illinois) and follows ten working-class teenagers as they navigate the complexities of peer pressure, politics, personal core values, and love. The score borrows heavily from the sounds of early rock and roll. In its original production in Chicago, Grease was a raunchy, raw, aggressive, vulgar show. Subsequent productions sanitized it and toned it down. The show mentions social issues such as teenage pregnancy, peer pressure and gang violence; its themes include love, friendship, teenage rebellion, sexual exploration during adolescence, and, to some extent, class consciousness/class conflict. Jacobs described the show's basic plot as a subversion of common tropes of 1950s cinema, since the female lead, who in many 1950s films transformed the alpha male into a more sensitive and sympathetic character, is instead drawn into the man's influence and transforms into his fantasy.Grease was first performed in 1971 in the original Kingston Mines nightclub in Chicago (since demolished). From there, it has been successful on both stage and screen, but the content has been diluted and its teenage characters have become less Chicago habitués (the characters' Polish-American backgrounds in particular are ignored with last names often changed, although two Italian-American characters are left identifiably ethnic) and more generic. At the time that it closed in 1980, Grease's 3,388-performance run was the longest yet in Broadway history, although it was surpassed by A Chorus Line on September 29, 1983. It went on to become a West End hit, a successful feature film, two popular Broadway revivals in 1994 and 2007, and a staple of regional theatre, summer stock, community theatre, and high school and middle school drama groups. It remains Broadway's 15th longest-running show.Grease was adapted in 1978 as a feature film also named Grease, which removed some plot elements, characters and songs while adding new songs and elaborating on some plot elements only alluded to in the musical. Some of these revisions have been incorporated into revivals of the musical (John Farrar, who wrote two of the new songs, is credited alongside Jacobs and Casey for the music in these productions). A 2016 live TV musical used elements from both the original stage version and the film. A 1982 film sequel Grease 2, which featured only a few supporting characters from the film and musical, had no involvement from Jacobs or Casey; Jacobs is on record disapproving of Grease 2.