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The Best Broadway Musicals of the 80s

Updated October 13, 2018 4.1k votes 904 voters 53.8k views33 items

There's nothing quite like a live Broadway musical. But what are the best Broadway musicals from the 80s? From Cats to the Phantom of the Opera, the 1980s produced some the most iconic Broadway musicals known today. This list has been ranked by theater fans to determine the best Broadway musicals from the 1980s. 

The 1980s was an exciting time for musical theater with seasoned composers such as Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim redefining Broadway history with hits such as Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Sunday in the Park with George, and Into the Woods. The 80s was about innovation and spectacle, as seen in shows such as Barnum, a raucous, circus-themed show that delighted audiences with hits such as "The Colors of My Life."

Today, we still owe credit to the 1980s for introducing audiences the longest running Broadway show, Cats, a dazzling and revolutionary musical that brought memorable ballads such as "Memory" and a story that won't soon be forgotten.

Still, the 80s also saw its fair share of disasters, such as the musical flop of Carrie. However, the mega-success of shows like Les Miserables, Dreamgirls, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat would win audiences over for decades to come. Some have described the 1980s as the last great era of Broadway that brought some of the best musical theater talent to stardom.

Cast your votes below for the best 1980s Broadway musicals.
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  • 1
    Les Misérables
    371
    75

    Les Misérables

    Claude-Michel Schönberg , Jean-Marc Natel

    CharactersJean Valjean, Javert, Fantine, Éponine, Monsieur Thénardier

    Les Misérables, colloquially known as Les Mis or Les Miz is a sung-through musical based on... more on Wikipedia
  • 2
    The Phantom of the Opera
    323
    99

    The Phantom of the Opera

    Charles Hart , Richard Stilgoe

    CharactersErik, Christine Daaé, Carlotta, Viscount Raoul de Chagny, Madame Giry

    The Phantom of the Opera is a musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Charles... more on Wikipedia

    More The Phantom of the Opera 

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  • 3
    Into the Woods
    252
    78

    Into the Woods

    James Lapine , Stephen Sondheim

    CharactersRapunzel, Snow White, Princess Aurora, Cinderella, Big Bad Wolf

    Into the Woods is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by James... more on Wikipedia

    More Into the Woods 

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  • 4
    Singin' in the Rain
    144
    77

    Singin' in the Rain

    Betty Comden, Adolph Green
    Singin' in the Rain is a musical with a book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, lyrics by... more on Wikipedia
  • 5
    Dreamgirls
    130
    67

    Dreamgirls

    Tom Eyen , Henry Krieger

    CharactersEffie White, Deena Jones, C. C. White, James Early, Curtis Taylor

    Dreamgirls is a Broadway musical, with music by Henry Krieger and lyrics and book by Tom Eyen.... more on Wikipedia
  • 6
    Cats
    200
    130

    Cats

    Richard Stilgoe , Andrew Lloyd Webber

    CharactersRum Tum Tugger, Jellylorum, Bombalurina, Old Deuteronomy, Bustopher Jones

    Cats is a musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, based on Old Possum's Book of Practical... more on Wikipedia

    More Cats 

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  • 7
    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
    138
    79

    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

    Andrew Lloyd Webber , Tim Rice

    CharactersPotiphar, Potiphar's Wife, Joseph, Pharaoh, Reuben

    Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is a musical or operetta with lyrics by Tim Rice... more on Wikipedia
  • 8
    Sunday in the Park with George
    103
    53

    Sunday in the Park with George

    James Lapine , Stephen Sondheim

    CharactersBilly Webster, Yvonne, Nurse, Bob Greenberg, Charles Redmond

    Sunday in the Park with George is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book... more on Wikipedia
  • 9
    42nd Street
    92
    63

    42nd Street

    Mark Bramble , Al Dubin

    CharactersPat Denning, Billy Lawlor, Julian Marsh, Abner Dillon, Mac

    42nd Street is an American musical with a book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, lyrics by... more on Wikipedia
  • 10
    Chess
    87
    64

    Chess

    Björn Ulvaeus , Benny Andersson

    CharactersFlorence, Molokov, The American, Svetlana, The Russian

    Chess is a musical with music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of the pop group ABBA,... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    La Cage aux Folles
    70
    51

    La Cage aux Folles

    Jerry Herman , Harvey Fierstein

    CharactersMadame Renaud, Albin, Jean-Michel, Jacob, Francis

    La Cage aux Folles (French pronunciation: ​[la kaʒ o fɔl]) is a musical with a book by Harvey... more on Wikipedia
  • 12
    Amadeus
    44
    44

    Amadeus

    Peter Shaffer

    CharactersWolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Salieri, Count Orsini-Rosenberg, Katerina Cavalieri, Constanze Mozart

    Amadeus is a play by Peter Shaffer, which gives a highly fictionalized account of the lives of... more on Wikipedia
  • 13
    A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
    22
    18

    A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

    Burt Shevelove , Larry Gelbart

    CharactersMiles Gloriosus, Senex, Hero, Marcus Lycus, Philia

    A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen... more on Wikipedia
  • 14
    Grand Hotel
    36
    39

    Grand Hotel

    George Forrest , Maury Yeston

    CharactersElizaveta Grushinskaya, Baron Felix Von Gaigern, Flaemmchen, Erik, Hermann Preysing

    Grand Hotel is a musical with a book by Luther Davis and music and lyrics by Robert Wright and... more on Wikipedia
  • 15
    Carrie
    49
    59

    Carrie

    Dean Pitchford , Lawrence D. Cohen

    CharactersCarrie White, Margaret White, Chris Hargensen, Sue Snell, Tommy Ross

    Carrie: The Musical is a musical with a book by Lawrence D. Cohen, lyrics by Dean Pitchford,... more on Wikipedia
  • 16
    City of Angels
    30
    33

    City of Angels

    David Zippel , Larry Gelbart

    CharactersAlaura Kingsley, Mallory Kingsley, Stone, Avril, Bobbi

    City of Angels is a musical comedy with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by David Zippel, and book... more on Wikipedia
  • 17
    Starlight Express
    54
    68

    Starlight Express

    Don Black , Richard Stilgoe

    CharactersPearl the Observation Car, Ashley the Smoking Car, Flat-Top the Brick Truck, Dustin the Big Hopper, Buffy the Buffet Car

    Starlight Express is a rock musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Stilgoe and Arlene... more on Wikipedia
  • 18
    Nine
    33
    44

    Nine

    Maury Yeston , Arthur Kopit

    CharactersGuido Contini, Carla, Claudia Jenssen, Saraghina, Luisa Contini

    Nine is a musical, initially created and written by Maury Yeston as a class-project in Lehman... more on Wikipedia
  • 19
    Rags
    28
    37

    Rags

    Stephen Schwartz , Joseph Stein

    CharactersSaul, Bella Cohen, Nathan Hershkowitz, Ben, David

    Rags is a musical with a book by Joseph Stein, lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and music by... more on Wikipedia
  • 20
    Me and My Girl
    23
    31

    Me and My Girl

    Noel Gay , Douglas Furber

    CharactersSir John Tremayne, Sally Smith, Herbert Parchester, Lady Jacqueline Carstone, Lord Jasper Tring

    Me and My Girl is a musical with music by Noel Gay and its original book and lyrics by Douglas... more on Wikipedia
  • 21
    Barnum
    32
    45

    Barnum

    Mark Bramble , Cy Coleman

    CharactersGeneral Tom Thumb, James Anthony Bailey, Phineas Taylor Barnum, Jenny Lind, Charity

    Barnum is a musical with a book by Mark Bramble, lyrics by Michael Stewart, and music by Cy... more on Wikipedia
  • 22
    Baby
    20
    32

    Baby

    Richard Maltby, Jr.
    Baby is a musical with a book by Sybille Pearson, based on a story developed with Susan... more on Wikipedia
  • 23
    Song and Dance
    21
    34

    Song and Dance

    Richard Maltby, Jr.
    Song and Dance is a musical comprising two acts, one told entirely in "Song" and one entirely... more on Wikipedia
  • 24
    Torch Song Trilogy
    22
    36

    Torch Song Trilogy

    Harvey Fierstein

    CharactersArnold Beckoff, Alan Simon, David, Mrs. Beckoff, Laurel

    Torch Song Trilogy is a collection of three plays by Harvey Fierstein rendered in three acts:... more on Wikipedia

    More Torch Song Trilogy 

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  • 25
    The Rink
    16
    30

    The Rink

    Terrence McNally , Fred Ebb
    The Rink is a musical with a book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and music by John... more on Wikipedia