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The Best Broadway Musicals of the 90s

Updated January 8, 2021 21.7k votes 1.8k voters 60.6k views43 items

From Chicago to The Lion King, the '90s saw a number of hit musicals that were popular with theater audiences. While going to the theater has always been (and still is) considered to be pretty high-brow, many 1990s musicals introduced fun, accessible elements like rock music and youthful themes that appealed to a younger generation. Think back– which '90s musicals do you think take the cake for being the best of the decade? This list has been ranked by hundreds of theater fans like you, so don't let them down! Vote for your choices of the best 1990s Broadway musicals. 

By the '90s, musical theater began fading away into obscurity. Though Broadway had once reigned supreme, it was now struggling to remain relevant amidst rapidly changing times, combined with rising ticket costs and low attendance. Still, the 1990s saw its fair share of Broadway hits that stuck out among the loyal theater fans. The shows were modernized and often tackled weighty topics such as in the successful show, Rent, a rock musical about a group of young artists in New York dealing with the realities of HIV/AIDS. Though the show started off-Broadway, it eventually found its place and gained critical acclaim, winning a Tony Award for Best Musical. Rent would continue on Broadway for 12 years, until 2008, after more than 5,000 performances.  

The '90s was also a time of the "corporate musical," elaborate stage efforts produced with a massive amount of money from corporate sponsorship in order to win over the box office. Such shows included Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Though the shows were much loved by audiences, the real magic of musical theater through experimentation, emotion, and true talent was lost to impressive, yet sterile, shows.

What are the top Broadway musicals from the 1990s? But what were the most popular Broadway musicals of the '90s? Cast your votes below and see how your fellow theater fans voted!
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  • 1
    Jonathan Larson
    623

    CharactersMimi Marquez, Angel Dumott Schunard, Joanne Jefferson, Maureen Johnson, Tom Collins

    Rent is a rock musical with music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson loosely based on Giacomo Puccini's opera La bohème. It tells the story of a group of impoverished young artists struggling to survive...  more

    #11 of 87 The Most Popular Broadway Musicals of All Time#22 of 186 The Greatest Musicals Ever Performed on Broadway, Ranked#3 of 66 The Best Tony Award Winning Musicals

  • 2
    Bob Fosse , Fred Ebb
    447

    CharactersVelma 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...  more

    #7 of 71 The Best Musicals Based on Movies#1 of 35 The Best Broadway Musicals of the '70s#9 of 26 The Best Broadway Shows Right Now

  • 3
    Mark Mancina , Elton John
    466

    CharactersScar, Simba, Mufasa, Pumbaa, Nala

    The Lion King is a musical based on the 1994 Walt Disney Animation Studios' animated feature film of the same name with music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, and book by Roger Allers and Irene...  more

    #2 of 9 All The Broadway Musicals Based On Disney Movies, Ranked#1 of 39 The Best Broadway Shows for Kids

  • 4
    Alan Menken , Linda Woolverton
    343

    CharactersBelle, Gaston, Beast, Babette, Wardrobe

    Beauty and the Beast is a musical with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton. Adapted from Walt Disney Pictures' Academy Award-winning 1991 animated...  more
  • 5
    gta632119 addedStephen Trask , John Cameron Mitchell
    4

    CharactersHedwig, Tommy Gnosis, Yitzhak, Sgt. Luther Robinson, Schlatko

    Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a rock musical about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by a gay male East German singer named Hedwig. Hedwig, formerly Hansel, assumes a female persona after a...  more
  • 6
    Richard Maltby, Jr.
    311

    CharactersChristopher Scott, Kim, John Thomas, Tam, Gigi Van Tranh

    Miss Saigon is a musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr. It is based on Giacomo Puccini's opera Madame Butterfly, and similarly tells the...  more
  • 7
    James Lapine , William Finn
    125

    CharactersMarvin, Trina, Whizzer Brown, Mendel, Jason

    Falsettos is a musical with a book by James Lapine and William Finn and music and lyrics by Finn. The musical consists of March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, the last two in a trio of one-act...  more
  • 8
    Terrence McNally , Stephen Flaherty
    202

    CharactersMother, Coalhouse Walker, Jr., Younger Brother, Evelyn Nesbit

    Ragtime is a musical with a book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and music by Stephen Flaherty. The music includes marches, cakewalks, gospel and ragtime. Based on the 1975 novel by E. L....  more
  • 9
    Blake Edwards , Frank Wildhorn
    184

    CharactersSquash (Mr. Bernstein), Victor, Norma Cassidy, André Cassell, Richard Di Nardo

    Victor/Victoria is a musical with a book by Blake Edwards, music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and additional musical material (music and lyrics) by Frank Wildhorn. It is based on the...  more
  • 10
    Christopher Hampton , Don Black
    155

    CharactersNorma Desmond, Joe Gillis, Betty Schaefer, Artie Green, Max Von Mayerling

    Sunset Boulevard is a musical with book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Based on Billy Wilder's Academy Award-winning 1950 film of the same title,...  more
  • 11
    RichardBeecher addedWarren Casey , Jim Jacobs
    232

    CharactersSandy 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...  more

    #2271 of 2,810 The Greatest Albums of All-Time#54 of 112 Albums You're Guaranteed To Find In Every Parent's CD Collection#3 of 45 The Greatest Musicals That Started Off-Broadway

  • 12
    Marsha Norman , Lucy Simon
    151

    CharactersMary Lennox, Colin Craven, Martha Sowerby, Dickon Sowerby, Ben Weatherstaff

    The Secret Garden is a musical based on the 1911 novel of the same name by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The musical's script and lyrics are by Marsha Norman, with music by Lucy Simon. It premiered on...  more
  • 13
    Eric Carmen , Sammy Hagar
    159

    CharactersRusty Rodriguez, Ariel Moore, Ren McCormack, Chuck Cranston, Vi Moore

    Footloose is a 1998 musical based on the 1984 film of the same name. In 2011 there was a remake of the original movie (directed by Craig Brewer and starring Juliane Hough and Kenny Wormald). The...  more
  • 14
    Frank Wildhorn , Leslie Bricusse
    182

    CharactersDr. Henry Jekyll, Mr. Edward Hyde, Lucy Harris, Emma Carew

    Jekyll & Hyde is a musical thriller based on the novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Originally conceived for the stage by Frank Wildhorn and Steve Cuden, it...  more
  • 15
    Stephen Flaherty , Lynn Ahrens
    124

    CharactersErzulie, Armand, Azaka Medeh, Asaka, Tonton Julian

    Once on This Island is a one-act musical with a book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty. Based on the 1985 novel My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl by Rosa Guy, it is set in...  more
  • 16
    Jason Robert Brown , Alfred Uhry
    104

    CharactersNewt Lee, Tom Watson, Detective JN Starnes, Leo Frank, Luther Z. Rosser

    Parade is a musical with a book by Alfred Uhry and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. The musical premiered on Broadway in 1998 and won Tony Awards for Best Book and Best Original Score (out of...  more
  • 17
    Bob Fosse , Fred Ebb
    104
    Fosse is a three-act musical revue showcasing the choreography of Bob Fosse. The musical was conceived by Richard Maltby, Jr, Chet Walker, and Ann Reinking....  more
  • 18
    ian-reynolds addedMaury Yeston and Peter Stone
    98

    Characters2nd Officer Charles Lightoller, 1st Officer William Murdoch, 4th Officer Joseph Boxhall, Captain E. J. Smith, Robert Hichens

    Maury Yeston and Peter Stone
    Titanic is a musical with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and a book by Peter Stone that opened on Broadway in 1997. It swept the 1997 musical Tony Awards winning all five it was nominated for...  more
  • 19
    George Gershwin , Ira Gershwin
    93

    CharactersPatricia Fodor, Irene Roth, Everett Baker, Eugene Fodor, Bobby Child

    Crazy for You is a romantic love musical with a book by Ken Ludwig, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and music by George Gershwin. Billed as "The New Gershwin Musical Comedy", it is largely based on the...  more
  • 20
    Des McAnuff , Pete Townshend
    99

    CharactersUncle Ernie, Tommy, The Lover, The Hawker, Sally Simpson

    The Who's Tommy is a rock musical with music and lyrics by Pete Townshend and book by Townshend and Des McAnuff, based on The Who's 1969 rock opera Tommy....  more
  • 21
    David Zippel , Larry Gelbart
    85

    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 by Larry Gelbart. The musical weaves together two plots, the "real" world of a writer trying to turn his...  more
  • 22
    Nan Knighton , Frank Wildhorn
    88

    CharactersCitizen Chauvelin, Marguerite St. Just, Lord Anthony Dewhurst, Sir Percy Blakeney, Armand St.Just

    The Scarlet Pimpernel is a musical with music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics and book by Nan Knighton, based on the novel of the same name by Baroness Orczy. The show is set in England and France...  more
  • 23
    92

    CharactersTony Manero, Double J., Doreen, Connie, Frank Jr.

    Saturday Night Fever is a musical with a book by Nan Knighton (in collaboration with Arlene Phillips, Paul Nicholas, and Robert Stigwood) and music and lyrics by the Bee Gees. Based on Nik Cohn's...  more
  • 24
    Willy Russell
    82

    CharactersSammy, Mr Lyons, Mrs Lyons, Mrs Johnston, Mickey

    Blood Brothers is a musical with book, lyrics and music by Willy Russell. The story is a contemporary nature versus nurture plot, revolving around fraternal twins Mickey and Eddie who were separated...  more
  • 25
    James Lapine , Stephen Sondheim
    64
    Passion is a one-act musical, with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by James Lapine. The story was adapted from Ettore Scola's film Passione d'Amore, itself adapted from the novel...  more