The Best Broadway Plays of the 80s

What are the best Broadway plays from the 1980s? This list has been ranked by theater lovers to determine the best plays performed on Broadway in the '80s, a decade of industrialization, war and the birth of Millenials. These themes and other current events would find themselves on Broadway in the 80s, in plays such in Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and many more. What are the top 80s Broadway plays?

Though the 1980s is often known for significant fashion trends such as ripped jeans and teased hair that often found their way to the stage, the Broadway play Amadeus was based on the lives of composers Salieri and Mozart and had nothing to do with popular 1980s imagery but was instead a period piece dating back to the 18th century. The show later won the1981  Tony Award for Best Play.

Still, other plays such as Children of a Lesser God focused on stories that resonated deeply with 80s audiences. Written by Mark Medoff, the 1980 play revolved around a relationship between a deaf student and her teacher and won the Tony Award for Best Play that year, running for 887 performances.

What are the best non-musical Broadway shows that opened in the 80s? Cast your votes below on this is a list of the top Broadway plays from the 1980s.
Ranked by
  • Amadeus
    Peter Shaffer
    51 votes
    • Characters: Wolfgang 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 the composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. First performed in 1979, Amadeus was inspired by a short 1830 play by Alexander Pushkin called Mozart and Salieri. In the play, significant use is made of the music of Mozart, Salieri and other composers of the period. The premieres of Mozart's operas The Abduction from the Seraglio, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and The Magic Flute are each the setting for key scenes of the play. Amadeus won the 1981 Tony Award for Best Play. It was adapted by Shaffer for the 1984 Academy Award winning film of the same name.
  • Brighton Beach Memoirs
    33 votes
    • Characters: Eugene Morris Jerome, Blanche Morton, Nora Morton, Jack Jerome, Stanley Jerome
    Brighton Beach Memoirs is a semi-autobiographical play by Neil Simon, the first chapter in what is known as his Eugene trilogy. It precedes Biloxi Blues and Broadway Bound.
  • Children of a Lesser God

    Children of a Lesser God

    Mark Medoff
    33 votes
  • Glengarry Glen Ross

    Glengarry Glen Ross

    David Mamet
    29 votes
    • Characters: Ricky Roma, Dave Moss, James Lingk, John Williamson, George Aaronow
    Glengarry Glen Ross is a play by David Mamet that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984. The play shows parts of two days in the lives of four desperate Chicago real estate agents who are prepared to engage in any number of unethical, illegal acts—from lies and flattery to bribery, threats, intimidation and burglary—to sell undesirable real estate, Glengarry and Glen Ross, to unwitting prospective buyers. It is based on Mamet's experience having previously worked in a similar office. The world premiere was at the National Theatre in London on September 21, 1983 where Bill Bryden's production in the Cottesloe Theatre was acclaimed as a triumph of ensemble acting. The play opened on Broadway on March 25, 1984 and closed on February 17, 1985. The production was directed by Gregory Mosher and starred Joe Mantegna, Mike Nussbaum, Robert Prosky, Lane Smith, James Tolkan, Jack Wallace and J. T. Walsh. The production was nominated for four Tony awards including Best Play, Best Director, and two Best Featured Actor nominations for Robert Prosky and Joe Mantegna, who won the production's one Tony.
  • Fences


    August Wilson, Branford Marsalis
    40 votes
    • Characters: Cory, Troy, Rose, Mr. Rand, Lyons
    Fences is a 1983 play by American playwright August Wilson. Set in the 1950s, it is the sixth in Wilson's ten-part "Pittsburgh Cycle". Like all of the "Pittsburgh" plays, Fences explores the evolving African-American experience and examines race relations, among other themes. The play won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 1987 Tony Award for Best Play.
  • The Elephant Man
    Bernard Pomerance
    16 votes
    • Characters: John Merrick, Mrs. Kendal, Frederick Treves, Carr Gomm

    David Bowie famously played John Merrick in 1980 during part of its original Broadway run.

    The Elephant Man is a play by Bernard Pomerance. It premiered at the Hampstead Theatre in London on 7 November 1977. It later played in repertory at the National Theatre in London. It ran Off-Broadway from 14 January to 18 March 1979, at The Theatre at St. Peter's. The production's Broadway debut in 1979 at the Booth Theatre was produced by Richmond Crinkley and Nelle Nugent, and directed by Jack Hofsiss. The play closed in 1981 after eight previews and 916 regular performances. The story is based on the life of Joseph Merrick, referred to in the script as John Merrick, who lived in the Victorian era and is known for the extreme deformity of his body. The lead role of Merrick was originated by David Schofield in a definitive performance. Subsequent productions starred actors including Philip Anglim, David Bowie, Mark Hamill, Bruce Davison, and Bradley Cooper.The play calls for no prosthetic makeup on the actor portraying Merrick; the actor portrays Merrick's deformity through physicality, letting the audience imagine Merrick's appearance.