The majority of my favorite musicals haven’t won the coveted Tony Award for Best Musical. In fact, few of them have. However, I’ve seen nearly 20 shows that did win this accolade, and I thought I would rank them purely based on my enjoyment of the show. Please note that I’m not ranking the following musicals based on how good they are, simply based on how much I personally like them.
Additional note: I’ve also seen Billy Elliot, Hairspray, and The Lion King, but I was too young when I saw them to rank them on this list.
16. A Little Night Music (1973)
I saw this musical at Stratford, and while the actors were undoubtedly talented, I did not enjoy the musical at all. The plot was annoying and while the music was gorgeous, I was too anxious about the plot to enjoy the songs at all.
15. Jersey Boys (2006)
I don’t remember this one too well, but I remember it well enough to rank it. Like many others on this list, it’s clear that Jersey Boys has great music, but the show itself wasn’t memorable enough for me. It’s another biographical jukebox musical in an age full of them, though it really was the catalyst that sparked this recent trend.
14. The Phantom of the Opera (1988)
I really don’t hate this one at all. In fact, it has one of my favorite sequences in all of musical theatre (specifically, “Angel of Music” all the way through “Music of the Night”). However, the show can get kind of dull at times, which is why I have it ranked here. It doesn’t help that people romanticize the Phantom, who is, in fact, a creepy stalker.
13. Fiddler on the Roof (1965)
Yes, I’m Jewish. Yes, I’m putting Fiddler on the Roof third to least favorite. The music is a delight and the dancing is obviously a spectacle, but the plot of this show is simply not interesting enough to me to sustain a three-hour musical.
12. Once (2012)
I hope I’m not beating a dead horse, but once (pun unintended) again, here’s another show with gorgeous songs and a dull plot. I enjoyed my overall experience seeing the show, and I would definitely see it again. However, like Fiddler, I don’t think this show has an riveting enough plot to be a two-act musical.
11. Fun Home (2015)
I wish I could see this one again because it’s getting a lower ranking than it deserves. There are some standout songs in this show for sure (most especially “Ring of Keys”), and the show is one of the most significant musicals of this decade, but I found myself zoning out throughout. Put simply, I wasn’t as invested in the plot as I should have been.
10. The Book of Mormon (2011)
I actually found to this show to be incredibly entertaining, but it’s too offensive to Africans, and Ugandans specifically, for me to completely overlook in this ranking.
9. Cabaret (1967)
Cabaret is a musical I’ve seen twice now and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it both times. The story is gripping, the music is absolutely inspired, and it has one of the most shocking finales (both act one and act two) in existence. That said, it has this ranking mainly because the length of each act is highly imbalanced, which makes the hour-and-a-half first act drag a bit.
8. How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (1962)
I’ve only seen this musical once, but it is definitely one of the highlights of my theatre journey. Above all else, it’s such a fun show to watch because the plot is positively wild and kooky in the best way.
7. Les Misérables (1987)
Though it’s widely recognized for being one of the most depressing musicals ever written, Les Misérables is a work of pure artistic genius. It’s not a show I’d want to watch every day, but it’s one I thoroughly appreciate each time I see it.
6. Dear Evan Hansen (2017)
The first time I heard “Waving Through A Window”, I knew that Dear Evan Hansen was going to be one of my favorite musicals. I know it’s simultaneously a beloved and a hated musical in the fandom, but I lean more towards the side that loves it. The music is exactly my style, and the plot is modern and intriguing, though its depiction of mental illness is why it’s not higher up on my list.
5. Hamilton (2016)
This show is a work of art from beginning to end. It seamlessly transitions from song to song, and every single one is practically perfect. The only few reasons why it’s not number one is because I simply enjoy other musicals more, along with the fact that people’s sheer obsession with it is starting to bother me. Subsequently, this inadvertently draws attention away from other shows. In addition, fandom has started treating the extremely flawed founding fathers as fictional characters, which just isn’t right.
4. Kinky Boots (2013)
The first time I saw this show was in 2013 with the original cast, and to this day it’s one of the most entertaining shows around. Everything works in harmony with this show, from the music, to the choreography, to the plot, to the production design. It’s really well put together, but most of all, its messages of self-love and acceptance of others is incredibly significant in today’s hateful world.
3. A Chorus Line (1976)
There’s a reason why A Chorus Line won a Pulitzer Prize. It’s an original musical with a plot that stands the test of time. While each and every song is noteworthy in their own way, the choreography is even better. Also, this show is loved dearly in my family, so I had to rank it here.
2. In The Heights (2008)
With its relevance in modern history and top-notch songs, In The Heights is one of my all-time favorite musicals. Much like A Chorus Line and Rent, you can tell that it’s a musical about real-life people living authentic lives, which makes it all the more poignant and accessible to the everyday theatregoer.
1. Rent (1996)
In January alone, I saw the Rent national tour as well as Rent
Live. After seeing both of them, I feel absolutely confident in saying that it’s my number one favorite Tony-winning best musical. I can listen to the soundtrack on shuffle for hours on end, and each and every cast brings something new to the show. Even though it has its flaws, I simply adore it.
What’s your favorite Tony-winning best musical that you’ve seen? Least favorite?