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Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical

Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical

chrishuyen
#1Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/11/23 at 2:05am

The discussion in the Here We Are thread got me thinking, what's the most prominent/well-regarded musical that has never been on Broadway? I'm not talking things like Assassins or Little Shop which did eventually make it to Broadway in a revival, but things that have firmly stayed off-Broadway/regional and still manage to be significant today.

For the sake of the question, I'm considering mostly American shows, since there's a whole slew of West End/other European shows that have never made the transfer, but I think one that comes to mind for me is Hunchback of Notre Dame.

baritonewithtenortendencies
#2Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/11/23 at 2:22am

Probably The Fantasticks

Forty two year run followed by an eleven year revival

Very unsuccessful outside of specifically the Off Broadway market

Now it's a classic

Incredible score and book that holds up to this day, probably one of my favorite musicals of all time

And honestly I could not see it working as well on Broadway

Maybe a limited Broadway run could work for it but like certainly not a forty year run like what it had Off Broadway. 

Honestly I'm not sure why your mind would immediately go to Hunchback, it almost makes me think either you haven't heard of Fantasticks or you have something against it

chrishuyen
#3Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/11/23 at 3:11am

You're absolutely right and it seems very obvious in hindsight! (Fwiw I never got a chance to see it and Hunchback is talked about quite a bit in my theater circles)

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Kad
#4Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/11/23 at 9:32am

Yeah I’d say The Fantasticks for its longevity and cultural impact. 
 

Also, I’d throw in shows like Forever Plaid and Forbidden Broadway. 


"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."

baritonewithtenortendencies
#5Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/11/23 at 1:06pm

Every show named so far is really great and definitely significant for their only Off-Broadway runs 

But might I add a very unconventional long running show: 

Blue Man Group 

I don't know if you count that as a musical

But it's not not a musical

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Broadway Flash
#6Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/11/23 at 1:32pm

So not many.  I think Here We Are should come to Broadway or else it will also be seen as niche, and this musical deserves better than that.

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ParachuteBoy
#7Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/11/23 at 1:56pm

The Last Five Years

Heathers

 

JSquared2
#8Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/11/23 at 2:03pm

There's no debate required -- the correct answer in THE FANTASTICKS.

Nothing else even comes close.

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raddersons
#9Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/11/23 at 3:57pm

I know Little Shop was on Broadway, but that production was easily its least successful iteration. It was basically an instant classic, going straight from off-bway to movie musical. The original off-bway and current off-bway runs have been much much more successful than its brief Broadway run.

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JoeW4
#10Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/11/23 at 4:08pm

I think there's a case to be made for The Last Five Years, honestly. 

The Fantasticks obviously get longevity points (and IMO, quality points). But I have to say, The Last Five Years feels like it's more well-known nowadays. The Fantaticks is one of my all-time favorite musicals, but when I talk to people about it, it's a real crapshoot whether the person will have even even heard the score (a real shame!). Meanwhile, it's hard to find anyone who doesn't know The Last Five Years. 

Obviously there's a generational divide here - I'm in my late 20s, so I'm more likely to be talking to younger theatre fans. But I'd argue that while older fans are more likely to know The Fantasticks, most of those same older fans probably have some familiarity with The Last Five Years too. Whereas the reverse isn't necessarily true for the younger generations. 

All of this is anecdotal, obviously. Take it with a grain of salt!

baritonewithtenortendencies
#11Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/11/23 at 8:22pm

The Last Five Years is an excellent, excellent show

And it's a very popular Off Broadway show

But the most prominent, as I said and many others have echoed, is absolutely The Fantasticks

I mean when you really think about its run and its legacy, it's fairly likely that every musical today has some kind of influence from it

Like if I ever meet Sondheim's ghost first thing I'm asking

Is if Sunday in the Park with George, my favorite Sondheim show by far, is structured in a way that's based on The Fantasticks

I would be extremely shocked if it wasn't 

The Last Five Years is mostly so well known amongst theatre fans because of the excellent Jason Robert Brown score

But The Fantasticks

Has been a critical success for sixty years 

And it's one of the only Off Broadway musicals that I think can be counted amongst the greats

It's just such an incredibly written show with so much to it even though it's literally an eight person show

It's the ultimate evolution of the uniquely theatre suspension of dibelief and pretty much the blueprint for every concept musical that came afterwards 

Also it probably has the best book of a musical ever written???? 

If not the best at least like top ten 

Obviously Fiddler, Gypsy, Sunday, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, and a few other shows that are currently slipping my mind might have something to say about that 

Maybe I'm just biased because I think Tom Jones was one of the most brilliant men in the theatre and, even though he hadn't done much in a while at the time of his death, I feel it so profoundly

I feel like we all feel the loss of Tom Jones, and it's even stronger than the feeling of loss when The Fantasticks revival closed

Back then I thought it could always be revived again 

But something about the death of the author of the show makes it feel so distant

Oh and by the way if you never got to see him acting in the show 

It was probably one of the best performances in a non speaking role in a musical ever

He was really, truly phenomenal 

WindyNewYorker
#12Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/11/23 at 8:31pm

Soft power at the Public.

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missthemountains
#13Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/12/23 at 12:00am

chrishuyen said: "The discussion in the Here We Are thread got me thinking, what's the most prominent/well-regarded musical that has never been on Broadway? I'm not talking things like Assassins or Little Shop which did eventually make it to Broadway in a revival, but things that have firmly stayed off-Broadway/regional and still manage to be significant today.

For the sake of the question, I'm considering mostly American shows, since there's a whole slew of West End/other European shows that have never made the transfer, but I think one that comes to mind for me is Hunchback of Notre Dame.
"

I guess it depends on the use of the word significant - but FANTASTICKS, LSOH, NUNSENSE, FORBIDDEN BROADWAY, ALTAR BOYZ, NAKED BOYS SINGING, like them or not, have proved to be the most successful Off-Broadway and have all had touring productions our separate non-replica productions. I think the meat and bones of your question is which ones have artistic merit, have had success other places, but not made it to Broadway, TICK TICK BOOM, DOGFIGHT, TL5Y (and some might argue SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD). I personally like ZOMBIE PROM and RUTHLESS a lot too, which were pretty well received during their time IIRC.

chrishuyen
#14Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/12/23 at 1:48am

I think part of the original question was also how "big" a show could get without reaching Broadway because someone did mention that usually the Tonys are an indicator that people look at for which shows are "good" (by all means not the sole indicator, but it can't be denied that people do use that as their benchmark).  I think Fantasticks is definitely the most significant show in terms of its run and influence and how many people know about it.  But shows like Last Five Years and Tick Tick Boom feel "buzzier" in my sphere.  So part of me was also wondering where Here We Are might fall in the annals of theater history assuming it never comes to Broadway; of course it will always have significance as the last Sondheim, but for a while Road Show had that distinction and it seemed to never have reached the same amount of awareness/discourse as Here We are (though that could also be because I wasn't paying attention back then and internet discussion was different etc etc, feel free to say I'm wrong).

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CATSNYrevival
#15Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/12/23 at 3:13am

chrishuyen said: "I think part of the original question was also how "big" a show could get without reaching Broadway because someone did mention that usually the Tonys are an indicator that people look at for which shows are "good" (by all means not the sole indicator, but it can't be denied that people do use that as their benchmark). I think Fantasticks is definitely the most significant show in terms of its run and influence and how many people know about it."


Just as a note of interest The Fantasticks did receive a special Tony Award. I’m not aware of many or any other Off-Broadway shows that received special Tony Award recognition but there may be others.

bear88
#16Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/12/23 at 3:37am

I think it’s tough for anyone to make an assessment of Here We Are because the show is so hard to evaluate outside of its context as ‘the last Sondheim musical’ and its long and mysterious path to The Shed. It’s possible that, without the very impressive work done by Joe Mantello, the set designers and the Broadway-caliber cast, some of us may look back and say the actual show wasn’t as good as it seemed. (It has dissenters now, of course.) Then again, it could be another ‘Sondheim show’ (even though it has less Sondheim and more David Ives) that is divisive at first and earns a greater reputation later.

I do hope, almost more than a cast recording, that the show is professionally filmed. I’m not counting on that, but it would be nice to preserve the performance for people who won’t get a chance to see it (and for me to check it out again).

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msmp
#17Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/12/23 at 7:23am

Kad said: "Yeah I’d say The Fantasticks for its longevity and cultural impact.


Also, I’d throw in shows like Forever Plaid and Forbidden Broadway.
"

Lord, this reminded me how much I miss Forbidden Broadway's regular skewering of the industry.

JSquared2
#18Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/12/23 at 11:01am

Interesting sidebar re THE FANTASTICKS...in 1990, the show went out on a "pre-Broadway" Tour that attempted to "open up" the show by increasing the cast size from 8 to 15 (adding an ensemble).The star was Robert Goulet.  The changes they made were AWFUL, and 6 months into the run, Goulet (who was miserable doing the tour) bought out his contract in order to shoot a NAKED GUN movie instead!

https://www.nytimes.com/1990/12/14/theater/on-stage-and-off.html

I REALLY miss Alex Witchel's NYT columns.

 

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kdogg36
#19Most Prominent Off-Broadway Musical
Posted: 12/12/23 at 11:11am

baritonewithtenortendencies said: "Like if I ever meet Sondheim's ghost first thing I'm asking

Is if Sunday in the Park with George, my favorite Sondheim show by far, is structured in a way that's based on The Fantasticks

I would be extremely shocked if it wasn't
"

The story told here answers your question pretty clearly! Long story short: I'd find another question to ask Sondheim's ghost. smiley


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