History of Broadway Musicals:
More Than A Century of Musical Classics

The history of Broadway Musicals began nearly a century and a half ago - with a production called The Black Crook. This musical fit what we now call "Broadway musicals" because it included songs, dance and an accompanying story line to support it all. This first musical opened in New York on September 12, 1866.


Vaudeville took America by storm in the late 1800s, and brought a distinctive flavor to the Broadway shows. Dancing became extremely popular, and these shows attracted a lot of attention from Americans. During stressful times, entertainment became more and more a way to "get away from it all" for a time - and forget about one's own troubles.

1900s Music

By the early 1900s, Broadway musicals were in full swing.

The great songs from these musicals involved almost all of the top composers of the day, each in his own time period. A pleasant surprise awaited some of the lesser known composers, some of whose songs "caught fire" and lifted their stock considerably toward the top composer status.

In many cases, great Broadway show tunes were composed in a short time and were written specifically for a particular musical. Proof of this can be seen by noting that the songs and musical release dates are often in the same year.

In other cases, especially after the composed song was well established, a particular song was selected as the theme song of a Broadway Musical.

When looking back for patterns in the history of Broadway musicals, often the latter type of musical didn't attain the popularity of the productions which featured many songs composed specifically to reinforce the storyline.

History of Broadway Musicals Hits

The Broadway hit musicals quickly blasted their way into the secular music world and were endeared to the hearts of music lovers the world over - to the entertained as well as the entertainers.

The stars of these productions - particularly the singing stars, were recognized and lauded, and while usually a singer was not typed forever in a certain role, he or she was certainly associated with "their song". For example, think of Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music title song: "The Hills Are Alive".

Many of the best Broadway musicals featured a man and a woman with great vocals and character, although some had only one or the other. Choral singing was often a part of the productions, but the soloists typically got the fame for the performance, if the musical indeed became famous.

Many Broadway musicals became so popular that they were also made into movies.

The history of Broadway musicals is colorful and fascinating. I hope that this introduction to some of the inner workings of our famous classics has piqued your interest.

For my pick of the Top 7 Broadway Hits , click here.

Also, enjoy scrolling through the extensive lists of some of the greatest Broadway musicals by clicking on the links below.

Go from History of Broadway Musicals to Broadway Show Tunes

Broadway Musicals A - F

Broadway Music G - L

Broadway Musicals List M - S

Broadway Musicals T - Z

Share this page:
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

Enter Your Email Address

Enter Your Name