Calling all theater kids! If you live for show tunes and can barely restrain yourself from singin' in the rain, then this is the quiz for you! We all love Broadway musicals for their gorgeous costumes, stunning sets, virtuoso singing, intrepid dancing and hilarious wordplay. But there's one aspect of Broadway musicals that may have escaped your notice, due to all their other moving parts: These entertaining extravaganzas often have preposterous plots.
An orphan runs away from her orphanage and just so happens to encounter a doting millionaire? A cowboy, a farm hand and a farm girl find themselves caught in a love triangle that ends with the murder of the farm hand by the cowboy and ... no one goes to prison? A group of cats gather for a special ball that will determine which of them ascends to heaven and ... well, how supernatural are these animals?
Yes, Broadway musicals offer some of the most ridiculous plots you could possibly imagine, but perhaps that's part of their charm. In any case, we're curious to test whether your Broadway knowledge is deep enough to allow you to guess the names of these hit musicals when we simply describe their plots to you, using single-sentence synopses. Ready to prove you're a true Broadway buff? Then play this quiz!
Written by Meredith Wilson, "The Music Man" tells the story of Harold Hill, a fraudster who fools a small town into buying uniforms and musical instruments for a marching band that he has no intention of really organizing. When spinster librarian Marion becomes suspicious of him, Harold proceeds to seduce her, accidentally developing feelings for her in the process. "The Music Man" came to Broadway in 1957 and ran for 1,375 performances, garnering five Tony Awards and inspiring a beloved 1962 film adaptation starring Robert Preston and Shirley Jones. Professional and amateur theater companies still perform the show today.
Written entirely by Lin-Manuel Miranda and starring him in the eponymous role, "Hamilton: An American Musical" is a rapped and sung musical about American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. It takes an unconventional, exciting approach to American history and has enjoyed sold-out runs on Broadway since its debut in February 2015. The critical response to "Hamilton" has been similarly enthusiastic; currently, the show has received 16 Tony nominations and has won 11 Tony Awards, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Based on "Pygmalion," a novel by George Bernard Shaw, "My Fair Lady" is the story of Henry Higgins, a professor who becomes obsessed with teaching Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle how to pass as a "lady" in society. In the process, he falls in love with her himself. Clever lyrics and stirring music by the classic Broadway team of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe helped to make this show's 1956 debut a roaring success, leading to a record-breaking run of performances.
With music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and a story by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, "Guys and Dolls" was inspired by the short stories of Damon Runyon. It premiered on Broadway in 1950 and ran for more than a thousand performances, winning a Tony for Best Musical and inspiring a film starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando.
"Oklahoma!" was written by the legendary team of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Set in a region that would later become the state of Oklahoma, this musical centers on a love triangle between farm girl Laurie and her two suitors, cowboy Curly and farm hand Jud. It premiered on Broadway in 1933 and ran for over 2,000 performances, an incredibly long run for a show at that time.
Based on a controversial German play written in 1891, "Spring Awakening" deals with sexual taboos. The original cast included international stars Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele, John Gallagher Jr. and Skylar Astin. The play opened in 2006 and went on to win eight Tony Awards.
Written by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen, "Dreamgirls" fictionalizes the real-life stories of groups like The Supremes to tell the story of a "girl group" who become famous. The show opened in 1981 with a majority African-American cast and went on to win 13 Tony Awards. In 2006, "Dreamgirls" was made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy.
A loose adaptation of the Puccini opera "La Bohème", "Rent" opened at an Off-Broadway theater before moving to Broadway in April 1996. It had a record-breaking 12-year run of over 5,000 performances, making it Broadway's tenth-longest-running show until 2016, when "Wicked" surpassed its longevity.
"Cats" opened on Broadway in 1982 and ran for 18 years. Based on a T.S. Elliot poem that was adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber, "Cats" is a whimsical musical about a tribe of cats who gather for a grand ball.
Based on Victor Hugo's 1862 novel about the French Revolution, "Les Miserables" has been running in London since 1985, making it the second-longest running musical of all time. It tells the story of Jean Valjean, a French convict seeking redemption while being pursued by Inspector Javert. "Les Miserables" opened on Broadway in 1987 and ran for more than 6,500 performances, finally closing in May 2003.
Created by Marvin Hamlisch, Edward Kleban, James Kirkwood Jr. and Nicholas Dante, "A Chorus Line" opened on Broadway in 1975, going on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Its bare-bones stage setting and backstage focus gives it a more "meta" setting than more conventional musicals as it tells the story of a very competitive audition for a spot in a Broadway show.
Written by "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone in collaboration with Robert Lopez, "The Book of Mormon" depicts two Mormon missionaries on a mission to Uganda, where they discover the Ugandans have no time for their message because they're busy dealing with health crises, famine and war. Critically acclaimed, the musical was also a hit with audiences, grossing more than $500 million in ticket sales.
Adapted by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse from a play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, "Chicago" is a satire of jazz-age mores that mocks the public's endless appetite for prurient reporting on salacious crimes, such as wife-husband murder cases. It opened in 1975 and ran for two years before closing. It was revived in 1996 and went on to become the second longest-running show in Broadway history.
Mel Brooks, Glen Besterman, Doug Besterman and Thomas Meehan adapted this musical from Mel Brooks' comedic film "The Producers," which combines Broadway in-jokes with sharp humor about Nazis. Its Broadway production opened in 2001 and ran for more than 2,500 performances.
"Jersey Boys" is a biographical musical about Frankie Valli, leader of The Four Seasons. It's about a group of working-class young men from New Jersey who form a band and subsequently stay loyal to each other throughout the decades. Featuring popular doo-wop songs such as "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Sherry", "December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", "Jersey Boys" enjoyed a long and successful Broadway run of 12 years.
"Mamma Mia!" was written by Catherine Johnson and features music by ABBA. A light-hearted comedic musical about an older woman who isn't sure which of her ex-boyfriends fathered her adult daughter, "Mamma Mia!" is an international hit. It's still being produced in London and ran on Broadway for 14 years.
Created by Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown, "The Wiz" opened on Broadway in 1975, going on to win seven Tony Awards. Featuring an African-American cast, "The Wiz" creatively reframes "The Wizard of Oz" in terms of the black experience, making Dorothy a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher and the Emerald City a thinly veiled version of Manhattan.
Created by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty, "Avenue Q" is about the disappointment felt by young people when they realize they're not as special as PBS children's programs told them they were. It opened on Broadway in 2003 and ran for more than 2,500 performances.
Based on the incredibly popular Disney film of the same name, "The Lion King" features music by Elton John and Tim Rice, along with a story by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi. Famously directed by Julie Taymor, "The Lion King" is known for its spectacular costumes, puppets and sets. It's been running on Broadway since 2006 and is the highest-grossing Broadway production of all time.
Based on a novel by Gregory Maguire that in turn was inspired by "The Wizard of Oz," "Wicked" is the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. Featuring music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a story by Winnie Holzman, "Wicked" asks us to imagine an Oz where Glinda is morally gray, Dorothy is evil and the Wicked Witch isn't so much wicked as she is misunderstood. It opened on Broadway in 2003 and is still running.
Written by Joseph Stein and featuring music by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, "Fiddler on the Roof" is set in Russia in 1905. It's about Tevye, a family man whose Jewish identity is threatened both by the changing times and by the Tsar's racist political policies. It opened on Broadway in 1964 and ran for more than 3,000 performances. Today, it still enjoys international popularity.
Based on a novel by Christopher Isherwood, "Cabaret" is set in a nightclub frequented by patrons who are sexually unconventional and/or Jewish. Taking place in 1931, "Cabaret" has a fun, sexy tone which later gives way to creeping dread as the rise of Nazism is foreshadowed. %0DA hit on Broadway, "Cabaret" inspired an iconic film adaptation in 1972, starring Liza Minnelli.
Based on Harold Gray's comic strip "Little Orphan Annie," "Annie" opened in 1977 and ran for almost six years. Famous for its spunky heroine, as well as Jay Z's sampling of its song "It's a Hard Knock Life" for his track of the same name, "Annie" is popular with young audiences.
Featuring a story by Marsha Norma and music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, "The Color Purple" is about Celie, an African-American woman who suffers horrific abuse from her father and husband before falling in love with her husband's mistress, Shug. Critically acclaimed, this show ran on Broadway from 2005 to 2008 before being revived in 2015.
Based on William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," "West Side Story" was adapted for the stage by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. The team changes the story's setting to a working-class New York City neighborhood, where racial tension simmers between the Sharks, a gang of youth with Puerto Rican heritage, and the Jets, a gang of youth with Polish and Italian heritage. The show opened on Broadway in 1957 and ran for 732 performances, going on to be nominated for six Tony Awards.
"Spamalot," a parody of the legend of Camelot, is based on a cult comedy film by the British surreal comedy group Monty Python. It opened on Broadway in 2005. As directed by Mike Nichols, "Spamalot" garnered 14 Tony nominations, running for more than 1,500 performances.
Written by Guy Bolton, P. G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, "Anything Goes" uses its cruise ship setting to tell the story of stowaway Billy Crocker's pursuit of heiress Hope Harcourt, who already has a fiance. As Billy strives to win Hope's heart, he finds unlikely allies in the form of a singer and a criminal. Although written in 1934, "Anything Goes" has been regularly revived on Broadway and elsewhere since its debut, thanks to its funny plot and Porter's extremely catchy songs.
"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" was adapted by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler from Christopher Bond's play of the same name. A thriller with dark, operatic moments of horror, "Sweeney Todd" debuted on Broadway in 1979 and won a Tony for Best Musical.
A classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with a story by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, "The Sound of Music" tells the true story of Maria, a highly religious young woman who becomes a governess for the von Trapp family and comes to care deeply for all of them (including the widowed father). As the Nazi navy pressures Captain von Trapp to join them, he and Maria attempt to flee Austria with the children. Filled with perennially popular songs, "The Sound of Music" opened on Broadway in 1959 and rapidly won the hearts of critics and audiences alike.
Based on a Thornton Wilder farce, "Hello, Dolly!" was adapted into a musical by Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart. A comedic musical that much of the public associates strongly with Barbra Streisand, who starred in its 1969 film adaptation, "Hello, Dolly!" enjoys enduring popularity because of its toe-tapping songs, which include the eponymous "Hello, Dolly!" It debuted on Broadway in 1964 and has been revived four times.
The rare musical that was inspired by a film, rather than the other way around, "Newsies" premiered on Broadway in 2011. Based on the 1992 film "Newsies," which has a large cult following, this show was written by Harvey Fierstein, with music by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman. Audiences loved this adaptation, which ran on Broadway for more than a thousand performances.
An unusual hybrid of horror and comedy, "Little Shop of Horrors" was created by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Seymour, a florist, is led by his love of the seemingly unattainable Audrey to raise a cannibalistic plant. Although it premiered in 1982, the songs in "Little Shop of Horrors" were written in an engaging faux doo-wop style reminiscent of 1950s music. Initially running Off-Broadway, "Little Shop of Horrors" eventually won a Broadway debut after it had run at the Orpheum Theatre for five years. A 1986 film based on the musical, which starred Rick Moranis and Steve Martin, has become a cult classic.
Created by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, "Into the Woods" blends together characters like Little Red Riding Hood and Jack the Giant-Killer for an interesting update on classic fairy tales. It premiered on Broadway in 1987 and has been revived many times.
Based on the film "Billy Elliot", this show offers music from Elton John and a story and lyrics by Lee Hall. It's set in 1984, during a British miner's strike. Billy longs to dance, but as a miner's son, faces cultural and economic challenges that threaten the success of his dream. Productions in London and on Broadway led to 10 Tony Awards for this thoughtful musical.
"Hair" is an original rock musical by Gerome Ragni, James Rado and Galt MacDermot. Set among hippies and counter-cultural activists in New York City, "Hair" has strong anti-war sentiments. It features profanity, nudity, drug use and a racially integrated cast, which made tongues wag when "Hair" debuted on Broadway in 1968. Nonetheless, the show ran for 1,750 performances and some of its songs, such as "Age of Aquarius", became Top 10 hits.