Every theater fan has a beloved Broadway showstopper. And with musicals reopening throughout the fall, now is the perfect time to revisit those favorites as they were meant to be experienced: live and in person. Here is a baker’s dozen of big, rousing numbers that theatergoers can’t wait to see again.
There’s a reason this musical’s opener is one of Broadway’s most iconic sequences. Introducing audiences to the show’s striking visual representation of the African savannah and the animals who live there, the staging remains a high point in theatrical pageantry and storytelling nearly 25 years after the show premiered.
Sure, the go-to showstopper for this Ozian musical is “Defying Gravity,” and for good reason: It’s a thrilling number with actual levitation. But “For Good,” the heartfelt duet between Glinda and Elphaba, gets at the show’s irresistible emotional core, and it’s affecting enough to give even “Defying Gravity” a run for its money.
At this point, the whole world knows every song from Hamilton, and everyone’s going to have a different favorite, ranging from “Alexander Hamilton” to “You’ll Be Back” to “What’d I Miss” to “Wait for It.” Our vote is for the Angelica-centric “Satisfied,” a bravura performance that adds a complicated emotional dynamic to the show.
This standout sequence, acquainting audiences with the hard-bitten residents of the Cook County Jail women’s block, is everything fans love about Chicago: powerful, sexy women, a classic earworm, and exactingly executed, Fosse-inspired choreography.
For critics and audiences alike, the star of this Tina Turner bio-musical, Adrienne Warren, is the real showstopper. How do you choose a high point when she’s in almost every number? It’s tough, but aficionados really love “River Deep, Mountain High,” set in a recording studio during a landmark moment of independence for Tina: singing without her abusive first husband, Ike, who’s sent out of the room because his accompaniment is no longer needed.
Even 35 years into its record-breaking run, Phantom remains one of Broadway’s most thrillingly designed spectacles. The second-act opener is the show at its most dazzling, a party scene set on a grand, ornate staircase with the full cast dancing in elaborate, flamboyant costumes, culminating in the appearance of the Phantom himself trying on a chilling new mask for the evening.
Audiences who caught the filmed version of this musical on Apple TV+ will be inspired to revisit the distinctly collaborative ensemble staging that defines the show. But the undeniable showstopper of the night is a soaring solo moment, “Me and the Sky,” in which a pilot recounts achieving her dream — a dream that is suddenly shadowed by the horror of 9/11.
Orpheus makes a difficult descent into Hades in this mythology-inspired show’s transportive number. Intricately choreographed swinging lights, an unexpected stage expansion, and a haunting chorus make for an atmospheric high point in the 2019 Tony winner.
More of a ballad than many of the showstoppers on this list, “She Used to Be Mine” is nonetheless the clear favorite for Waitress fans thanks to its wistful depiction of vulnerability, imperfection, and unfulfilled dreams. The chance to see songwriter Sara Bareilles herself perform the song in her limited engagement in the reopened production makes it even more of a must-see.
There are set pieces aplenty in this musical adaptation of the hit 2001 movie, which aims for over-the-top and lavishly, extravagantly succeeds. Lovers of the show will be excited to see the new addition to the cast, Natalie Mendoza, play fin de siècle starlet Satine, especially in the character’s jaw-dropping entrance number, “Diamonds Are Forever,” or in her big duet with costar Aaron Tveit, “Elephant Love Medley.” But attention must also be paid to the dance-heavy “Bad Romance,” performed by Robyn Hurder and Ricky Rojas with an athletic virtuosity that is particularly exhilarating live.
Singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette has a string of hits to her name, but if she has just one signature number, it’s her 1995 breakout, “You Oughta Know.” The same goes for this musical that embeds Morissette’s songs in an urgently relevant contemporary story, which hits its high-energy peak when cast member Lauren Patten works the crowd into a frenzy with her powerhouse rendition of the stirring tune.
Singing! Dancing! Stage magic! In this high-energy adaptation of the classic Disney animated film, Aladdin’s new best friend is a genie, and he pulls out all the stops to show off every amazing thing he can do.
A behind-the-music look at a legendary Motown act, Ain’t Too Proud recounts the backstory of the original five Temptations — plus all the later Temptations who came in their wake. Nearly every song in the show is a well-known hit, but it’s the stirring finale that really shows off the multiplicity of talents that contributed to the band’s success, as the full cast emerges in white suits to bring down the house with “Can’t Get Next to You.”
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