Updated August 12, 2020
When a musical or play comes back to Broadway in a revival, it almost always stays for a shorter period than the original run. These 23 shows, however, all had revival runs that lasted longer than their original productions.
Why? If a show opened pre-1940, it may be because changes in tourism and the general business of Broadway have allowed for far more lengthy runs today than at the beginning of the 20th century. Others may have clicked with audiences in a way that the original production failed to achieve.
Here, Playbill looks at the 23 Broadway revivals on record that outlived their originals in ascending order by the difference in number of performances—from the revivals that lasted only a few performances more than their originals to the revivals that have surpassed their sources by the thousands. Plus, a look at why the top five on this list were able to achieve their status.
23. West Side Story
Synopsis: West Side Story transposes Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to the gang-ridden streets of 1950s Manhattan, dominated by the Sharks and the Jets. Two teens from the bitter-enemy gangs meet and fall in love at a fateful gym dance.
Original Production (1957): 732 performances
2009 Revival: 748 performances
Difference: 16 performances
22. She Loves Me
Synopsis: A store clerk and a salesgirl in a Hungarian parfumerie cannot stand each other, but are unaware that they are conducting an anonymous romantic correspondence.
Original Production (1963): 301 performances
1993 Revival: 354 performances
Difference: 53 performances
Synopsis: Zorba the Greek teaches his life-embracing philosophy to a more uptight young student who has inherited a mine in Crete. Zorba maintains his joy in living despite several tragedies, in John Kander, Fred Ebb and Joseph Stein's musical adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis' novel Zorba the Greek and its 1964 film.
Original Production (1968): 305 performances
1983 Revival: 362 performances
Difference: 57 performances
20. The Male Animal
Synopsis: A young teacher stirs up controversy when he plans to read to his class the writings of a young intellectual who has openly called the board of trustees fascists. Amid accusations of being a communist, the teacher remains steadfast on his freedom of speech and the importance of teaching his students to think.
Original Production (1940): 243 performances
1952 Revival: 317 performances
Difference: 74 performances
19. La Bête
Synopsis: A vulgar street performer and a high-minded playwright compete for favors in the royal court in this 17th-century-set satire.
Original Production (1991): 25 performances
2010 Revival: 101 performances
Difference: 76 performances
18. Pal Joey
Synopsis: Joey, a second-rate Chicago entertainer, two-times a married society dame and a naïve chorus girl. Based on the novel by John O'Hara and scored by Rodgers & Hart.
Original Production (1940): 374 performances
1952 Revival: 540 performances
Difference: 166 performances
17. Porgy and Bess
Synopsis: George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward's operatic adaptation of Heyward's play Porgy follows the lives of the inhabitants of Catfish Row, an African-American section of Charleston, South Carolina, including the crippled Porgy, his beloved Bess, who is under the thrall of the dangerous Crown, and the sinewy drug dealer Sportin' Life.
Original Production (1935): 124 performances
1942 Revival: 286 performances
1953 Revival: 305 performances
2012 Revival: 293 performances
Difference: 162/181/169 performances
16. On Your Toes
Synopsis: A former vaudevillian, now working as a music professor, convinces the Russian Ballet director to stage his student's jazz ballet, ultimately performing the lead in the ballet and arousing the jealousy of the prima ballerina's boyfriend — as well as the disappointment of the female music student who loves him.
Original Production (1936): 315 performances
1983 Revival: 505 performances
Difference: 190 performances
15. The Red Mill
Synopsis: A pair of American tourists who are stuck without money in a Dutch town must work at a local inn to pay off their hotel bill, ultimately playing matchmaker for the innkeeper's daughter, in Victor Herbert, Henry Blossom and Forman Brown's operetta.
Original Production (1906): 274 performances
1945 Revival: 531 performances
Difference: 257 performances
14. A Moon for the Misbegotten
Synopsis: Set in a dilapidated Connecticut farmhouse in 1923, this American classic centers on Josie, a towering Irish woman with a quick tongue and a ruined reputation; her conniving father, Phil Hogan; and Jim Tyrone, Hogan's landlord and drinking companion, a cynical alcoholic haunted by the death of his mother.
Original Production (1957): 68 performances
1973 Revival: 313 performances
Difference: 245 performances
13. Threepenny Opera
Synopsis: The outlaw Macheath is repeatedly betrayed and sent to prison, only to receive a last-minute reprieve from Queen Victoria, in Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's darkly satirical adaptation of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera.
Original Production (1933): 12 performances
1954 Revival: 96 performances
1966 Revival: 13 performances
1976 Revival: 307 performances
1989 Revival: 65 performances
2006 Revival: 77 performances
Difference: 84/1/295/53/65 performances
12. Show Boat
Synopsis: Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's groundbreaking musical version of Edna Ferber's novel examines the lives of Cap'n Andy and his troupe of traveling show boat performers, including his naïve daughter Magnolia, her gambling husband Gaylord Ravenal, the tragic mixed-race actress Julie, and black stevedore Joe, who marvels at the constancy of the "Ol' Man River" they travel on.
Original Production (1927): 572 performances
1994 Revival: 947 performances
Difference: 375 performances
11. The Rocky Horror Show
Synopsis: Innocent Brad and Janet find themselves seeking shelter at a mysterious old castle on a dark and stormy night, where they encounter transvestite Dr. Frank N Furter, his "perfect" creation Rocky, and an assortment of other crazy creatures.
Original Production (1975): 45 performances
2000 Revival: 437 performances
Difference: 392 performances
10. An Inspector Calls
Synopsis: An inspector visits an engagement party in a middle-class home in the English countryside to question the guests about the recent suicide of a young woman, in J.B. Priestly's thriller.
Original Production (1947): 95 performances
1994 Revival: 454 performances
Difference: 359 performances
9. Anything Goes
Synopsis: An evangelist-turned-nightclub singer, a lovelorn stockbroker wooing a lovely debutante, the debutante's British lord fiancé, and a gangster disguised as a minister all turn up on a luxury cruise liner to sing, dance and romance.
Original Production (1934): 420 performances
1987 Revival: 784 performances
2011 Revival: 521 performances
Difference: 364/101 performances
8. Peter Pan
Synopsis: The boy who would not grow up visits the Darling children and takes them on a magical adventure to Never-Never Land in this beloved musical version of the classic J.M. Barrie play.
Original Production (1954): 152 performances
1979 Revival: 554 performances
Difference: 402 performances
7. Morning’s at Seven
Synopsis: Four sisters who live near each other in a Midwestern suburb find their existence disrupted when one's son wants to leave home to get married and another tells her husband she wants to live apart from the sister who shares a house with them.
Original Production (1939): 44 performances
1980 Revival: 564 performances
Difference: 520 performances
6. No, No, Nanette
Synopsis: A Bible salesman, his wife, their lawyer friend and his wife, and the salesman's young ward, Nanette, get into various romantic entanglements and misunderstandings in 1920s Atlantic City.
Original Production (1925): 321 performances
1971 Revival: 861 performances
Difference: 540 performances
THE TOP FIVE
Synopsis: Bram Stoker's classic novel about a charming Transylvanian count who is really a vampire out to seduce women for their blood is adapted for the stage by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston.
Original Production (1927): 261 performances
1977 Revival: 925 performances
Difference: 664 performances
A very important thing happened between 1927 and 1977 in terms of Dracula’s Broadway success: John L. Balderston and Hamilton Deane’s stage adaptation of the Bram Stroker novel was adapted into a motion picture in 1931, and it became a classic of the cinema. Thanks to the increased cultural affection for the property and a first-rate production starring Frank Langella, this revival was able to run for over two years.
Synopsis: In this musical adaptation of Voltaire's satirical novel, the naïve Candide is separated from his beloved Cunegonde and journeys around the world to find her, retaining his teacher Pangloss's belief that "this is the best of all possible worlds" in the face of ever-increasing catastrophes.
Original Production (1956): 73 performances
1974 Revival: 740 performances
Difference: 667 performances
Candide was not a hit in its original production, but the cast album became a favorite amongst theatre fans and the overture quickly became a standard selection for orchestras around the world. Due to the popularity of the score, Harold Prince decided to radically revise Candide for his 1974 production, giving it a completely new book, some new songs, and a dramatically shorter run time (90 minutes with no intermission). This new version was finally a hit with audiences and led to a rebirth of the show, which still gets produced today.
Synopsis: Cabaret singer Sally Bowles performs at the decadent Kit Kat Klub as the Nazi Party quietly takes hold of 1930s Berlin.
Original Production (1966): 1,165 performances
1998 Revival: 2,377 performances
Difference: 1,212 performances
Like Oh! Calcutta!, Cabaret enjoyed a hit original run, which makes the increased success of its 1998 revival all the more impressive. For this production, director Sam Mendes took a darker look at Weimar-era Germany than the original production had, and was able to include elements of Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin—on which Cabaret is based—deemed slightly too taboo for 1966 audiences, such as Cliff’s bisexuality. Thanks also to a string of star replacements in both leading roles, this revival surged past the original’s already-successful run.
2. Oh! Calcutta!
Synopsis: Kenneth Tynan devised this musical revue, to which Samuel Beckett, John Lennon, Sam Shepard and others contributed sketches and songs of a cheekily erotic nature. The cast performs in the nude.
Original Production (1969): 1,314 performances
1976 Revival: 5,959 performances
Difference: 4,645 performances
Oh! Calcutta! might be one of the least-known yet longest-running musicals in Broadway history; it currently holds the record as the seventh longest-running production. A musical revue of comedically erotic scenes and sketches, it was most famous (infamous, perhaps) for featuring ample full-frontal nudity. It remains the longest-running revue in Broadway history, and the second-longest running revival.
Synopsis: Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, Chicago is the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her. Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines, the likes of which might just as easily be ripped from today's tabloids.
Original Production (1975): 936 performances
1996 Revival: 9,692 performances (as of March 15, 2020)
Difference: 8,756 performances (and counting)
The original production of Chicago was no failure, but it famously opened within months of A Chorus Line, one of the biggest Broadway hits ever. When Encores! decided to produce a concert version of the work in 1996, the show was considered somewhat forgotten. Overwhelmingly positive response led producers Barry and Fran Wiessler to turn the concert into a full Broadway revival, which has been running since November 1996. A movie adaptation in 2002 is largely credited with reviving the genre of movie musicals, and has also helped to keep audiences flocking to Chicago on Broadway. It is without a doubt the most dramatic example of a revival whose run eclipsed that of its original production.