The Sunday Giveaway: Two tickets to Once on Broadway!

What I love about Once is that it’s a great reminder that there is no formula for success on Broadway.

You’d think that the key elements in creating a Best Musical Tony Award winner and international success would be things like:

  • Spectacle
  • Big Cast
  • Joyous, Happy Ending

Once ain’t any of that, and yet two years after it won its big Tony, and almost three years after its debut Off Broadway, it’s still packing ’em in at The Jacobs.

You haven’t seen it?

Well, I’ll be danged, if we didn’t have two tickets to give away to see the show this week!

Here’s how you can win two tickets to see Once on Broadway:

What are some of the elements you think make for a successful musical on Broadway?  Give me your thoughts in the comment section below and one of you will win.

Good luck!


(Got a comment? I love ‘em, so comment below! Email Subscribers, click here then scroll down to say what’s on your mind!)
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  • Allie says:

    At the end of the day, it’s all about a compelling story with compelling characters. Sometimes all you need to is make the seemingly ordinary extraordinary.

  • Jeff says:

    A great and successful Broadway musical has a story that is able to reach beyond a small niche to resonate with a broad audience. It’s told in a way that commands attention or gives you an unexpected unique experience. It also needs great music that moves the story forward but also gives you something to hum on your way home after the show. The very best shows are the ones not soon forgotten, but cause you to pause and reflect on that experience at some moment a day or week or month later. Even better, a great show will ignite a passion for attending live theatre which you can’t ever shake no matter how hard you try! This happens when story and character and music and design all come together in a seamless and memorable way.

  • Lydia Shirley says:

    The spectacle aspects, and the quality actors who play the characters make the Broadway show.

  • Jonathan Demar says:

    Well the story certainly has to be compelling, it has to contact and resonate with an audience in such a way where they identify with the themes and characters on a much deeper level. In the case of ones, a few beers doesn’t hurt.

  • Stephanie Petit says:

    Plenty of shows have proven that proven that musicals don’t have to be happy, large, or over-the-top to be successful.

    I think for a musical to be successful it has to make you feel something. Sometimes that is happiness and joy. Other times it’s devastation, hope, inspired, or simply alive!

  • Allison DeLuca says:

    Catchy music, something unique (i.e the cast playing instruments in Once or the acrobatics in Pippin) and of course, in the wise words of Spamalot, “you can’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have Jews”. (Just kidding with that last one)

  • Hope says:

    What I think makes for great theatre is something that speaks to people, taking the audience out of this world of reality and into that of the show. Once tells a story about characters who have lost something, which is a feeling known universally. It’s an honest story that doesn’t talk down to audiences for a second and that makes it beautiful.

  • Sandy Jameson says:

    I think the biggest thing a musical must have is a conplex emotional driver that is connected to the music. My favorite musicals are ones that I can ruminate over every time I listen to them. Each time I listen to Rent or Ragtime or Next to Normal, I’m struck by the complexity of these characters, and how the music, even the melody alone, mirrors their stories. Just hearing the music swell when the Beast gives Belle the library…. The emotion wrapped up in music had brought tears to my eyes. I understand that everyone has different tastes, but for me, broadway is about the emotional roller coaster of the story, and how some geniuses can amazingly reflect that journey with notes on a page….

  • Aaron deitsch says:

    It needs to be something fresh and new, even if it is a revival or an adaptation. There needs to be a reason it is being done

  • David McKibbin says:

    A Tony Award-winning Best Musical should be innovative in terms of unique storytelling methods socially relevant yet universally appealing subject matter. Shows like South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, and even The Book of Mormon tell stories that are important to hear while still providing unifying messages of peace and hope. Similarly, musicals like Once and Avenue Q often find unorthodox ways to portray these tales to various audiences. By using puppets or live musicians, the audience is able to see said stories from a different perspective than just being told in a traditional fashion.

  • Francesca says:

    A successfully musical needs a lot of things! One thing is usually a hit song, something that everyone knows is from THAT musical. As for the actual show, a compelling and interesting story with equally interesting characters is important. Have a star also is a huge factor sometimes in shows seeking tickets. Me personally though, I love to see a beautiful story played on stage with a gorgeous score and actors who portray relatable characters who possess depth in the feelings and backgrounds they carry.

  • RM says:

    Some elements that I think create a successful Broadway musical are storylines that naturally lend themself to a musical interpretation with a strong cast of relatable characters with commanding presence. Universal themes tackled in a fresh way that reach the audience in a visceral way are a powerful force on any stage. Additionally, a show that has visual appeal to create that “theatrical magic” of live performance is equally as important – amazing dance numbers, great sets, lighting, and moments that genuinely pull one into the character’s experience. In the audience, everyone wants to feel present and involved without a moment’s pause to notice the time on your watch or the person in the row in front of you opening a candy with a noisy wrapper. Audiences want to be enthralled, involved (interactive shows can be interesting) and hanging on the every word that is said or sang in front of them.

  • Neil says:

    My favorite musicals are all some of my favorite stories. I think the best musicals are incredible stories that would be amazing, even without music. Jesus Christ Superstar, West Side Story, Wicked! These would all be amazing plays, movies, even without the music!

    Once you have a great story, then add music… and the music you create is going to be amazing. You can’t go wrong!

  • Teri says:

    What makes a musical most successful would be the characters in the play who are out to overcome obstacles or want something badly.

  • Brian says:

    A solid book and solid score will bring you a long way.

  • Kim says:

    I look at choreography, story, music, acting, costumes and set design.

  • Henry Wu says:

    The ability to connect with the audience on a personal level as well as the ability to subtly comment on some contemporary societal issue without it being overtly obvious so the musical does not lose that fun touch





  • Allison M. says:

    I think you need to have catchy music that keeps you humming long after the show is over.

  • Ashlyn Smith says:

    Story, story, story.

    At least that is what I WANT to say. I once did a two show day where the first show was a Tony-winning big Broadway spectacle and the second was a small off-broadway show that practically had no effects but a strong story line. If I could go back and watch one again, I’d pick the off-broadway every time because it hit me emotionally and made me invest in the characters’ lives.

    On the other hand, a key element for a musical is the strength of the score, and I sing the songs from that spectacle every day almost since I saw it.

    I think there is a delicate balance sometimes between the two, but many times the spectacle wins because the general audience wants to be entertained, not “sandbagged” by a emotional story.

  • Robert says:

    After seeing another amazing non-traditional show After Midnight, I think the audience has to leave feeling much differently than they did coming into it…it has to be a change-r

  • Ethan K says:

    A hit musical usually has a gimmick, something unique it can offer audiences. That may be a musical gimmick or a performance-style one, or it could have to do with the physical production. Catchy tunes are also a pretty essential element for success on Broadway, in addition to characters and situations that audiences can relate to and respond to.

  • JP says:

    LUCK! I think you can have all the elements on paper (or none of them for that mater) but what you need is a little luck, and good TIMING. You never know what’s going to hit (otherwise we’d only have hits) so after a lot of analytics and diagnostics it comes down to LUCK and TIMING.

  • Rosie says:

    Characters that have depth and dimension that the audience can relate to, along with a theme that speaks to a varied audience are the key. Of course, a good score with intelligent lyrics wouldn’t hurt either.

  • Tracey says:

    I think it comes down to having characters that you really care about. The journey becomes so much more meaningful that you never want it to end.

  • Rob says:

    To me, a great musical has a score that makes you feel something. Whether it’s toe-tapping and hummable or haunting and broken, a score that makes you feel deeply connected to the characters is a big thing to me. A solid book is good, because I personally love characters I can find myself in. Finding something to relate to in a character and not feeling alone to me is the best asset of not just a musical, but any good theatrical production.

  • Wendy Heath says:

    Besides a good story, memorable music (including clever lyrics), and voices that melt my heart, I’ve often thought that bringing the actors into the audience (e.g., 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Avenue Q, Bernadette Peters in Gypsy) can be an important part of a successful recipe.

  • Elements of a great musical include, of course, a memorable theme that permeates the production, a catchy opening number, a rousing closer to Act 1, an 11 o’clock number that ties up loose ends, and an inspiring finale.

    But one other thing is essential for a hit musical these days — a top-notch, memorable TV commercial. It’s that 30 to 60 second spot that will convince the bridge and tunnel, out of towner, ladies who lunch and those who shop to make the effort to come to NYC and go see a Broadway show.

  • Barbara Smith says:

    A Tony Award musical should have an interesting story line, appealing characters, great music and terrific choreography. The stars have to be able to engage the audience. The music should have some real show stoppers and memorable words. That being said, I love most musicals I see on Broadway, so somebody is doing something right!

  • tommy tune says:

    First the performers have to connect with the music (even if they cast a Star), and secondly, the music has to connect with the audience. Lastly, the audience should fall in love with the lead cast (or most of em).

  • Cara says:

    Thjbgs that make a successful musical

    – a relatable concept (I was NOT in the French Revolution, but I DO know about unrequited love)
    – music that comes from the heart, makes people feel things, laugh, cry
    – STAR POWER: and no not a big name like Idina Menzel or NPH, but someone that people will hear/see and think – holy crap THAT is a freakin star.

    So, to sum it up – A star singing songs about a relatable concept that makes people feel!

  • wendy lee klenetsky says:

    To me, a successful Broadway musical has to have songs that cause the audience to feel these things while “taking them along for the ride”:
    1) happy/ecstatic
    2) sad/sorry/emotional
    3) changed in some way
    That’s how it is for me with each Broadway musical I’ve ever seen.

  • john costa says:

    I think what makes a great show is having characters that people care about and can connect with. That is why even though neither ran a long time I thoroughly enjoyed both Bridges of Madison County and Hands on a Hardbody.

  • Tom says:

    Having a story that connects with the audience but also with the characters and having the cast light up the stage with the story and then adding in an amazing score you have a great musical, and often times these show don’t make it because they aren’t a spectacle, not saying that some spectacle shows arent good, but it doesnt have to be a spectacle to be good, if that makes

  • A. Scott Falk says:

    Make your audience care.

  • Ellen Dubinsky says:

    When every individual aspect—the acting, the directing, the script and the lyrics, the songs and the choreography, the scenery, lighting, and costumes—all work together seamlessly…it is magic!

  • Letty says:

    A catchy tune and a story one can relate to. Falling Slowly is a great song. You get to the theatre looking forward to hearing this song. On a musical like the Book of Mormom the buzz is the comedy. 2 hours of pure enjoyment and forgetting everything else in your life at the time. My 2 cents.

  • Eric says:

    Personally, I think that big sets, star names, and catchy tunes are all a fraction of what makes a successful musical. The biggest factor in my mind is whether the production can move you or not. If I see a show and walk out significantly changed emotionally by what I just saw, that is a successful musical. If I am changed in a way that alters how I perceive the world, that is a great musical.

  • Patti says:

    Elements I think make for a successful musical on Broadway?
    Spectacle and relationships. Developed characters and great actors to portray them.

  • Melody B says:

    Chemistry between the cast, an earworm number (ahem ‘No Time At All’, Pippin), throw in some comedy and badda bing success!

  • Megan Simmons says:

    The most crucial element in a successful broadway show is a smart marketing team. A show could be crap, but if they have a good marketing, the seats will be filled and, in that aspect, the show will be considered a successful. Not to say that an intriguing story, a talented cast, hardworking crew, and a talented creative team aren’t important, it’s the marketers that get people to the theatre in the first place.

  • Jason E. Bernard says:

    Creativity, Truthfulness, Simplicity , And The Use Of A Unique Artform In A New Way, Making It Accessible To The Human Heart
    “Bring In ‘DA Noise, Bring In ‘DA Funk”
    Creativity- Tells The Story of African American history through Poetry, Song and Tap Dance And Relating It To The NOW. “Bring…”didn’t use a typical book nor did it have a typical boy meets girl story.
    Truthfulness-it was the expression and True Facts of the African American experience.
    Simplicity-there was virtually no set. Think “A Chorus Line” and “Once”
    Unique Artform- Tap Dancing had never been presented in this form ever and revolutionized the art form.
    Accessibility-human beings from all walks of life understood the story more clearly now. It took the past out of the history books and put it on stage in a modern way. For many viewers it was viewed as a history lesson and it also was entertaining. Even if you followed the show just by watching the dancing it told the story in it’s only right

  • Anne Reeves says:

    To make a successful musical you just have to hit the right chord with someone. Every musical is different. It could be the story or the music or even your favorite actor. I think once makes a good musical because people love love. The music alone makes you feel the love & pa

  • Anne Reeves says:

    To make a successful musical you just have to hit the right chord with someone. Every musical is different. It could be the story or the music or even your favorite actor. I think once makes a good musical because people love love. The music alone makes you feel the love & passion and then you add a story to bring that picture out of your head & the lyrics to life.

  • nancy cohen says:

    There is a redemptive quality for at least one of the characters, a possibility of transformation if not in action, in future thought… a private, personal situation that has universal quality…an strong enough and likable enough characters that mirror aspects of the audience, so they too can grow through the play’s journey.

  • ken says:

    Love stories with happy endings that make us feel good and optimistic about life

  • Ellen says:

    If you have a good story then you must have a GREAT BOOK and even better songs with superb orchestrations. The music should get inside of you not glide over. Once did that. RARE RARE RARE! Beautiful is doing that too. That said, I saw Raul Esparza sing “being alive” and went back two days later to see Company again. The show closed as did “Story of my Life” with Malcom Getz (but I love Malcolm….) So my assessment is get really GREAT book, really GREAT songs, really GREAT singers and actors, REALLY GREAT orchestrations are the key. Chuck in great BIG dance numbers ( I happen to love a chorus line of tap dancers) & how can you fail. But great is not good- Too many shows are okay with good or worse passable. Consider the opening number for Rocky (“well at least my nose ain’t broke”) WHA????!!!! Okay that’s my two cents.
    (If there are typos or poor grammar, I’ll apologize now. I dashed this off-)

  • Rebecca says:

    I think a great show draws the audience in with some sort of audience participation or by the music being so great you just want to sing along and walk out humming the score.

  • Janet Wilber says:

    At least one show stopper, a very compelling story, a sympathetic character or two, a little comic relief, and at least one song that I can hum on my way out of the theater!

  • max gilman says:

    I think Musicals that have either songs that you can hum or sing after the show is over is one element of a successful musical. Also, shows that tell an empathetic story, one that you can relate to the characters or the story they are telling helps a musical to be successful. Then of course the musicals with big sets and great choreography for dance numbers is great with the tourists, and if you hook in the tourists, you got it made.

  • Jo-Ann says:

    For me, a great musical has catchy lyrics and tunes. It also has unique choreography. A show stopper doesn’t hurt (Memory in Cats, helicopter scene in Miss Saigon, Hi Hat in My One and Only).

  • Alex says:

    That moment when everything clicks… The actors effortlessly breathing life into meaningful words/songs, propelling the compelling story forward in a haze of technical brilliance. Hopefully it’s clicking from the first cue on.

  • Larry Segall says:

    Memorable Musicals,Most Catchy-Classy Lyrics, Strong Orchestral Support With Strong Crescendo Energy and Music To Match The Dialogue And Plot, You Got It…Most Happy Fella, Damn Yankees, Beautiful, Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, Enough Said…Larry & Sherri…;

  • rita costanzo says:

    To be a successful musical it should be universal so that everyone will enjoy it!

  • Laurie B. says:


    If you can get the audience leaving humming your shows music… got a hit! There have been many musicals on Broadway with mediocre overall reviews…..but great music….that are still on Broadway today! To protect the innocent I will not name them:-)

  • I think a musical succeeds on Broadway primarily because of the music. The music must move the production and the audience. On top of that, characters that audiences can relate to and empathize with always make shows MEAN something.

  • Cheryl Dzubak says:

    I think that the songs have to be really memorable. Of course the acting, choreography are also important and even stage set, but I think the songs are the most important. They have to be memorable and really grab at you. I love music so it is an important factor for me.

  • Tony P says:

    A lead character that you want to root for!

  • Ruth P. says:

    – Awesome score
    – compelling story
    – ability to connect

  • Good music.
    Good lyrics.
    A good story.

    With those three, spectacle, a big cast, and a happy ending are never necessary.

  • Jake says:

    I think one element is music that appeals to the audience, whether that’s in the form of a Jukebox musical, or music that might be more contemporary/weird, but is able to communicate emotional arcs and/or plot arcs effectively to an audience.

    Also I think there needs to be a unifying concept, whether it’s a conflict, an over-saturated and derivative pop musical style, or a heavy-handed thematic device.

  • Alex B. says:

    – Characters that you love and connect with
    – music that feeds your soul
    – something that makes you cry from happiness or sadness

  • Brittany says:

    I think it’s key for the audience to see something of themselves in the characters.

  • John P. says:

    A story with heart and music that you can’t get out of your mind.

  • Jay Z says:

    Ooo, I’m first. Pick me! I’m dying to finally see this show.

    SUCCESS on Broadway depends on how you define success — recoup? most ticket sales? most awards? And to me, real success is a combination of quality, reach, and investment returns.

    To achieve that I think you need to create:
    1. A world people want to visit
    2. A main character people want to journey with
    3. an intriguing hook
    4. great book and score of course!

  • David says:

    As many shows have proved over the years, spectacle and big casts are definitely not essential. A good score is necessary, and this doesn’t have to necessarily be songs that will become big pop hits, but has to work within the context of the show. A strong book is important, and one that doesn’t run out of gas by the 2nd act. The songs should move the story along and not just be fillers because a song hasn’t been sung in a while. The audience should come out feeling that the show has some meaning for them and not just be mindless fluff, though obviously some shows seem able to succeed with that especially if have a lot of pop songs that people know and can sing along.

  • Gayle Griffith says:

    Great performances. Memorable music. An engaging story.

  • Joanne says:

    It’s vital to have a story – with a beginning, middle and end – even a concept musical has an arc. Without a plot, nothing works, in musical theater, it becomes a stage concert and the collaborative elements that define musical theater are negated. The story is the frame and everything including the visual production values, stem from a good plot.

  • Phil Gallas says:

    Elements of a successful show include hummable songs that stay with you; engaging characters and storylines; universal themes; and a love story as its overriding focus.

  • John says:

    A successful musical today needs music that will keep the audience active. In short, the music does not break up the book (into separate “chapters”), but adds to it. The music is part of the book. What do I mean when I say active? Using some more recent examples:

    A Gentleman’s Guide: “I’ve Decided to Marry You” builds on Monty’s character as indecisive between two women; this indecisiveness, however, is evident DURING the song as opposed to this conflict coming before the song and the song re-emphasizing the point (good grief, I hope that makes sense!).

    Book of Mormon: “Turn it Off”: We learn more about Elder McKinley and the other missionaries and how they repress their thoughts (which is a vital problem in the plot of BoM) DURING the song.

    Once: Yes, I will tackle this one as well, but from a different perspective. For this musical, the story centers around the music. It is about a man and the music it creates, so it requires one to listen to each song carefully in order to understand the story.

    I guess the main point is that the best musicals find some way to blend the music and the book together so that it creates a show instead of “dialogue-song-dialogue-song-dialogue, etc.” Once, in particular, did this well because the book centered around the music. Without the music, there would be no story.

    Ok, long winded answer, but very interested to see what others think. Comments?

  • Bryan Austermann says:

    I really think any successful musical makes an audience think about something in a different way than they did before seeing it. It has to challenge the mind. Sometimes that challenge can be about something unrelated to the audience member, or something that directly impacts their life. Big or small I think musicals must make us think about something.

  • ed says:

    three things make for a great musical.
    A big song to close the first act. A big song to close the second act.
    You also have to have music the audience will sing and can’t get out of their head when they leave the theater.

  • Sarah says:

    Maybe this is a little typical, but I think a successful musical (and even a successful play) needs a powerful story that people want to see and hear. Whether it’s a completely new idea, a revival/adaption of something proven to be great in the past (like “The Lion King”), or even an old concept with a new twist; people like something that’s going to make them feel something strong and having a strong plot I feel is the most important thing.

  • Jeff Koblenz says:

    Music that people want to listen to or sing! That’s probably the biggest success for a musical. A universally likable story that appeals to a diverse audience. Recognizable talent (ie: stars) or familiar characters can also help.

    In the end, no one really knows. . . . all creative can do is put it out there and hope it sticks.

    If I win, please call me at (973)-981-8248. E-mails end up in JUNK folder and I don’t read through the folder too often. 🙂

  • These days, I think you need at least ONE celebrity (whether that be Broadway, film, or TV) to SELL OUT a musical! But if you can’t have that, a good lyricist is key. Some of my favorite musicals have only one or two memorable songs that most people take away from them, but they lyrics are so deep it ultimately makes them a classic. 🙂

  • Two words: Touch people.

    If you can accomplish that, the rest will fall into place.

  • Perin says:

    First, you need music that leaves the audience either singing after the show, or that makes them WISH you could remember enough of the lyrics so that they COULD sing it – which means that they either need to buy the CD or come see the show again. And so the second thing is that the CD needs to be released very early in the run, so that audience members can buy it at the theater, then get it and their programmes signed at the stage door.

  • Kyle Nesbit says:

    The play’s the thing. The foundation has to be good. It has to connect to the audience. Without it, you’re a nonstarter.

  • Margie says:

    Of course a great story goes without saying, although basically, there are no new themes: only compelling new ways of telling them; and of course you need music that, even if it’s not hummable on the way home, at least it brings people joy or at least makes them want to laugh or cry; but beyond the usual, as the character sings in “Gypsy,” you gotta have a gimmick. For Book of Mormon, it’s outrageous blasphemy (is there ONE song you can sing? No); for Lion King it’s over-the-top puppetry (plus a brilliant score); for Wicked it’s the brilliance of the prequel to the Wizard of Oz . Like Mazeppa (once I was a Schleppa), in Gypsy sings:
    You can pull all the stops out
    Till they call the cops out;
    Grind your behind till you’re banned.
    But you gotta get a gimmick
    If you wanna get a hand.

  • Mary Ann says:

    A storyline and characters that are genuine and not contrived.

  • Elizabeth T says:

    You need to build a show with relateability. The audience has to be able to relate to something in the show. Whether that is the characters, the story, the setting, etc. You must be able to touch something within.

  • Ed says:

    Music that is either familiar or original music, some of which stays I the audience’s head.
    Characters you care about
    Specificity-which will result in universality

  • Jeff Miele says:

    I often like to say it needs to be something that’s fresh and surprising in story, acting, and design. However, with the show’s we’ve seen come in and close in the last few years and not recoup their investment I’m thinking more and more that that is not the case and there really isn’t a set formula anymore; this, of course, is intimidating to new shows coming in but also makes an exciting environment on Broadway as well, you just never know. When we discuss “success” in theater there is financial, critical, audience success and more so this question is very intriguing and interesting to see all the responses. Let’s take out financial, because that’s an animal all in its own and recouping definitely makes it a successful show. But I always claim a show is successful is when the elements of the show are unpredictable by all audience members, even those who see every Broadway show every year. When I see a new design element or a twist that i can’t relate to any other show i don’t forget it. After the last 2 seasons i frequently think of “Matilda,” “Hands on a Hardbody,” and “The Bridges of Madison County,” as those shows appealed to me visually, musically, and entertainingly in all aspects. Being a frequent theater-goer, having shows stand out so much has to mean there is something to it. Also, there have been some shows where design elements, music, acting, and so on don’t jive or sync well with each other. Whether the audience notices it or not, having all elements in perfect unison creates a more perfect and smooth moving show and makes it more enjoyable and successful over all.

    In brief I would say: unpredictable, elements in unison, fresh, and something that makes the audience want to go back before they even step out of the theatre.

  • Karma says:

    Remind people of themselves

  • Anthony says:

    A good story with good music. It’s as simple, and as difficult, as that.

  • margot says:

    There is no formula . . . at the price for Broadway these days . . . everything must be great (songs, story, actors, staging, etc). For a musical . . . the songs do need to be memorable. If the audience doesn’t leave, at least, humming one of the tunes if not singing it, then it missed the mark.

  • Sarah Packard says:

    Obviously quality, unique music is a must – ideally timeless, memorable, surprising, moving, stirring music with brilliant lyrics – but it all comes down to storytelling…is it an interesting, original story told well? The audience needs to care at least on some level about the characters and what happens to them, or about the message(s) of the piece. There are so many other ingredients that are important too, everything from costumes, light and SOUND DESIGN (lol), to that crucial element, proper and inspired casting! It helps if the show is truly unlike anything that’s come before or any of its competitors.

  • Barbara says:

    If you measure success by box office grosses, I think marketing and PR is what makes many musicals successful. Some of the longest running big box office hits have left me flat with no desire to see again. Other gems, with haunting melodies, clever lyrics and moving storylines have disappeared way too soon… yet have stayed with me for years and years. For me, that is the greater measure of success.

  • Catherine Downey says:

    I think people underestimate how hard it is to just get the basics down, but that’s really all a good show is: a good story that’s well acted, and music that connects to the characters and helps develop the story.

  • Mariko says:

    In a world where live performance attendance has a lot of different digital entertainment channels to stand up against, Broadway shows need to stay relevant. This means diversify your audience — not only does the content of the show have to tug at the heartstrings of any and everyone by addressing components of the universal human experience, but it needs to be accessible to all as well.

  • Nick says:

    I think the really successful shows evoke emotion or inspire thought change. Shows like Sweeney Todd, Les Misérables, West Side Story, Rent, all got the audience to question their perspective. That’s the lasting impact that keeps people engaged when they leave the theater. It’s also what keeps people coming back. Broadway shows are like items on a menu at a restaurant. Sometimes it is good to try them all, but the really good dishes, people order again and again.

  • A story, it’s characters that takes you away – to where they are. The actors, the songs, the voices, the orchestra, the set – they are all so compelling that you do not want it to end. You do not want to leave.

  • Todd M says:

    There is power and creativity in the simplicity of this show. Not only does it provide beautiful imagery, but also allows the characters to receive well-deserved focus.

  • Michael edan says:

    The timing of the theme and story that happens to resonate with the collective public consciousness [for whatever known or unknowable reason], an intriguing story [more than just a good story], music that engages you, grabs you, and emotionally evokes something in you, and possibly has a memorable recurring theme in the music [i.e.,Les Miserables and Phantom are two examples], PRESENCE [we talk about actors having presence, shows also have that indefinable quality . . . or don’t], first rate lighting [as it evokes tones of mood and emotion that subconsciously affect an audience response, receptivity and resonance to what they are viewing], a strong second act, a strong first act, sex appeal [something or someone somewhere in the show needs to be sexy or sensual], and the design and pacing of the material [how the book and music flow and dance together]. We all know how exciting it is when we see a really exceptional tango, something in us lights up. If these elements, along with the on stage performances of course, and the creative and visionary guiding hand of the director and musical director are present, then maybe, with LUCK, and someone on the other side of the vale looking after you, you might have a hit on your hands.

  • Dana Vance says:

    What makes a Broadway musical?
    1. We must care about the characters.
    2. Beautiful catchy songs/ music.
    3. We must learn or identify with what happens to those characters.

  • Ging says:

    A successful musical needs a good storyline with a theme that has wide appeal. Also, great music and lyrics with perhaps a signature tune– a song one remembers ( or hums) when leaving the theatre.
    That has been the formula for ” Phantom of the Opera “– torn between two loves and the ” Music of the Night”.

  • Megan S says:

    I believe that all a show needs to succeed is to connect with the audience. If an actor can win the audience over and have them believe 100 percent in their story, the show has an amazing chance of being successful. It is not always about the big, over the top numbers, a simple chord progression or one line from an actor can tug at one’s heartstrings and make them fall in love with the musical.

  • Brian S. says:

    First off, I love the new clean and SIMPLE website design!

    Elements I think make for a successful musical on Broadway….
    – a timely piece that audience members can relate to
    – creative advertisement
    – size of the theatre
    – a great cast
    – the set
    – ………

  • Jackie S says:

    The bottom line is that there has to be an element to the story that the audience can connect to, any given moment patrons look at and say “I feel that.” Whether it’s connecting to a character, an element of the story, or even just feeling something with the songs, that is what I feel determines the success of a show. And the stronger these connections are -to- the audience (& the stronger they connect to each other within the show), the better the shows comes across. And, hopefully, the longer the show runs on Broadway.

  • rob brown says:

    Good story, good music, good acting and good marketing.

  • A great musical sounds as if one person wrote it. Book, Lyric and Music meld together to create musical magic. And the characters have authentic voices. They take you into the story and you can relate, laugh, cry and take the journey with them. One that has you caring, being passionate and compassionate for all the characters, One of my favorite’s is Sweeney Todd. To me it has all of that. And the heart-breaking irony of the story…..

  • Phillip says:

    Like anything, it all comes down to the story, or more specifically, the book. If you’ve got a great story, wonderfully told, you’re most of the way there.

  • Joanna says:

    It has to be relatable to the audience in some way. Not every character, but at least one incident in a character’s life, or one personality trait, has to be relatable to the audience member. That will put them into the show themselves.

    In HS we did several shows. Music Man – relatable to how High Schoolers feel loneliness and they are trying to fit in. Hello Dolly – wanting to go out and experience the world. Wonderful Town – leaving for college soon in strange cities, all on your own, trying to make it.

  • Brian says:

    The key ingredient is getting the key inredients to work together! Great songs, interesting characters and an intriguing plot should come together in a theatrical way. Imagine Guy from Once singing Falling Slowly into Harmonia Gardens as the waiters danced or Dolly in her over the top red dress entering the pub in Once. Neither would work because all of the other elements conflict. Each is a great moment yet everything else in the show brought it to that moment.

  • Laura L. says:

    I’m not sure about the order: Story’s brick and songs are mortar. (Plus a little heart and some great artists…)

  • Andrew H. says:

    As far as I can tell, the only SURE THING is to have Bobby Lopez as part of the creative team. The Man has never NOT had a major hit.

  • Kevin Sturmer says:

    Great story, great music. They’re important. That said, the true key for every great musical or play – PASSION.

    Passion drives characters. Passion drives story. Characters passionate about their lives, their interests, each other. Bialystock’s passion for success, Sweeney Todd’s passion for revenge, Tracy Turnblad’s passion for equality and dance, Tony and Maria’s passion for each other. The list is endless.

    When a story has great passion and talented performers to bring it to life, there is success in theatre.

  • Morgan M says:

    Good writing. Solid structure, believable dialogue, lyrical, smart, good characterization and a strong arc.

  • Quinto says:

    An interesting concept along with a good original score would help, but there really is no guarantee of success on Broadway

  • Arlene says:

    It’s got to pull you into a world probably very different from your own, but deeply touches your emotional and relational issues, problems, desires. You see yourself – either your past self or current self – in a new way, often with more understanding, acceptance and hope.

  • fran says:

    It’s the big three:
    Great book
    Great music and lyrics
    Great cast

    A stage manager once told me: if you start out with a show that’s a pile of garbage, no matter how you dress it up (cast, lights, sets, costumes), it’s still a dressed up pile of garbage.

  • Kelly says:

    I think a great broadway musical is decided only by how dedicated the cast and crew are. There can be an amazing book, award-winning music, and well-known leads, but if there isn’t heart, and no dedication is evident, the show will fall to pieces.

  • ECP says:

    Music (at least 30 minutes of?)…a story/theme that grabs the audience from the get-go…a galvanizing performance or three…a Tony.

  • Yosi Merves says:

    I think that a story which the audience members can relate to and in which they can become invested goes a long way in making a musical successful. Also songs that are still stuck in your head the following day.

  • Paula says:

    In my opinion the recipe for success is good story, good music, good cast, and
    lots of luck. Timing probably enters into this formula. If we leave the theater with
    some memorable song(s) that resonate in our heads, that adds to the good chance of success. We remember South Pacific, Guys and Dolls, Annie,
    Mama Mia, Phantom, My Fair Lady, Lion King, etc., as examples of this.

  • The number one thing that makes a musical successful is the 100% commitment of each cast member to take their performance to the deepest level as actors. Often times, we see performers on Broadway with totally polished vocal technique or whose dancing seems virtually impossible to comprehend pulling off so gracefully…with so much illusion of ease. BUT – I feel strongly that what really takes a musical to the next level is when the acting has clearly been approached from a non-musical perspective (or the cast is well trained in traditional “straight” theatrical acting). There are so many layers of work you can bring to a character as an actor, and just because you have perfect pitch or can land a triple pirouette with total mastery…don’t think for one minute you are exempt from uncovering the character in all entirety. If anything, we should be twice as invested in that process…as our characters have SO MUCH going on internally that they cannot hold the energy in without breaking into a high belt tap number. These are not your average characters…please don’t play them with that high school musical theatre caricature and think that you’ve got it. The most successful Broadway musicals are the ones who have all of the performance elements both in place, and in perfect Zen-like balance.

  • RAbrams says:

    The need to break into song must be justified in the storytelling, and the songs themselves should drive the story forward. When there’s a long ballad that’s nothing but a character’s emotional reaction to an event–after we’ve already witnessed the event and the character’s response–the pace grinds to a halt and it’s a missed storytelling opportunity.
    Of course, the unity of vision between the librettist, lyricist, and composer is vital. When all the pieces work together and support each other, magic happens. And I absolutely agree with all the above comments about compelling and timely storytelling.
    Personally, I’m drawn in by well-written, clear but poetic lyrics. I like a musical/songs in musicals to make me think, articulate the human experience in ways I would not have thought to do so, and swell with (justified) emotion.

  • Lori says:

    Key to a great musical is a great story, great music and fantastic actors that can capture an audience for about 2.5 hours.

  • Sue Cohen says:

    You gotta have a gimmick, of course! “Once” has that bar onstage, plus the sensational signature tune. I have seen it “once” but didn’t get to hit the bar. Would love to go back– I’ll drink to you, Ken!

  • JV says:

    a successful musical on Broadway must have a great story, an amazing score, spectacular sets and lighting, a lead actress in green make up and a built in audience of little girls who want to see the show over and over again.

  • Spiro G says:

    A successful show needs to have heart! The story needs to be relatable to a mass audience. They need to feel a connection to the characters on stage! Also the music needs to help in telling the story. A large portion of broadway audiences are non English speakers, so having the music tell the story as well as the book, tends to keep shows around longer!

  • Jose says:

    Thoughtful lyrics.
    Charismatic performers.
    Melodies you hum on your way back home.

  • Annie says:

    Story, story, story and servicing the story so that the audience leaves moved, change, or feeling something extraordinary (whether that is joyous or not). It sounds idealistic, but one of the things I love about Broadway (however frustrating it can be for the same reason), is that it’s nearly impossibly to build it around commercial tent poles like Hollywood does. Musicals must be happy? Here comes Les Mis. Musicals must be made to appeal to some notion of pleasuring middle aged women? Here comes a rock piece Bout a German transgender woman! What does last at the end of the day? Beautifully told stories, moving scores, brilliant performances, daring to take risks.

  • Keni Fine says:

    Past -> Present -> Future:
    Outcasts, great casts, simulcasts.

  • Chuck Cutaia says:

    Chuck’s recipe for a successful musical:
    1 cup of souring, sweeping, and music
    1 cup of tangible characters overcoming a hurdle we, as the audience can relate to
    1/2 cup of great diction
    2 cups of contemporary or fresh choreography
    3 cups of perfect casting
    a dash of creative orchestration
    bake for 8 weeks in the easy bake marketing oven
    Let cool for and remember we want to fall in love with these characters.

  • When I was in BMI Musical Theatre Workshop, taught by composer/conductor Lehman Engel, I learned that a great musical has a great romance (though not necessarily with a person). In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye loved tradition – and his daughters. His conflict is the heart of the musical.
    Hugs2U DrSue

  • Kyle Morales says:

    In order for a broadway musical to be extremely successful, I think it has to include a great book and score, and it had to resonate among many different people

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