The world’s longest-running musical? I don’t think so!

This weekend, Les Miserables is celebrating its 21st birthday on the West End, claiming the crown of London’s longest ever run for a musical (The Mouse Trap, of course, is miles ahead, but is a straight play).  The press claims have been that this will make it the world’s longest-running musical, but that’s really a bit of a lie, or at least an example of hyperbole.

It certainly beats Cats as the longest-runner in London (with Phantom of the Opera holding that record for Broadway), but none of those shows come anywhere near the long run that was enjoyed by a little show called The Fantasticks in New York.  Not a spectacular show, and not (it has to be admitted) with the same audience capacity in the theatre, it nevertheless ran for just under 42 years, twice as long as Les Mis has trundled on for.  It’s not as splashy and newsworthy, though, so it seems it can be conveniently swept under the carpet in order to make the London record sound so much more impressive.

The Fantasticks is a lovely little show, and it introduced the world to ‘Try to Remember’, a song that crops up every so often, most recently in a TV commercial for coffee in the UK.  The songs and the script make me smile, though they don’t move me as much as Les Miserables does.  I just feel it deserves to keep the distinction of world’s longest running musical – 41 years and 8 months is no small achievement!

    • Pat
    • October 27th, 2006

    I just found your blog today and have enjoyed reading it. We share a lot of common ground except for the fact that I am female, pushing pretty darn close to 50 and live across the pond. I, too, am a librarian, would love to read all day if I could… I have been involved in the theatre and it’s many forms since 1971 and I have to attribute it all to this sweet and sentimental show The Fantastiks. Soon It’s Gonna Rain-what a beautiful song. I currently direct 2 shows a year for the high school hear and perform in 3 for the local community theatre, and am interested to hear how your audition for Kiss Me Kate went. (Goes?) My best advice for theatre and life in general….Dive right in!

  1. Thanks for dropping by. ‘Soon It’s Gonna Rain’ is indeed lovely, and ‘Plant a Radish’ always makes me laugh.

  2. The show is the longest show off Broadway.

  3. Yes, I know – that’s why I said ‘on New York’ instead of ‘on Broadway’. I was simply countering the media notion that Les Mis was “the world’s longest running musical”, which simply isn’t true – when they say ‘the world’, they should mean ‘the world’ and not ‘selected theatres in London and New York which qualify as West End or Broadway’.

    • Kris
    • June 11th, 2008

    Anne of Green Gables is the longest running musical. The show is entering it’s 44th year. The Fantasticks ran from May 3, 1960, to Jan. 13, 2002.

  4. Now that opens up an interesting question – does a show that is mounted every summer, as in the case of Anne of Green Gables (I assume you’re referring to the annual Prince Edward Island production) ‘count’. It’s arguably 44 different mountings of the same show, or a show where the actual length of run is actually somewhere between 11 and 15 years… Still quite an achievement, though, I admit.


    • vydon
    • May 18th, 2012

    Anne Of Green Gables – The Musical has played continuously ever since 1965. With an annual run at the Confederation Center of the Arts in Charlottetown P.E.I., and several touring shows over the years. Im the worst at math, but Anne Shirley et. company must rank up there somewhere.

  6. Yes, Anne of Green Gables -The Musical in Charlottetown, PEI, Canda is worlds longest running musical.

  7. I still think Anne of Green Gables’ claim is somewhat dubious, as the article you’ve linked to points out. It is not a continuous run. It all comes down to how you define things.

    • Karen
    • August 22nd, 2015

    I’d read that The Fantasticks was the longest continuously running musical years and years ago – frankly it had slipped my mind altogether until I heard the claim about Les Miserables today. I was trying to find an article that confirmed Les Mis had overtaken it and found your blog. Thanks for taking the time to write your piece – and I completely agree with you on every point you made about spurious claims that are contrary to the truth. Meh huh?

  1. March 6th, 2007

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