10 Groundbreaking Broadway Musicals


'Cabaret' (1966)

Cabaret' musical Joel Grey
Joel Grey (back, center) shines as the Master of Ceremonies in the 1972 film 'Cabaret.' Grey created the role on Broadway and won an Oscar for his performance in the film. He was the only Broadway cast member to make it to the film. John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Before "Cabaret," even musicals that featured fairly grownup subject matter did so in a family-friendly way. But this show took all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and mashed it up with an European art house feel. It was this tone and tenor that caused one critic to call it a "musical for people who don't particularly like musicals."

Set in pre-World War II Berlin, the musical tackles some pretty heavy topics, like Nazism, anti-Semitism and bisexuality, while also incorporating a love story of sorts. The play on which the musical is based is partially inspired by true events (as well as some short stories by Christopher Isherwood), making it very relatable to the late 1960s audience in the thick of yet another war. It won eight Tony awards.

The film adaptation would go on to make a massive star out of Liza Minnelli, who played the lead role of cabaret singer Sally Bowles. Ironically, Minnelli was rejected for the Broadway role because the casting experts believed her to be too talented to play the part of a so-so performer. The film went on to win eight Academy awards and cement the show's place in musical history [source: Tropiano].