When the curtain rises on “Mrs. Doubtfire” at the 5th Avenue Theatre, the Seattle institution will hit a milestone: The stage will host its 10th new musical slated for a Broadway run. 

For nearly 20 years, the 5th Avenue has served as a testing ground for new work, developing shows and giving them the out-of-town tryout that’s a rite of passage on the path to the Great White Way. 

From 2008-2012, the 5th Ave strung together quite a streak, sending seven musicals to Broadway. It hasn’t graduated one since, but that changes with “Mrs. Doubtfire” — based on the 1993 film starring Robin Williams — which begins previews at the 5th Ave on Nov. 26 and opens Dec. 13. “Mrs. Doubtfire” already has its NYC ticket printed, opening April 5, 2020 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

Making it to Broadway is no easy feat. Just ask glib girls’ school romp “Princesses” and Randy Quaid-starring fiasco “Lone Star Love,” whose announced Broadway engagements never materialized after productions at the 5th Avenue.

And just because that elusive Broadway run happens, an underperformer might still be swiftly shoveled down the memory hole. Here’s how the nine new musicals that have made the leap from the 5th Avenue have fared on theater’s biggest stage. (Dates for runs at the 5th Ave include preview dates. Dates for Broadway runs do not include preview dates.)


The first new musical the 5th Ave shepherded to Broadway remains the company’s greatest success. But it wasn’t a sure thing.


Sure, “Hairspray” is John Waters’ most mainstream-friendly film, but it’s not the likeliest source material for a musical. Who could’ve anticipated this satirical take on segregated 1960s Baltimore, with a chubby teenage protagonist who just wants to dance on TV, would become a smash hit? The 5th Ave did, for one.

“Hairspray,” armed with weapons-grade earworms from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, has spawned a movie-musical adaptation, a live TV special and countless regional productions. It will outlive you and me.

5th Avenue run: May 30-June 23, 2002

Broadway run: Aug. 15, 2002-Jan. 4, 2009

What critics said:

Misha Berson, The Seattle Times: “… the zippiest and least synthetic or mawkish in a glut of recent musicals spun off hit movies and Billboard backlists.”

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: “Stocked with canny, deliriously tuneful songs … ‘Hairspray’ is as sweet as a show can be without promoting tooth decay.”

Tony nominations: 13

Tony wins: Eight, including Best Musical

“The Wedding Singer”

The only musical (so far) based on an anodyne rom-com starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, “The Wedding Singer” is Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy’s take on the story of a failed musician from suburban New Jersey who tries to steal the heart of a waitress away from her hotshot Wall Street boyfriend.

Originally produced in an era of comedy that stubbornly conflated references with jokes, “The Wedding Singer” packed the stage with callbacks to the 1980s, pop culture’s most voraciously plundered decade.


5th Avenue run: Jan. 31-Feb. 19, 2006

Broadway run: April 27-Dec. 31, 2006

What critics said:

Berson, The Seattle Times: “… a big, gaudy, eager-to-please but uneven new musical”

Howard Kissel, New York Daily News: “What could have gone wrong, you wonder. And then you realize, this is a musical version of a mediocre film — how good could it be?”

Tony nominations: Five

Tony wins: None

“Shrek the Musical”

If not for “Mrs. Doubtfire,” you could have spent your holidays with “Shrek the Musical,” originally slated to return to the 5th Ave in a new staging this month, but bumped to next season by the new kid in town.

The soundtrack for the 2001 animated fairy-tale spoof has its ironic appreciators, but fortunately for the musical, composer and lyricist Jeanine Tesori and David Lindsay-Abaire are much more adept songwriters than Smash Mouth.

5th Avenue run: Aug. 14-Sept. 21, 2008

Broadway run: Dec. 14, 2008-Jan. 3, 2010

What critics said:

Lindy West, The Stranger: “‘Shrek The Musical’ is unavoidably pleasing, in that big-budget, high-gloss, no-stop-left-unpulled Broadway-musical way.”

David Rooney, Variety: “… any theme-park cutesiness is offset by the mischievous humor”


Tony nominations: Eight

Tony wins: One, for costume design


Inspired by the lives of popular 1950s disc jockeys, David Bryan and Joe DiPietro’s “Memphis” paints the history of black music and proto-rock ’n’ roll in broad strokes, with a white DJ protagonist who loves both R&B and an aspiring black singer whom he hopes to make famous.

At the 2010 Tony Awards, “Memphis” went up against fellow homegrown show “Million Dollar Quartet,” developed at Village Theatre, for Best Musical. “Memphis” prevailed.

5th Avenue run: Jan. 27-Feb. 15, 2009

Broadway run: Oct. 19, 2009-Aug. 5, 2012

What critics said:

Berson, The Seattle Times: “There’s much raw material here for a strong show … So why, then, does ‘Memphis’ take so long to grab and hold your complete attention? Maybe because the show runs in mainly two gears: neutral and (more often, and too quickly) overdrive.”

Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: “… a zippy, exuberant musical — one that relies exclusively on steadfastly ‘classic’ values”

Tony nominations: Eight

Tony wins: Four, including Best Musical

“Catch Me If You Can”

Much of the creative team behind “Hairspray” reunited to adapt Steven Spielberg’s effervescent film about real-life con man Frank Abagnale Jr. for the stage, including composer and lyricist Shaiman, lyricist Wittman and director Jack O’Brien.

“Catch Me If You Can” leans hard into ’60s chic, with an ensemble of Pan Am airline stewardesses and a variety-show orchestra on stage.


5th Avenue run: July 23-Aug. 6, 2009

Broadway run: April 10-Sept. 4, 2011

What critics said:

Lynn Jacobson, Variety: “The production numbers that grow out of Abagnale’s various escapades are pure, kitschy fun.”

Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: “What should have been a fun lark of a story seems almost stodgy”

Tony nominations: Four

Tony wins: One, for its leading actor

“A Christmas Story: The Musical”

Before the Tony for “Dear Evan Hansen” and the Oscar for “La La Land,” Benj Pasek and Justin Paul rewrote the music for “A Christmas Story,” which was first produced in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2009.

The version of the show with Pasek and Paul’s score premiered at the 5th Ave the next year, and ever since, their collective star has risen like the source material’s fortunes. The show was booked for just a limited Broadway run, but it’s been omnipresent around the country every holiday season since.

5th Avenue run: Nov. 26-Dec. 30, 2010

Broadway run: Nov. 19, 2012-Dec. 30, 2012

What critics said:

Laura Dannen, Seattle Met: “There are nearly 25 musical numbers, and each tries to outdo the last.”

Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News: “Songs … are all serviceable, but mostly exit the brain faster than Santa up a chimney.”


Tony nominations: Three

Tony wins: None


It’s got a ways to go to catch “The Lion King,” but “Aladdin” certainly qualifies as one of Disney’s biggest theatrical successes, amassing more than 2,300 performances since opening in 2014.

Combining Alan Menken, Tim Rice and the late Howard Ashman’s songs from the film with several that didn’t make the film’s cut — plus some new numbers from Menken and book writer Beguelin — the musical is just one of a long line of “Aladdin” amalgams.

5th Avenue run: Jul 7-31, 2011

Broadway run: March 20, 2014-present

What critics said:

David Goldstein, The Stranger: “… every bit as cartoonish as the 1992 Disney animation from which it’s adapted”

Jesse Green, Vulture: “Disney’s team builds on the take-no-chances, take-no-prisoners lessons of its six Broadway predecessors to all but guarantee a quality hit. … This is not as unpleasant an experience as it sounds; if you’re up for a meaningless fling, it might as well be with a pro.”

Tony nominations: Five

Tony wins: One, for a featured actor

 “Saving Aimee”

A passion project for Kathie Lee Gifford and easily the least-likeliest show on this list to make it to the big time, “Saving Aimee” (renamed “Scandalous” for its blip of a Broadway run) is based on the life of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, who both founded the Foursquare Church and shocked the country by possibly faking her own kidnapping.

Juicy stuff — sandwiched between some not-so-juicy stuff in this exhaustive biographical retelling. “Scandalous” closed after 29 performances.


5th Avenue run: Sept. 30-Oct. 29, 2011

Broadway run: Nov. 15-Dec. 9, 2012

What critics said:

Goldstein, The Stranger: “… an overlong, superficial disappointment—and it’s hard to believe that even McPherson herself could’ve been any preachier”

Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: “… the show reduces McPherson’s remarkable life to a cliché-bestrewn fable about the wages of fame”

Tony nominations: One

Tony wins: None

“First Date”

A true outlier: “First Date” is the only show on this list that isn’t based on existing source material or a real-life person. To call it original? That might go too far.

A coproduction from the 5th Ave and ACT Theatre, the musical by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner, with a book by Austin Winsberg, has a novel frame for its sitcom-facile observations about romance in the modern era. A couple’s blind date keeps getting interrupted by the friends, family and exes in their heads, all of them eager to play the part of a nagging ensemble member.

5th Avenue run: March 15-May 13, 2012

Broadway run: Aug. 8, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014

What critics said:

Gianni Truzzi, City Arts: “Its take on the perils of dating in the modern world bubbles and froths but reveals little depth underneath”

Scott Brown, Vulture: “‘First Date,’ in its rubber heart, is as reductive and aggregate-data-based as modern dating itself”

Tony nominations: None

Tony wins: None