When Leap of Faith opened on April 26, composer Alan Menken joined the select group of writers that have had three original musicals running simultaneously on the Great White Way. Menken’s other two current shows are Newsies and Sister Act. Since Oklahoma!, this Broadway trifecta has only occurred about once a decade. Menken’s run will be one of the shortest, though, ending about four months from now, if Newsies closes as planned on August 19.*
The first trifecta in the modern era belongs to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, whose run lasted about seven and a half months in the early 1950s, from the May 28, 1953 opening of Me and Juliet at the Majestic Theatre to the January 16, 1954 closing of South Pacific, which had transferred to the Broadway Theatre to accommodate the new show. Their third show was The King and I, which ran at the St. James, across the street from the Majestic. In the late 1960s, Jerry Herman scored a brief trifecta with the four-month run of Dear World, from February 6 to May 31, 1969. His other two shows on the boards at the time were Hello, Dolly! and Mame, which Angela Lansbury left to star in Dear World.
Stephen Schwartz had one of the longest trifectas, about one year in the mid-1970s, from the opening of Godspell on June 22, 1976 to the closing of Pippin on June 12, 1977. His third musical at the time was The Magic Show. Andrew Lloyd Webber scored a run of 11 months in the early 1980s, from October 7, 1982, when Cats opened at the Winter Garden for its historic run, until Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat closed on September 4, 1983. His other show was Evita, running at the Broadway Theatre, across the street from Cats.
Frank Wildhorn had one of the shortest trifectas, with the two-month engagement of The Civil War from April 22 to June 13, 1999. Wildhorn’s other two shows in their first run were Jekyll & Hyde and The Scarlet Pimpernel. The longest trifecta, at four years and five months, belongs to Tim Rice. During the entire run of Aida – March 23, 2000 to September, 5, 2004 – Rice was also represented on Broadway with Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.
The shortest trifecta goes to bookwriter and lyricist Michael Stewart, who contributed material to three shows that were simultaneously on Broadway for three days. In March 1981, Stewart’s work included Barnum, 42nd Street and Bring Back Birdie, which had a total of 31 previews and four performances.
*Newsies later announced an open-ended run, but Menken’s trifecta ended earlier than expected, when Leap of Faith closed May 13, after only 20 performances.