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Broadway

Overview

Broadway refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theaters each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Broadway and London’s West End together represent the highest commercial level of live theater in the English-speaking world.

History

Broadway’s history dates back to the early 18th century when New York’s first theater opened on Nassau Street in 1732. The district moved to Broadway in the 1830s due to inexpensive real estate and the introduction of street lighting. Over the years, Broadway became synonymous with American theater and has been home to countless notable plays and musicals.

Noteworthy Shows

Broadway has premiered many plays and musicals that have become classics, including “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Chicago,” “The Lion King,” “Hamilton,” “Wicked,” and “Cats.”

Tony Awards

The Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre, more commonly known as the Tony Award, recognizes excellence in live Broadway theater. The awards are presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League.

Broadway Today

Broadway theaters are widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theater in the English-speaking world. The Broadway Theater District is a popular tourist attraction in New York City. According to The Broadway League, Broadway shows sold a record 14.8 million tickets in the 2018–2019 season, amounting to $1.83 billion in ticket sales.

Visiting Broadway

Broadway shows usually play Tuesday through Sunday, with Monday typically being the only off day. Matinee and evening performances are usually available, especially on the weekends. Tickets for Broadway shows can range in price from as low as $20 for discounted or rush tickets to several hundred dollars for premium seats to popular shows. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone, or in-person at the theater’s box office. For discounted tickets, consider checking out the TKTS Discount Booths run by the Theatre Development Fund.

Tips

When attending a Broadway show, it’s advisable to dress comfortably but respectfully, as some theaters may have dress codes. Most theaters open their doors 30 minutes before show time, and it’s a good idea to arrive at least 15 minutes early. Late seating is typically at the discretion of management. Also, remember to turn off or silence cell phones and other electronic devices during the performance. Finally, be aware that most Broadway theaters do not permit food or drink (with the exception of water) inside the auditorium.

Broadway Theater Architecture

Many Broadway theaters are historic buildings with unique architectural features. Some, like the New Amsterdam and Lyric Theatres, date back to the early 20th century and are known for their ornate interiors. The design of these theaters contributes to the overall Broadway experience.

Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway

In addition to the 41 large professional theaters of Broadway, New York City also offers “Off-Broadway” and “Off-Off-Broadway” shows. Off-Broadway theaters generally have between 100 and 499 seats and are often known for more experimental works, while Off-Off-Broadway theaters, which have 99 seats or fewer, are typically the most experimental and budget-conscious.

Broadway Impact on American Culture

Broadway has had a significant impact on American popular culture. Many well-known songs originated from Broadway musicals, and Broadway adaptations have often been successful in Hollywood. Broadway has also been a launching pad for many prominent actors and actresses.

Notable Personalities

Broadway has been home to many notable personalities in the world of theater. Some of the most famous Broadway actors include Ethel Merman, Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Nathan Lane, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Hugh Jackman, among many others.

Broadway Tours

Many popular Broadway shows go on national tours, bringing the magic of Broadway to cities across the U.S. These touring productions often feature high-quality sets, costumes, and performances, offering audiences outside New York the chance to experience Broadway-caliber theater.

Broadway During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on Broadway, causing all theaters to shut down in March 2020. This marked the longest shutdown in Broadway history. Theaters began reopening in September 2021, with safety protocols in place such as mandatory vaccinations and mask wearing for audience members.

Broadway Ticket Lottery and Rush Tickets

Many Broadway shows offer day-of-performance lottery and rush tickets to make the shows accessible to a broader audience. These tickets are usually sold at a significantly reduced price but are limited in number and are not guaranteed for every performance.

Broadway Week

Twice a year, NYC Broadway Week offers 2-for-1 tickets to select Broadway shows. This initiative, run by NYC & Company, gives residents and visitors the chance to see shows at a discounted price.

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