Theatre Trivia - Broadway

What really is Broadway?

  • Broadway is actually a large road that runs the length of Manhattan. The term Broadway Theatre (or just Broadway), refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 large professional theatres with 500 seats or more located in the Theatre District and in Lincoln Center, in and around that road.

  • It represents the highest level of commercial English theatre in the world (along with West End in London).

  • The Broadway theatre district is a popular tourist attraction in New York. According to The Broadway League, Broadway shows sold approximately $1.037 billion worth of tickets in calendar year 2010.

  • New York did not have a significant theatre presence until about 1750, when actor-managers Walter Murray and Thomas Kean established a resident theatre company at the Theatre on Nassau Street, which held about 280 people.

  • Theatre in New York moved from downtown gradually to midtown beginning around 1850, seeking less expensive real estate prices.

  • Theatres did not arrive in the Times Square area until the early 1900s, and the Broadway theatres did not consolidate there until a large number of theatres were built around the square in the 1920s and 1930s.

  • Broadway's first "long-run" musical was a 50-performance hit called The Elves in 1857.

  • The first theatre piece that conforms to the modern conception of a musical, adding dance and original music that helped to tell the story, is considered to be The Black Crook, which premiered in New York on September 12, 1866. The production was a staggering five-and-a-half hours long, but despite its length, it ran for a record-breaking 474 performances.

  • As transportation improved, poverty in New York diminished, and street lighting made for safer travel at night, the number of potential patrons for the growing number of theatres increased enormously.

  • Both musicals and stage plays on Broadway often rely on casting well-known performers in leading roles to draw larger audiences or bring in new audience members to the theatre. Actors from movies and television are frequently cast for the revivals of Broadway shows or are used to replace actors leaving a cast. There are still, however, performers who are primarily stage actors, spending most of their time "on the boards", and appearing in television and in screen roles only secondarily.

  • Most Broadway producers and theatre owners are members of The Broadway League (formerly "The League of American Theatres and Producers"), a trade organization that promotes Broadway theatre as a whole, negotiates contracts with the various theatrical unions and agreements with the guilds, and co-administers the Tony Awards with the American Theatre Wing, a service organization.

  • Attending a Broadway show is a common tourist activity in New York. The TKTS booths sell same-day tickets (and in certain cases next-day matinee tickets) for many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows at a discount of 25%, 35%, or 50%. Many Broadway theatres also offer special student rates, same-day "rush" or "lottery" tickets, or standing-room tickets to help ensure that their theatres are as full, and their "grosses" as high as possible.