This article is about the type of theatre.
For the individual theatre, see Broadway Theatre (53rd Street).
For other uses, see Broadway Theatre (disambiguation).
Broadway theatre, also known simply as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats, located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City.
While the thoroughfare itself is eponymous with the district and its collection of 41 theaters, and is closely identified with Times Square, only four of the theaters are located on Broadway itself (being the Broadway Theatre, the Palace Theatre, the Minskoff Theatre, and the Winter Garden Theatre).
The rest are located on the numbered cross streets extending from the Nederlander Theatre one block south of Times Square on West 41st Street, north along either side of Broadway to 53rd street, as well as the Vivian Beaumont Theater, at Lincoln Center on West 65th street.
While exceptions exist, the term "Broadway theatre" is generally reserved for venues with a seating capacity of at least 500 people, smaller theaters are referred to as off-Broadway (regardless of location), while very small venues (less than 100) are called off-off-Broadway, a term that can also apply to non-commercial or avant garde theater, or productions held outside of traditional theater venues.
The Theater District is a popular tourist attraction in New York City.
According to The Broadway League, for the 2018–2019 season (which ended May 26, 2019) total attendance was 14,768,254 and Broadway shows had US$1,829,312,140 in grosses, with attendance up 9.5%, grosses up 10.3%, and playing weeks up 9.3%.
Most Broadway shows are musicals.
Historian Martin Shefter argues that "'Broadway musicals', culminating in the productions of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, became enormously influential forms of American popular culture" and contributed to making New York City the cultural capital of the world.
Early theatre in New York
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.
The company moved to New York in 1753, performing ballad operas and ballad-farces like Damon and Phillida.
The Bowery Theatre opened in 1826, followed by others.
In 1829, at Broadway and Prince Street, Niblo's Garden opened and soon became one of New York's premiere nightspots.
The 3,000-seat theatre presented all sorts of musical and non-musical entertainments.
In 1844, Palmo's Opera House opened and presented opera for only four seasons before bankruptcy led to its rebranding as a venue for plays under the name Burton's Theatre.
The Astor Opera House opened in 1847.
A riot broke out in 1849 when the lower-class patrons of the Bowery objected to what they perceived as snobbery by the upper class audiences at Astor Place: "After the Astor Place Riot of 1849, entertainment in New York City was divided along class lines: opera was chiefly for the upper middle and upper classes, minstrel shows and melodramas for the middle class, variety shows in concert saloons for men of the working class and the slumming middle class."
The plays of William Shakespeare were frequently performed on the Broadway stage during the period, most notably by American actor Edwin Booth who was internationally known for his performance as Hamlet.
Booth played the role for a famous 100 consecutive performances at the Winter Garden Theatre in 1865 (with the run ending just a few months before Booth's brother John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln), and would later revive the role at his own Booth's Theatre (which was managed for a time by his brother Junius Brutus Booth, Jr.).
Birth of the musical and post-Civil War
Theatre in New York moved from downtown gradually to midtown Manhattan beginning around 1850, seeking less expensive real estate.
In the beginning of the 19th century, the area that now comprises the Theater District was owned by a handful of families and comprised a few farms.
Broadway's first "long-run" musical was a 50-performance hit called The Elves in 1857.
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.
It was at a performance by Keene's troupe of Our American Cousin in Washington, D.C. that Abraham Lincoln was shot.
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 five-and-a-half hours long, but despite its length, it ran for a record-breaking 474 performances.
The same year, The Black Domino/Between You, Me and the Post was the first show to call itself a "musical comedy".
Comedians Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart produced and starred in musicals on Broadway between 1878 (The Mulligan Guard Picnic) and 1890, with book and lyrics by Harrigan and music by his father-in-law David Braham.
These musical comedies featured characters and situations taken from the everyday life of New York's lower classes and represented a significant step forward from vaudeville and burlesque, towards a more literate form.
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.
Plays could run longer and still draw in the audiences, leading to better profits and improved production values.
As in England, during the latter half of the century, the theatre began to be cleaned up, with less prostitution hindering the attendance of the theatre by women.
They were imitated in New York by American productions such as Reginald Dekoven's Robin Hood (1891) and John Philip Sousa's El Capitan (1896), along with operas, ballets and other British and European hits.
1890s and early 1900s
This would not be surpassed until Irene in 1919.
However, smaller vaudeville and variety houses proliferated, and Off-Broadway was well established by the end of the 19th century.
A Trip to Coontown (1898) was the first musical comedy entirely produced and performed by African Americans in a Broadway theatre (largely inspired by the routines of the minstrel shows), followed by the ragtime-tinged Clorindy: The Origin of the Cakewalk (1898), and the highly successful In Dahomey (1902).
Hundreds of musical comedies were staged on Broadway in the 1890s and early 1900s made up of songs written in New York's Tin Pan Alley involving composers such as Gus Edwards, John Walter Bratton, and George M. Cohan (Little Johnny Jones (1904), 45 Minutes From Broadway (1906), and George Washington Jr. (1906)).
Still, New York runs continued to be relatively short, with a few exceptions, compared with London runs, until World War I.
A few very successful British musicals continued to achieve great success in New York, including Florodora in 1900–01.
In the early years of the 20th century, translations of popular late-19th century continental operettas were joined by the "Princess Theatre" shows of the 1910s by writers such as P. , G. WodehouseGuy Bolton, and Harry B. Smith.
Victor Herbert, whose work included some intimate musical plays with modern settings as well as his string of famous operettas (The Fortune Teller (1898), Babes in Toyland (1903), Mlle. (1905), ModisteThe Red Mill (1906), and Naughty Marietta (1910)).
Beginning with The Red Mill, Broadway shows installed electric signs outside the theatres.
Since colored bulbs burned out too quickly, white lights were used, and Broadway was nicknamed "The Great White Way".
In August 1919, the Actors' Equity Association demanded a standard contract for all professional productions.
After a strike shut down all the theatres, the producers were forced to agree.
By the 1920s, the Shubert Brothers had risen to take over the majority of the theatres from the Erlanger syndicate.
From then, it would go on to become the first show to reach 1,000 performances.
Lightnin' was the longest-running Broadway show until being overtaken in performance totals by Abie's Irish Rose in 1925.
Competing with motion pictures
The motion picture mounted a challenge to the stage.
At first, films were silent and presented only limited competition.
By the end of the 1920s, films like The Jazz Singer were presented with synchronized sound, and critics wondered if the cinema would replace live theatre altogether.
While live vaudeville could not compete with these inexpensive films that featured vaudeville stars and major comedians of the day, other theatre survived.
The musicals of the Roaring Twenties, borrowing from vaudeville, music hall, and other light entertainment, tended to ignore plot in favor of emphasizing star actors and actresses, big dance routines, and popular songs.
Florenz Ziegfeld produced annual spectacular song-and-dance revues on Broadway featuring extravagant sets and elaborate costumes, but there was little to tie the various numbers together.
Their books may have been forgettable, but they produced enduring standards from George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Vincent Youmans, and Rodgers and Hart, among others, and Noël Coward, Sigmund Romberg, and Rudolf Friml continued in the vein of Victor Herbert.
Live theatre has survived the invention of cinema.
Between the wars
It represented a complete integration of book and score, with dramatic themes, as told through the music, dialogue, setting and movement, woven together more seamlessly than in previous musicals.
It ran for 572 performances.
The 1920s also spawned a new age of American playwright with the emergence of Eugene O'Neill, whose plays Beyond the Horizon, Anna Christie, The Hairy Ape, Strange Interlude and Mourning Becomes Electra proved that there was an audience for serious drama on Broadway, and O'Neill's success paved the way for major dramatists like Elmer Rice, Maxwell Anderson, Robert E. Sherwood, Clifford Odets, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller, as well as writers of comedy like George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.
Classical revivals also proved popular with Broadway theatre-goers, notably John Barrymore in Hamlet and Richard III, John Gielgud in Hamlet, The Importance of Being Earnest and Much Ado About Nothing, Walter Hampden and José Ferrer in Cyrano de Bergerac, Paul Robeson and Ferrer in Othello, Maurice Evans in Richard II and the plays of George Bernard Shaw, and Katharine Cornell in such plays as Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, and Candida.
As World War II approached, a dozen Broadway dramas addressed the rise of Nazism in Europe and the issue of American non-intervention.
According to John Kenrick's writings on Broadway musicals, "Every season saw new stage musicals send songs to the top of the charts.
Public demand, a booming economy and abundant creative talent kept Broadway hopping.
To this day, the shows of the 1950s form the core of the musical theatre repertory."
Kenrick notes that "the late 1960s marked a time of cultural upheaval.
The changes would prove painful for many—including those behind the scenes, as well as those in the audience."
Of the 1970s, Kenrick writes: "Just when it seemed that traditional book musicals were back in style, the decade ended with critics and audiences giving mixed signals."
Ken Bloom observed that "The 1960s and 1970s saw a worsening of the area [Times Square] and a drop in the number of legitimate shows produced on Broadway."
By way of comparison, in the 1950 to 1951 season (May to May) 94 productions opened on Broadway; in the 1969 to 1970 season (June to May) there were 59 productions (fifteen were revivals).
In the twenties, there were 70–80 theaters, but by 1969, there were 36 left.
It was a not-for-profit group supported by the Actors Equity union to save the theater buildings in the neighborhood from demolition by monied Manhattan development interests.
Papp provided resources, recruited a publicist and celebrated actors, and provided audio, lighting, and technical crews for the effort.
At Papp's behest, in July 1982, a bill was introduced in the 97th Congress, entitled "H.R.6885, A bill to designate the Broadway/Times Square Theatre District in the City of New York as a national historic site".
The legislation would have provided certain US government resources and assistance to help the city preserve the district.
Faced with strong opposition and lobbying by Mayor Ed Koch's Administration and corporate Manhattan development interests, the bill was not passed.
The Save the Theatres campaign then turned their efforts to supporting establishment of the Theater District as a registered historic district.
In December 1983, Save the Theatres prepared "The Broadway Theater District, a Preservation Development and Management Plan", and demanded that each theater in the district receive landmark designation.
Mayor Ed Koch ultimately reacted by creating a Theater Advisory Council, which included Papp.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Broadway theaters closed March 12, 2020, shuttering 16 shows that were playing or were in the process of opening.
The shutdown was extended first to April, then to May, then June, then September 2020 and January 2021, and later to June 1, 2021.
The 74th Tony Awards were also postponed and will be held virtually later in 2020.
Tony nominations were announced on October 15, 2020 by James Monroe Iglehart.
Although there are some exceptions, shows with open-ended runs generally have evening performances Tuesday through Saturday, with a 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. "curtain".
The afternoon "" performances are at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays and at 3:00 p.m. on Sundays.
This makes for an eight-performance week.
On this schedule, most shows do not play on Monday and the shows and theatres are said to be "dark" on that day.
The actors and the crew in these shows tend to regard Sunday evening through Monday evening as their weekend.
The Tony award presentation ceremony is usually held on a Sunday evening in June to fit this schedule.
In recent years, some shows have moved their Tuesday show time an hour earlier to 7:00 pm.
The rationale for this move was that since fewer tourists take in shows midweek, Tuesday attendance depends more on local patrons.
The earlier curtain makes it possible for suburban patrons to get home by a reasonable hour after the show.
Some shows, especially those produced by Disney, change their performance schedules fairly frequently depending on the season.
This is done in order to maximize access to their target audience.
Producers and theatre owners
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.
While the League and the theatrical unions are sometimes at loggerheads during those periods when new contracts are being negotiated, they also cooperate on many projects and events designed to promote professional theatre in New York.
Of the four non-profit theatre companies with Broadway theatres, all four (Lincoln Center Theater, Manhattan Theatre Club, Roundabout Theatre Company, and Second Stage Theatre) belong to the League of Resident Theatres and have contracts with the theatrical unions which are negotiated separately from the other Broadway theatre and producers.
The majority of Broadway theatres are owned or managed by three organizations: the Shubert Organization, a for-profit arm of the non-profit Shubert Foundation, which owns seventeen theatres; the Nederlander Organization, which controls nine theatres; and Jujamcyn, which owns five Broadway houses.
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.
As Patrick Healy of The New York Times noted:
According to Mark Shenton, "One of the biggest changes to the commercial theatrical landscape—on both sides of the Atlantic—over the past decade or so is that sightings of big star names turning out to do plays has gone up; but the runs they are prepared to commit to has gone down.
Time was that a producer would require a minimum commitment from his star of six months, and perhaps a year; now, the 13-week run is the norm."
The minimum size of the Broadway orchestra is governed by an agreement with the musicians' union (Local 802, American Federation of Musicians) and The Broadway League.
For example, the agreement specifies the minimum size of the orchestra at the Minskoff Theatre to be 18, while at the Music Box Theatre it is 9.
Most Broadway shows are commercial productions intended to make a profit for the producers and investors ("backers" or "angels"), and therefore have open-ended runs (duration that the production plays), meaning that the length of their presentation is not set beforehand, but depends on critical response, word of mouth, and the effectiveness of the show's advertising, all of which determine ticket sales.
Investing in a commercial production carries a varied degree of financial risk.
Shows need not make a profit immediately; should they make their "nut" (weekly operating expenses), or lose money at a rate acceptable to the producers, they may continue to run in the expectation that, eventually, they will pay back their initial costs and become profitable.
In some borderline situations, producers may ask that royalties be temporarily reduced or waived, or even that performers—with the permission of their unions—take reduced salaries, in order to prevent a show from closing.
Theatre owners, who are not generally profit participants in most productions, may waive or reduce rents, or even lend a show money in order to keep it running.
Some Broadway shows are produced by non-commercial organizations as part of a regular subscription season—Lincoln Center Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company, Manhattan Theatre Club, and Second Stage Theater are the four non-profit theatre companies that currently have permanent Broadway venues.
Some other productions are produced on Broadway with "limited engagement runs" for a number of reasons, including financial issues, prior engagements of the performers or temporary availability of a theatre between the end of one production and the beginning of another.
However, some shows with planned limited engagement runs may, after critical acclaim or box office success, extend their engagements or convert to open-ended runs.
Historically, musicals on Broadway tend to have longer runs than "straight" (i.e., non-musical) plays.
Attending a Broadway show is a common tourist activity in New York.
This service is run by Theatre Development Fund.
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.
According to The Broadway League, total Broadway attendance was 14.77 million in 2018–2019, compared to 13.79 million in 2017–2018.
The Broadway League also reports that approximately 66% of all Broadway tickets were purchased by tourists in the 2012–2013 season, an increase of three percent from the 2011–2012 season.
The average age of the Broadway audience in the 2017–18 theater season was 40, the lowest it had been in nearly two decades.
Off-Broadway and US tours
Broadway productions and artists are honored by the annual Antoinette Perry Awards (commonly called the "Tony Awards", or "Tony") which are given by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League, and which were first presented in 1947.
Their importance has increased since 1967 when the awards presentation show began to be broadcast on national television.
In a strategy to improve the television ratings, celebrities are often chosen to host the show, some with scant connection to the theatre.
The most recent Tony Awards ceremony was held on June 9, 2019.
Other awards given to Broadway productions include the Drama Desk Award, presented since 1955, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards, first given in 1936, and the Outer Critics Circle Award, initially presented in 1950.
Broadway theatres and current productions
Main article: List of Broadway theaters
- An * after the opening date indicates that the listed show has not yet opened, but is scheduled to open on the given date at that theatre.
- An * after the closing date indicates that there is another production scheduled for this theatre.
- Capacity is based on the capacity given for the respective theatre at the Internet Broadway Database.
|Al Hirschfeld Theatre||W. 45th St. (No. 302)||1424||Jujamcyn Theaters||Moulin Rouge!||Musical||2019-07-25July 25, 2019||Open-ended|
|Ambassador Theatre||W. 49th St. (No. 219)||1125||Shubert Organization||Chicago||Musical||1996-11-14November 14, 1996||Open-ended|
|American Airlines Theatre||W. 42nd St. (No. 227)||740||Roundabout Theatre Company|
|August Wilson Theatre||W. 52nd St. (No. 245)||1228||Jujamcyn Theaters||Mean Girls||Musical||2018-04-08April 8, 2018||Open-ended|
|Belasco Theatre||W. 44th St. (No. 111)||1018||Shubert Organization||Girl from the North Country||Musical||2020-03-05March 5, 2020||Open-ended|
|Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre||W. 45th St. (No. 242)||1078||Shubert Organization||Company||Musical||TBD*||Open-ended|
|Booth Theatre||W. 45th St. (No. 222)||766||Shubert Organization|
|Broadhurst Theatre||W. 44th St. (No. 235)||1186||Shubert Organization||Jagged Little Pill||Musical||2019-12-05December 5, 2019||Open-ended|
|Broadway Theatre||W. 53rd St & Broadway (No. 1681)||1761||Shubert Organization||West Side Story||Musical||2020-02-20February 20, 2020||Open-ended|
|Brooks Atkinson Theatre||W. 47th St. (No. 256)||1094||Nederlander Organization||Six||Musical||TBD*||Open-ended|
|Circle in the Square Theatre||W. 50th St. (No. 235)||840||Independent||American Buffalo||Play||April 14, 2021*||Limited engagement|
|Cort Theatre||W. 48th St. (No. 138)||1084||Shubert Organization|
|Ethel Barrymore Theatre||W. 47th St. (No. 243)||1096||Shubert Organization|
|Eugene O'Neill Theatre||W. 49th St. (No. 230)||1066||Jujamcyn Theaters||The Book of Mormon||Musical||2011-03-24March 24, 2011||Open-ended|
|Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre||W. 45th St. (No. 236)||1079||Shubert Organization||Come from Away||Musical||2017-03-12March 12, 2017||Open-ended|
|Gershwin Theatre||W. 51st St. (No. 222)||1933||Nederlander Organization||Wicked||Musical||2003-10-30October 30, 2003||Open-ended|
|Hayes Theater||W. 44th St. (No. 240)||597||Second Stage Theater||Take Me Out||Play||April 22, 2021*||Limited engagement|
|Hudson Theatre||W. 44th St. (No. 141)||975||Ambassador Theatre Group|
|Imperial Theatre||W. 45th St. (No. 249)||1443||Shubert Organization||Ain't Too Proud||Musical||2019-03-21March 21, 2019||Open-ended|
|John Golden Theatre||W. 45th St. (No. 252)||805||Shubert Organization|
|Longacre Theatre||W. 48th St. (No. 220)||1091||Shubert Organization||Diana||Musical||2021-05-25May 25, 2021*||Open-ended|
|Lunt-Fontanne Theatre||W. 46th St. (No. 205)||1519||Nederlander Organization||Tina—The Tina Turner Musical||Musical||2019-11-07November 7, 2019||Open-ended|
|Lyceum Theatre||W. 45th St. (No. 149)||922||Shubert Organization|
|Lyric Theatre||W. 43rd St. (No. 214)||1622||Ambassador Theatre Group||Harry Potter and the Cursed Child||Play||2018-04-22April 22, 2018||Open-ended|
|Majestic Theatre||W. 44th St. (No. 245)||1645||Shubert Organization||The Phantom of the Opera||Musical||1988-01-26January 26, 1988||Open-ended|
|Marquis Theatre||W. 46th St. (No. 210)||1612||Nederlander Organization|
|Minskoff Theatre||W. 45th St. (No. 200)||1710||Nederlander Organization||The Lion King||Musical||1997-11-13November 13, 1997||Open-ended|
|Music Box Theatre||W. 45th St. (No. 239)||1009||Shubert Organization||Dear Evan Hansen||Musical||2016-12-04December 4, 2016||Open-ended|
|Nederlander Theatre||W. 41st St. (No. 208)||1235||Nederlander Organization||The Lehman Trilogy||Play||TBD*||Limited engagement|
|Neil Simon Theatre||W. 52nd St. (No. 250)||1467||Nederlander Organization||MJ: The Musical||Musical||September 2021*||Open-ended|
|New Amsterdam Theatre||W. 42nd St. (No. 214)||1747||Disney Theatrical Group||Aladdin||Musical||2014-03-20March 20, 2014||Open-ended|
|Palace Theatre||W. 47th St. & Broadway (No. 1564)||1743||Nederlander Organization||ZzThe Palace Theatre closed for renovation in September 2018. It is scheduled to reopen in or around 2021.|
|Richard Rodgers Theatre||W. 46th St. (No. 226)||1400||Nederlander Organization||Hamilton||Musical||2015-08-06August 6, 2015||Open-ended|
|St. James Theatre||W. 44th St. (No. 246)||1709||Jujamcyn Theaters|
|Samuel J. Friedman Theatre||W. 47th St. (No. 261)||650||Manhattan Theatre Club||Lackawanna Blues||Play||Fall 2021*||Limited Engagement|
|Shubert Theatre||W. 44th St. (No. 225)||1460||Shubert Organization||To Kill a Mockingbird||Play||2018-12-13December 13, 2018||Open-ended|
|Stephen Sondheim Theatre||W. 43rd St. (No. 124)||1055||Roundabout Theatre Company||Mrs. Doubtfire||Musical||TBD*||Open-ended|
|Studio 54||W. 54th St. (No. 254)||1006||Roundabout Theatre Company||Caroline, or Change||Musical||Fall 2021*||Limited engagement|
|Vivian Beaumont Theater||W. 65th St. (No. 150)||1080||Lincoln Center Theatre||Flying Over Sunset||Musical||Fall 2021*||Open-ended|
|Walter Kerr Theatre||W. 48th St. (No. 219)||945||Jujamcyn Theaters||Hadestown||Musical||2019-04-17April 17, 2019||Open-ended|
|Winter Garden Theatre||W. 50th St. & Broadway (No. 1634)||1526||Shubert Organization||The Music Man||Musical||2022-02-10February 10, 2022*||Open-ended|
The following have been announced as future Broadway productions.
The theatre in which they will run may not yet be known, or, if known, may be currently occupied by another show.
|1776||Musical||American Airlines Theatre||Spring 2022|
|American Utopia||Special||TBA||September 17, 2021|
|Birthday Candles||Play||American Airlines Theatre||Late 2021|
|How I Learned to Drive||Play||Samuel J. Friedman Theatre||Spring 2022|
|The Minutes||Play||TBA||2022-03-15March 15, 2022|
|Plaza Suite||Play||Hudson Theatre||2021-03-19March 19, 2021|
|Sing Street||Musical||Shubert theatre to be announced||2021-22 Season|
|Thoughts of a Colored Man||Play||TBA||TBA|
|Trouble in Mind||Play||American Airlines Theatre||Late 2021|
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadway theatre.