History of Broadway in New York City, Broadway Theater, Musicals and Show History by NYCTourist.com

History of Broadway in New York City

History of Broadway

Broadway History

In an era of dazzling 3-D movies and stunning IMAX films, Broadway theater entertainment remains one of the most popular attractions in NYC. Few NYC attractions match the excitement and spectacle of a Broadway musical. Featuring 40 Broadway theaters, high-profile stage actors, and world-class sets and costumes, New York Broadway shows are must-see entertainment for travelers in NYC.

Broadway refers to the famous street in Manhattan that has become the worldwide leader in stage entertainment. The history of Broadway dates all the way back to the 1700's, when the first NYC stage was built on Massau Street. This NYC theater held less than 300 people, and mostly presented Shakespeare plays from across the pond. It wasn't until after the American Revolution - in 1798 - that the first great NYC theater was built.

New York Broadway in the 1800's

Built on Chatham St in Downtown Manhattan, the Park Theater NYC ushered in a new era of theater in New York. Several more NYC theaters opened up between 1800- 1850. After the Civil War, the center of New York theater moved from Downtown to Midtown Manhattan, because of their cheaper rates on NY real estate.

In the late-1800's and early 1900's, the dramatic rise in train transportation - as well as the NYC subway - lead to a drop in poverty and a higher demand for evening New York entertainment. Soon, the NYC theater district was bustling, leading to more expensive and ambitious Broadway productions.

"The Great White Way"

Broadway in 1909

Broadway 1909

Originally coined by the New York Evening Telegram, "The Great White Way" refers to the Theater District area of Broadway, which encompasses 42nd St to 53rd St in Midtown. Beginning in the early-1900's, Broadway theaters used bright electric signs made up of white lights to advertise shows. Soon, the bright lights of Broadway NYC would become known as "The Great White Way," giving birth to a new NYC landmark. It was also around this time that Broadway theaters finally made their way to Times Square NY.

After a great New York Broadway run in the 1920's saw the premiere of a number of classic Broadway shows - including The Jazz Singer and No, No, Nanette - Broadway was faced with the uncertainty of The Great Depression. The number of Broadway shows dwindled in the 1930's, as famous Broadway producers found themselves out of money and out on the street like so many other Americans. However, much like New York City has again and again, Broadway would soon persevere.

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Broadway Shows

  Shows Info
1.
Chicago Broadway
at the Ambassador Theatre

View for this show -

Rating:

PG13
Price
Cheap $69 SEATS Best $223
Details
3.916665
3 Reviews
2.
Wicked the Musical
at the Gershwin Theatre

View for this show -

Rating:

PG
Price
Cheap $95 SEATS Best $765
Details
4.8125
4 Reviews
3.
Hamilton
at the Richard Rodgers Theatre

Rating:

PG
Price
Cheap $165 SEATS Best $169
Details
0
0 Reviews
4.
Jersey Boys
at the August Wilson Theatre

View for this show -

Rating:

PG13
Price
Cheap $65 SEATS Best $236
Details
4.75
4 Reviews
5.
Phantom of the Opera
at the Majestic Theater

View for this show -

Rating:

Price
Cheap $35 SEATS Best $225
Details
0
0 Reviews
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Hotels near Broadway

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Attractions Near Broadway

  Tour Info
1.
Empire State Building Skip the Line


ActiveFamily FriendlyScenicHistoricArtsyHoliday FunSportsCulturalMuseumBroadwayNightlifeNYC SightsRomanticShoppingTV and MoviesCentral Park
Location
Manhattan, Midtown West, WestsideDetails
0
0 Reviews
2.
Sea Air Space Museum


ActiveFamily FriendlyScenicHistoricArtsyHoliday FunSportsCulturalMuseumBroadwayNightlifeNYC SightsRomanticShoppingTV and MoviesCentral Park
Location
Midtown West, Hell's KitchenDetails
0
0 Reviews
3.
MoMA


View for this tour -
ActiveFamily FriendlyScenicHistoricArtsyHoliday FunSportsCulturalMuseumBroadwayNightlifeNYC SightsRomanticShoppingTV and MoviesCentral Park
Location
Midtown EastDetails
4.35
2 Reviews
4.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not!


ActiveFamily FriendlyScenicHistoricArtsyHoliday FunSportsCulturalMuseumBroadwayNightlifeNYC SightsRomanticShoppingTV and MoviesCentral Park
Location
Midtown West, Theater District, Times SquareDetails
4.65
2 Reviews
5.
Empire State Building


ActiveFamily FriendlyScenicHistoricArtsyHoliday FunSportsCulturalMuseumBroadwayNightlifeNYC SightsRomanticShoppingTV and MoviesCentral Park
Location
Midtown WestDetails
3.65
2 Reviews
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The Golden Age of Broadway

In the 1940's, Broadway shows would rebound with a great run that would shape into the prestigious mecca of stage production that it is today. The classic Broadway musical adaption by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Oklahoma!, opened in 1943 and was an instant hit. Its run of 2,212 performances at the famous St. James Theater in Manhattan was by far the longest of its time.

Almost immediately, other NYC Broadway shows used Oklahoma! as a blueprint for Broadway success. Broadway shows like The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire - both by the famous playwright Tennessee Williams - also opened with great success in the 1940's, as well as the smash Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun, also written by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

The 1940's transformed the Theater district in Broadway into a world leader when it came to stage productions. In 1947, the first-ever Tony Awards recognized the grand achievements of Broadway musicals and plays.

Click here for classic and current photos of Broadway NYC!

Notable Broadway Plays of the Last 30 Years

Chicago the Musical

Chicago the Musical is a seductive tale of murder and prohibition in the 1920's, with burlesque-style dance numbers and a jazz-inspired soundtrack.

Over the last three decades, Broadway has seen a rise in expensive stage productions only "The Great White Way" could pull off. Scroll below for a list of the most notable Broadway shows of the past 30 years.

  • Cats: This Broadway musical produced by the famous composer/director Andrew Lloyd Webber was the longest-running Broadway musical ever, until Webber's own The Phantom of the Opera overtook the honor in 2006. This dazzling play based on a children's book by T.S. Elliot was a worldwide sensation, and enjoyed great success in NYC and London.
  • Les Miserables: This epic adaptation of Victor Hugo's 1862 novel follows a number of characters during the French Revolution, and features one of the most popular Broadway musical soundtracks of all time.
  • Chicago: Chicago the Musical is a seductive tale of murder and prohibition in the 1920's, and its burlesque-style dance numbers and jazz-inspired soundtrack make it one of the most popular current shows on Broadway.
  • Wicked: The popular Broadway musical Wicked provides audiences with a different perspective on the famous Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. This family-friendly Broadway musical has been a hit with audiences since it premiered in 2003.

For information on how to get the best Broadway tickets, check the Broadway shows page on NYCTourist and find an updated list of current Broadway productions.