Broadway Theater


Broadway theatre, commonly called (Broadway), refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 large professional theatres with 500 seats or more located in the Theatre District, New York and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.
The Actual Broadway Theater is at: 1681 Broadway New York, NY

View Larger Map
The Broadway Theatre district is a popular tourist attraction in New York City, New York. According to The Broadway League, Broadway shows sold approximately $1.037 billion worth of tickets in calendar year 2010, compared to $1.004 billion for 2009.

Broadway Schedule Today :
There are now more exceptions than there once were, generally shows with open-ended runs operate on the same schedule, with evening performances Tuesday through Saturday with an 8pm or 7pm "curtain" and afternoon "matinée" performances on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday; typically at 2pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays and 3pm on Sundays, making a standard eight performance week. On this Broadway schedule, shows do not play on Monday, and the shows and theatres are said to be "dark" on that day. Actors and the crew in these shows tend to regard Sunday evening through Tuesday evening as their "weekend". The Tony award presentation ceremony is usually held on a Sunday evening in June to fit into this schedule.
In recent years, many Broadway shows have moved their Tuesday show time an hour earlier to 7 pm. The rationale for the move was that fewer tourists took in shows midweek, so the Tuesday crowd in particular depends on local audience members. The earlier curtain therefore allows suburban patrons time after a show to get home by a reasonable hour. Some shows, especially those produced by Disney, change their performance schedules fairly frequently, depending on the season, in order to maximize access to their targeted audience.


Both musicals and stage Personnel plays a roll 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, "Broadway once had many homegrown stars who committed to working on a show for a year, as Nathan Lane has for The Addams Family. This year, some theater heavyweights like Mr. Lane were not even nominated; instead, several Tony Awards were given for productions that were always intended to be short-timers on Broadway, given that many of their film-star performers had to move on to other commitments." According to an article by 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."
In the past, stage actors had a somewhat superior attitude towards other kinds of live performances, such as vaudeville and burlesque, which were felt to be tawdry, commercial and lowbrow—they considered their own craft to be a higher and more artistic calling. This attitude is reflected in the term used to describe their form of stage performance: "legitimate theatre". (The abbreviated form "legit" is still used for live theatre by the entertainment industry newspaper Variety as part of its unique "slanguage.") This rather condescending attitude also carried over to performers who worked in radio, film and television instead of in "the theatre", but this attitude is much less prevalent now, especially since film and television work pay much better than almost all theatrical acting, even Broadway. The split between "legit" theatre and "variety" performances still exists, however, in the structure of the actors' unions: Actors' Equity represents actors in the legitimate theatre, and the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) represents them in performances without a "book" or through-storyline—although it is very rare for Broadway actors not to work under an Equity contract, since most plays and musicals come under that union's jurisdiction.
Almost all of the people involved with a Broadway show at every level are represented by unions or other protective, professional or trade organization. The actors, dancers, singers, chorus members and stage managers are members of Actors' Equity Association (AEA), musicians are represented by the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), and stagehands, dressers, hairdressers, designers, box office personnel and ushers all belong to various locals of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employes, also known as "the IA" or "IATSE" (pronounced "eye-ot-zee"). Directors and choreographers belong to the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), playwrights to the Dramatists Guild, and house managers, company managers and press agents belong to the Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers (ATPAM). Casting directors (who tried in 2002-2004 to become part of ATPAM) is the last major components of Broadway's human infrastructure who are not unionized. (General managers, who run the business affairs of a show, and are frequently producers as well, are management and not labor.)
The minimum size of the Broadway orchestra is governed by an agreement with the musicians union (Local 802, American Federation of Musicians) and the League of American Theatres and Producers. For example, the agreement specifies the minimum size of the orchestra at the Minskoff Theatre to be 18, at the Music Box Theatre to be 9.


Most Broadway shows are commercial productions intended to make long Runs for 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 do not necessarily have to make a profit immediately. If they are making their "nut" (weekly operating expenses), or are losing money at a rate which the producers consider acceptable, 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. (In one case, a theatre owner lent a floundering show money to stay open, even though the production had to move to another owner's theatre because of a previous booking at the original house.)
Some Broadway shows are produced by non-commercial organizations as part of a regular subscription season—Lincoln Center Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company, and Manhattan Theatre Club are the three 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. This was the case with 2007's August: Osage County and 2009's God of Carnage.
Historically, musicals on Broadway tend to have longer runs than "straight" (i.e. non-musical) plays. On January 9, 2006, The Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theatre became the longest running Broadway musical, with 7,486 performances, overtaking Cats.

Seeing a Broadway show is a common tourist activity for Audiences in New York helping the tourist industry to generate billions more in restaurant and hotel revenues. 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%. (The TKTS booths are located in Duffy Square, which is in Times Square, in Lower Manhattan (199 Water Street—Corner of Front & John Streets), and in Brooklyn(1 MetroTech Center at the corner of Jay Street and Myrtle Avenue ).) This service run by Theatre Development Fund helps sell seats that would otherwise go empty and makes seeing a show in New York more affordable. 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.
Total Broadway attendance was 12.11 million in calendar year 2010 compared to 11.88 million in 2009. By way of comparison, London's West End theatre reported total attendance of 14.3 million for major commercial and grant-aided theatres in Central London for 2009.

The classification of Off-Broadway and US tours theatres is governed by language in Actors' Equity Association contracts. To be eligible for a Tony, a production must be in a house with 500 seats or more and in the Theatre District, which criteria define Broadway theatre. Off Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway shows often provide a more experimental, challenging and intimate performance than is possible in the larger Broadway theatres. Some Broadway shows, however, such as the musicals Hair, Little Shop of Horrors, Spring Awakening, Next to Normal, Rent, Avenue Q, and In the Heights, began their runs Off Broadway and later transferred onto Broadway, seeking to replicate their intimate experience in a larger theatre.
After (or even during) successful runs in Broadway theatres, producers often remount their productions with a new cast and crew for the Broadway national tour, which travels to theaters in major cities across the country—the bigger and more successful shows may have several of these touring companies out at a time, some of them "sitting down" in other cities for their own long runs. Smaller cities are eventually serviced by "bus and truck" tours, so-called because the cast generally travels by bus (instead of by air) and the sets and equipment by truck. Tours of this type, which frequently feature a reduced physical production to accommodate smaller venues and tighter schedules, often play "split weeks" (half a week in one town and the second half in another) or "one-nighters", whereas the larger tours will generally play for one or two weeks per city at a minimum. The Touring Broadway Awards, presented by The Broadway League, honor excellence in touring Broadway.

Tony Awards at Broadway productions and artists are honored every June when the Antoinette Perry Awards (Tony Awards) are awarded by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League. The Tony is Broadway's most prestigious award, even compared to the Academy Awards for Hollywood productions. Their importance has increased since the annual broadcast on television began. In a strategy to improve the television ratings, celebrities are often chosen to host the show, like Rosie O'Donnell, some with little or no connection to the theatre.


Early Broadway 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 theater company at the Theatre on Nassau Street, which held about 280 people. They presented Shakespeare plays and ballad operas such as The Beggar's Opera. In 1752, William Hallam sent a company of twelve actors from Britain to the colonies with his brother Lewis as their manager. They established a theater in Williamsburg, Virginia and opened with The Merchant of Venice and The Anatomist. The company moved to New York in the summer of 1753, performing ballad operas and ballad-farces like Damon and Phillida. The Revolutionary War suspended theatre in New York, but thereafter theatre resumed, and in 1798, the 2,000-seat Park Theatre was built on Chatham Street (now called Park Row). The Bowery Theater opened in 1826, followed by others. Blackface minstrel shows, a distinctly American form of entertainment, became popular in the 1830s, and especially so with the arrival of the Virginia Minstrels in the 1840s.
By the 1840s, P.T. Barnum was operating an entertainment complex in lower Manhattan. 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 theater presented all sorts of musical and non-musical entertainments. The Astor Place Theatre 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.). Other renowned Shakespeareans who appeared in New York in this era were Henry Irving, Tommaso Salvini, Fanny Davenport, and Charles Fechter.
Lydia Thompson came to America in 1868 heading a small theatrical troupe, adapting popular English burlesques for middle-class New York audiences. Thompson's troupe, called the "British Blondes", was the most popular entertainment in New York during the 1868–1869 theatrical season. "The eccentricities of pantomime and burlesque – with their curious combination of comedy, parody, satire, improvisation, song and dance, variety acts, cross-dressing, extravagant stage effects, risqué jokes and saucy costumes – while familiar enough to British audiences, took New York by storm." The six-month tour ran for almost six extremely profitable years. Birth of the musical and post-Civil War
Theater in New York moved from downtown gradually to midtown beginning around 1850, seeking less expensive real estate prices. In 1870, the heart of Broadway was in Union Square, and by the end of the century, many theaters were near Madison Square. Theaters did not arrive in the Times Square area until the early 1900s, and the Broadway theaters did not consolidate there until a large number of theaters 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. New York runs continued to lag far behind those in London, but Laura Keene's "musical burletta" Seven Sisters (1860) shattered previous New York records with a run of 253 performances. It was at a performance by Keene's troupe of Our American Cousin in Washington, D.C. that Abraham Lincoln was shot.

The first theater 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. The same year, The Black Domino/Between You, Me and the Post was the first show to call itself a "musical comedy."
Tony Pastor opened the first vaudeville theater one block east of Union Square in 1881, where Lillian Russell performed. Comedians Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart produced and starred in musicals on Broadway between 1878 (The Mulligan Guard Picnic) and 1885, 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. They starred high quality singers (Lillian Russell, Vivienne Segal, and Fay Templeton) instead of the women of questionable repute who had starred in earlier musical forms.
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 theaters 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 theater began to be cleaned up, with less prostitution hindering the attendance of the theater by women. Gilbert and Sullivan's family-friendly comic opera hits, beginning with H.M.S. Pinafore in 1878, were imported to New York (by the authors and also in numerous pirated productions). 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.
Charles Hoyt's A Trip to Chinatown (1891) became Broadway's long-run champion, holding the stage for 657 performances. This would not be surpassed until Irene in 1919. In 1896, theatre owners Marc Klaw and A. L. Erlanger formed the Theatrical Syndicate, which controlled almost every legitimate theatre in the U.S. for the next sixteen years. 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. Wodehouse, Guy 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. Modiste (1905), The 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.
The motion picture mounted a challenge to the stage. At first, films were silent and presented only limited competition. Nevertheless, by the end of the 1920s, films like The Jazz Singer could be presented with synchronized sound, and critics wondered if the cinema would replace live theatre altogether. The musicals of the Roaring Twenties, borrowing from vaudeville, music hall and other light entertainments, 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. Typical of the 1920s were lighthearted productions like Sally; Lady Be Good; Sunny; No, No, Nanette; Oh, Kay!; and Funny Face. 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 Noel Coward, Sigmund Romberg and Rudolf Friml continued in the vein of Victor Herbert. Clearly, the live theatre survived the invention of cinema.
Leaving these comparatively frivolous entertainments behind, and taking the drama a giant step forward, Show Boat, premiered on December 27, 1927 at the Ziegfeld Theatre, representing 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. After the lean years of the Great Depression, Broadway theatre entered a golden age with the blockbuster hit Oklahoma!, in 1943, which ran for 2,212 performances. Hit after hit followed on Broadway, and the Broadway theatre attained the highest level of international prestige in theatre.
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, 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 Jose 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
The Tony Awards were established in 1947 to recognize achievement in live American theatre, especially Broadway theatre.


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.
The three non-profit theatre companies with Broadway theatres ("houses") 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. (Disney also negotiates apart from the League, as did Livent before it closed down its operations.) However, generally, shows that play in any of the Broadway houses are eligible for Tony Awards (see below).
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 (it recently retained full ownership of the Music Box from the Irving Berlin Estate); The Nederlander Organization, which controls nine theatres; and Jujamcyn, which owns five Broadway houses.