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A beginner’s guide to the bright lights of Broadway

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A beginner’s guide to the bright lights of Broadway

Whether you’re a New York native or you’re heading to one of the busiest cities in the world for the first time, the neon lights of Broadway are sure to draw anyone in. From 2017 to 2018, it was announced that 13,792,614 people attended a performance, with over $1 billion of tickets sold. But, what makes Broadway stand out and why do people from around the world visit every year? Find out about the world-famous area with our guide, packed with information about the area and why it’s a leading place for theatre.

All about Broadway

What is Broadway?

More officially known as ‘Broadway theatre’, performing on Broadway refers to a show, event or concert that take place in the areas including Midtown Manhattan, as well as the streets of Broadway. From long-running productions including Chicago and The Phantom of the Opera to limited engagements such as In Residence on Broadway, the area welcomes millions of theatregoers who are looking to see a brand new show.

Broadway streets are an iconic destination for international tourists, domestic tourists and locals to walk down, and is considered a highly fashionable and influential area.

Currently, there are 41 professional theatres that are considered to be ‘on Broadway’, even if their location is far away from the road that lends its name to the theatrical location. Built in 1903, the Lyceum Theatre is the oldest playhouse, currently home to Be More Chill.

The best productions on Broadway are celebrated at the Tony Awards, where you can read about the 2019 winners here.

Where is Broadway?

Broadway is a street that runs for 13 miles through Manhattan and is the oldest main road in New York City. The term ‘Broadway’ derives from the English translation of the Dutcn name ‘Brede Weg’, with brede meaning broad and weg meaning way.

When was Broadway first established?

Before the Revolutionary Wars, people living in the area that would later become the state of new York would head to the theatre. In 1750, Thomas Kean and Walter Murray opened a performing company that would play to 280 people, putting on Shakespearean plays and operas. Popular shows included The Beggar’s Opera, as well as operas by Gilbert and Sullivan.

At the start of the 20th century, the now-famous bright Broadway signs were used to promote shows for the first time. White lights brightened the entire area and it was one of the first places in the United States to be solely lit by electric lights. As a result, the phrase ‘The Great White Way’ was coined, which is still used to describe the area today. Early twentieth-century shows including Show Boat and Oklahoma! allowed audiences to escape reality and step into a new world, with plays by Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams drawing large crowds.

Plays, musicals and revues continue to attract visitors looking to see the newest shows, as well as catch a theatre classic. The longest-running shows currently are:

  1. The Phantom of the Opera – 26th January 1988
  2. Chicago – 14th November 1996
  3. The Lion King – 13th November 1997
  4. Wicked – 30th October 2003
  5. The Book of Mormon – 24th March 2011

Other notable productions include Cats which ran for 7,485 performances, Life With Father that closed after 3,224 performances and Oh! Calcutta! which ran for 5,959 shows.

What is the difference between Broadway and off-Broadway?

A show performing on Broadway and off-Broadway is not dependent on the location, but on the seating capacity of the theatre. So, a production may be running at a venue on the street of Broadway, however if the seating capacity is small, a show can be off-Broadway on Broadway!

Broadway shows Over 500 seats
Off-Broadway shows 100-499 seats
Off-Off Broadway shows Fewer than 100 seats

Productions running in New York typically run at a smaller theatre and will then receive a Broadway transfer if successful. Currently, productions to run in this way include What the Constitution Means to Me and Dear Evan Hansen.

If you’re looking to stay update on the latest New York theatre offerings, head to NewYorkTheatreGuide.com, covering the latest openings, closings and casting announcements, as well as interviews with stars on stage.

Where can I buy tickets for Broadway shows?

If you’re looking to see a show on Broadway, you’ve come to the right place. With tickets for the hottest shows in New York, book your seats now and spend more time exploring the city. Secure your tickets now for an unforgettable experience at the theatre.

Struggling to decide which show to see on Broadway? Why not check out our top picks and feel inspired to see a show.

Photo credit: Mobilus In Mobili under CC 2.0.