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What is Broadway?

Published on: Oct 4, 2022
Last Updated on: May 17, 2024
By: Kathryn Willingham
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What is Broadway?

Broadway is, at its simplest, the word used to describe theatrical shows playing at one of 41 theaters in midtown Manhattan. To get a bit pedantic about what’s “on Broadway”: Broadway theaters must have more than 500 seats while Off-Broadway theaters have fewer than 500 seats, and Off-off-Broadway theaters have fewer than 100 seats. Broadway theater is a huge attraction in New York City, bringing in tourists and local New Yorkers alike.  

Broadway is also a street in New York City, but only three Broadway theaters are actually located on it – the Broadway Theatre, the Palace Theatre, and the Winter Garden Theatre.

BROADWAY FAQs: 

Where is Broadway?

The theater district is located in Midtown Manhattan – mostly between 40th Street and 54th Street and between 6th and 8th Avenues. That also encompasses Times Square, which has become synonymous with Broadway theater. The TKTS ticket booth is located in the heart of Times Square and offers same-day discount tickets to Broadway shows. An uptown exception: the Vivian Beaumont Theater is a Broadway theater in Lincoln Center on 65th Street, a few blocks north of the theater district. 

What time do Broadway shows start?

It depends on the show, but most evening performances of a Broadway production start at 7 pm or 8 pm, and most matinees start at 2 pm or 3 pm. 

Why is Broadway called “The Great White Way?” 

The bright lights! The electronic billboards, theater marquees, neon signs and advertisements in and around Times Square give this area its moniker.

What are the oldest Broadway theatres?

The Lyceum Theatre opened in 1903 and is the oldest continually operating Broadway theater. The New Amsterdam Theatre, Hudson Theatre and Belasco Theatre all opened before 1910. 

What are the longest-running Broadway shows? 

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera opened in 1988 and finished its historic run at the Majestic Theatre on April 16, 2023. Chicago has been running since 1996 and can be seen at the Ambassador Theatre, and The Lion King has been running since 1997 and can be seen at the Minskoff Theatre.

What are the Tony Awards? 

The Antoinette Perry Awards – or the Tony Awards – were named for the actress and producer Antoinette Perry, who co-founded the American Theatre Wing. Established in 1947, the awards are meant to honor and recognize excellence in Broadway plays and musicals. The Tony Awards are to theater what the Oscars are to movies. The awards are usually broadcast on CBS and have included hosts like Hugh Jackman, Neil Patrick Harris, James Corden, Nathan Lane, and Angela Lansbury.

What is the Museum of Broadway?

The Museum of Broadway is located on 145 W. 45th Street and celebrates the history of Broadway theater. It includes immersive exhibits, recreations of real Broadway sets, information about how shows are made, and real props and costumes from historic productions. A must see for theater lovers!

What currently running shows won the Tony Award for Best Musical?

Moulin-Rouge-Broadway

Moulin Rouge! The Musical!

Moulin Rouge! The Musical! based on the 2001 Baz Luhrmann film, won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2020. The New York Times called the show “spectacular,” and it includes arrangements of popular songs like “Lady Marmalade,” “Single Ladies,” “Firework,” and “Toxic.”

walter-kerr-theatre-hadestown

Hadestown

Hadestown won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2019. This Broadway show takes you to the underworld and back as it tells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, King Hades and Persephone. It’s a story of love, human nature, fate, and hope. The Hollywood Reporter called it “wildly inventive,” “exhilarating,” and “spellbinding.”

Hamilton-Broadway

Hamilton

Hamilton won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2016, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, this musical broke box office records and remains the highest-charting Broadway cast recording in history. Telling the story of America’s founding fathers and focusing on Alexander Hamilton, this musical remains one of the most popular shows on Broadway and was also filmed and released on Disney+. Entertainment Weekly says, “you’d be crazy to miss it.”

The Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2011. Written by “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, with music and lyrics by Robert Lopez, who is also known for co-writing the songs for the movie Frozen, this musical is just as catchy, irreverent, and hilarious as that team implies. The Book of Mormon follows Latter-Day missionaries Elder Cunningham and Elder Price who are sent to Uganda to spread their faith. Time Out New York’s 5-star review called it, “the most exuberantly entertaining Broadway musical in years.”

Lion-King-Broadway

The Lion King

The Lion King won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1998 and has the unique distinction of being the biggest box-office hit of all time. Based on the beloved film, with music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, this musical has all your favorite songs like “Hakuna Matata”, “The Circle of Life”, and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” It also has some of the most creative and breathtaking staging under the direction of Julie Taymor. This hit has become a global sensation, playing on the West End, Japan, Germany, Spain, France and more. 

What currently running shows won the Tony Award for Best Play?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Lyric Theatre won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2018. Set 19 years after Harry, Ron and Hermione saved the wizarding world, now they’re back on a most extraordinary new adventure – this time, joined by a brave new generation that has only just arrived at the legendary Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Prepare for spectacular spells, a mind-blowing race through time, and an epic battle to stop mysterious forces, all while the future hangs in the balance. The New York Times calls it “diamond-sharp in its staging and dazzling in its visual imagination, as magical as any spell or potion.”

What currently running Broadway musicals are based on true stories?

A-Beautiful-Noise-Broadhurst

A Beautiful Noise, the Neil Diamond Musical

A Beautiful Noise, the Neil Diamond Musical follows the life and career of Neil Diamond and includes hit songs like “Sweet Caroline,” “America,” and “Cracklin’ Rosie.” This musical has a book by Anthony McCarten and direction from Michael Mayer, and The New York Times says, “it all looks and sounds great.”

Hamilton-Broadway-Musical

Hamilton

Hamilton tells the story of America’s founding fathers, from Alexander Hamilton to Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, the Schuyler sisters, and King George III. Inspired by the biography Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, check out the book if you want all the facts. The musical was also filmed and released on Disney+

Hell's Kitchen at the Shubert Theatre

Hell's Kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen is partly based on the childhood of Alicia Keys in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan in the 90s. With music and lyrics by Alicia keys and a book by Kristoffer Diaz, audiences will recognize familiar songs like “Girl on Fire” and “Empire State of Mind.” The show transferred to Broadway after a sold-out run off-Broadway at the Public Theatre and The New York Times said the show “is thrilling from beginning to end, and easily stands out as one of the rare must-sees in a crowded season.”

Neil-Simon-MJ-Musical

MJ: The Musical

MJ: The Musical follows the making of Michael Jackson’s 1992 Dangerous World Tour and has a book written by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage. MJ includes hits like “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Beat It,” “Smooth Criminal,” and “Thriller.” 

Six-musical-broadway

Six: The Musical

Six: The Musical tells the story of the six wives of Henry VIII. These six ladies are true queens of the stage, embodying all the girl power superstardom of a pop concert. Exuberant, fun, and running at a clip of just 80 minutes, this musical digs into the history of Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. 

Suffs at the Music Box Theatre

Suffs

Suffs tells the story of the Suffragettes and their fight for the right to vote. With book, music, and lyrics by Shaina Taub and direction from Leigh Silverman, it runs at the Music Box Theatre after a hit, sold-out run at the Public Theatre. Vulture said, “the show is smart, witty, tuneful, and teming with mighty performances.”

What is the Broadway League? 

The Broadway League is the national trade association for the Broadway industry. Members in New York and across North America include theatre owners, operators, producers, presenters, general managers, and suppliers of goods and services to the commercial theater industry. Headed by President Charlotte St Martin, the league runs and co-runs programs like Broadway Bridges, the Jimmy Awards, Kids’ Night on Broadway, and the Tony Awards. 

Looking to see a Broadway show? 

Check out our articles on Best Broadway Musicals, Best Broadway Plays, and Best Broadway Shows for Kids. And if you’re looking for cheap tickets, check out our article on how to get Discount Broadway Tickets

Kathryn Willingham

Head of Creative Development at Jean Doumanian Productions

Kathryn Willingham has worked in entertainment for over ten years, and recent credits include: Co-producer of SHRINK currently streaming on Peacock, Associate Producer of the independent film UNA, and Creative Executive on multiple theatrical productions including HANGMEN by Martin McDonagh on Broadway, NASSIM by Nassim Soleimanpour Off-broadway and Associate on productions EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe and THE EFFECT by Lucy Prebble. She was Producer of Todd Almond’s musical travelogue “Wyoming and Parts of Kansas” and Production Coordinator for Karen O and KK Barrett's “Stop the Virgens.”

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Education: B.A. in English, Literature & Creative Writing from Rhodes College
Knowledge: Theatrical Production

Published

Oct 4, 2022

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