BROADWAY, or The Great White Way, is
the home to many Broadway theaters and America's most famous theater
district which is located in the Times Square neighborhood of
Manhattan. The Broadway
of the 40's and 50's is described as having an "off-pink haze" by
Wilfrid Sheed in his book, THE HOUSE THAT GEORGE BUILT, about Broadway
composers. With the additional in
recent years of large neon billboards, signs and videos, a more accurate
description of today's Broadway might be "the Great Neon Way."
The “Broadway” area itself encompasses the blocks
from West 39th to West 52nd Streets (between Sixth and Ninth Avenues). The name BROADWAY comes from the Dutch Breede weg. Broadway,
the street, was once the Wickquasgeck
(Indian) Trail and ran from Battery Park to Wall Street when the British
took over New Amsterdam. Today Broadway (the street)
covers the length of Manhattan from downtown Bowling Green to Columbus
Circle and continues to upstate New
York and Albany ending at Champlain, New
York at the Canadian border. A history of the famous street is presented in Stephen Jenkins' 1911 book entitled THE GREATEST STREET IN THE WORLD.
Visitors to Broadway musicals and plays are
an extremely important part of the City’s economy. In 2012, Broadway had its best year yet in ticket sales. For the third season in
a row it grossed more than $1 billion.
There are 39 Broadway theaters --
some of the oldest are beautiful structures. The first building in America, specifically designed for theater, was the Park Theater on Park Row (near today's City Hall) which was built in 1798 and open on January 29, 1798 with a production of Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT. The LYCEUM THEATER (on W. 45th Street) is my favorite and the oldest surviving theater in “continuous use in New York City”
and the first Broadway theater to be designated as a landmark (in
1974). It was built in 1903 by theater manager, Daniel Frohman, who
lived in an
apartment overlooking the theater’s stage with a peephole window where
wave his handkerchief at his wife, actress Margaret Illington, if he
she were overacting.
Several Broadway theaters are named to honor theater legends: the actresses Ethel Barrymore and Helen Hayes; the dynamic acting team of Lunt & Fontanne; actor Edwin Booth; producer David Belasco whose Belasco Theater had advanced lighting systems for its time; critics Brooks Atkinson and Walter Kerr; Pulitzer Prize winning playwrights Eugene O’Neill and August Wilson (whose plays chronicle the history of African-Americans in the 20th Century); composers George Gershwin, Richard Rodgers and most recently Stephen Sondheim (in March 2010); and New York Times caricaturist Al Hirschfeld (whose black ink drawings of actors and theater personalities offer their own unique view of modern American Theater). One of America's greatest playwrights, Eugene O'Neill, was actually born in this neighborhood in 1888 (before it became Times Square). News reporter and writer Damon Runyon (Guys and Dolls) requested that his ashes be scattered over Broadway (and they were upon his death in December 1946).
Composers of Broadway musicals have given us an endless list of classic songs including: Anything Goes, Of Thee I Sing, There's No Business Like Show Business, Everything's Coming Up Roses, Send in the Clowns, Time After Time and The Party's Over, just to name a very few.
In the year 1978 I recall being very upset when orchestra seats for musicals went up to $19.50 which I thought was outrageous. Today, the cost of a ticket for a Broadway show is generally around $100 or more. Many New Yorkers go to New York theater with Theatre Development Fund tickets, a nonprofit organization offering discount tickets. Visitors to New York may purchase discounted tickets at Theatre Development Fund booths both in mid-town and at the South Street Seaport.
Photo 1: Majestic Theater with the famous logo for the Phantom of the Opera, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical which opened in January 1988 and is still running.
Photos 2: Lyceum Theater on W. 45th Street
Photo 3: the Al Hirschfeld Theatre