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Broadway History

Have you ever wondered about the history of broadway? Broadway was made known by Thomas Kean in 1750. This novel form of expression was invented to tie in music with plays to tell a story in a new way. Theatre was invented by having actors perform a Shakespearean play in front of a large crowd. The play consisted of music and dialogue so it was basically what we now refer to as a musical. Besides that, Broadway is mixed with other aspects.

Broadway has an incredible history behind it. A Broadway theatre consists of 500 seats in one venue, and theatres below this capacity are known as “off broadway.” As such, it is possible to attend an off- broadway show in a broadway season. The majority of Off broadway theaters are in the nearby Theater Row district on 42nd street between Ninth Avenue and Eleventh Avenue. There are 41 Broadway theaters overall in the Theater Subdistrict. The Theater district is located in the heart of the city, Times Square, surrounded by many restaurants, shops, and the sites of New York City. People of all walks of life come to New York specifically to see the fantastic shows they put on Broadway.The season goes throughout the year with the busiest time being December when busloads of people come to see the famous Christmas Show with The Rockettes.

On December 11, 1732 the first Broadway theater opened to the public. However, it would be 18 years later when other theater companies would set up on Nassau Street. Early on, the shows included plays by William Shakespeare and Ballad Operas. From 1775 to 1783, attendance at the theater was suspended due to the American Revolution. However, a turning point occurred in 1798 with the building of the famous Park Theater, capable of seating 2,000 people. That was followed by the Bowery Theater, the largest theater in North America, which opened in 1826. By 1840, the theater scene was thriving and competition between venues was such that it was not uncommon for theaters to go bankrupt.

It was common for New York City to see civic unrest in the late 1940s. On May 10, 1849 over 200 people including civilians, police, and even the military were either killed or severely injured. The trouble was known as the Astor Place Riot. Shakespearan plays still remained popular even after the riot had happened. In the late 19th century the reduction of poverty in New York City led to an increase in people attending Broadway Shows. By then, more family shows were written and performed in the theater district. It was typical for Broadway shows held in America to be shorter than ones held in London. People also favored Broadway over film because film was silent and in black and white, while Broadway, being in person, had color and sound. Broadway held the audience’s attention with their dances, songs, and the performances that came with it. In December 1927, Show Boat premiered in movie theaters across the globe. Show Boat was the first ever musical to go into theaters around the world. In 1943, Oklahoma! hit theatres with its phenomenon songs and storyline. In 1964, Louis Armstrong became #1 with his song Hello Dolly! However, by 1982, theaters’ audience numbers started to decrease so they raised a campaign called “Save the Theaters” to help raise awareness of the ongoing theater problem. 

In 1972, Grease premiered onstage for the public for the first time, and it appeared on screen in movie theaters for the first time six years later. It starred Olivia Newton John as Sandy and John Travolta as Danny. In 1982, Cats hit theaters with its fabulous songs and breathtaking storyline. By the end of the 1980s, Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables became widely popular. In the 1990s the revival of both Chicago and The Lion King were hugely successful in the film and Broadway industry. These days, the attendance rate is increasing because more of the younger generation are going to see plays and musicals. Musicals are known for its popularity and longer runs as of today. Film and Broadway are still collaborating to this day. Availability of the actor and the desire for the original cast of the production to tour overseas can determine whether the show will perform for a live audience. There will be an increase in audience members when theaters reopen to the public. 

There is also a possibility that Broadway will address topics such as Black Lives Matter in future performances. 

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