With over $1 billion ticket sales annually, the theatres of Broadway have an appeal for residents and tourists alike. The West End in London and Broadway in New York are the two English speaking theatre districts in the World.
Broadway is in Midtown Manhattan and even for those who rarely venture to the theatre Broadway has a tourist appeal for anyone not exhausted by the hectic daytime schedule.
In the very early days of cinema, the movies were silent; when the Jazz Singer opened there was a question about whether live theatre would survive but the current productions of the time emphasising stars, music and extravagant display meant that theatre had nothing to fear.
The Great Depression had an impact but theatre was to come back stronger than ever with musicals such as Oklahoma but a golden age of American playwrights such as Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller and the works of Shakespeare gave scope for a huge variety of entertainment on offer to an eager audience.
It has remained so ever since; there are 40 theatres of a size to host an audience of over 500 and generally they have eight shows a week either matinee or evening with Monday being the “day of rest”. It means that tourists can fit a show into an itinerary fairly easily.
There are many of the biggest stars in the entertainment industry appearing on Broadway at any one time but the film and television personalities have tended to avoid committing to a show for more than a thirteen week period. On the one hand there are more stars appearing than previously but on the other their stays in a show are becoming shorter. There are of course the regulars who concentrate exclusively on theatre and are nevertheless equally talented as the stars who get more exposure to a wider audience.
Many of the shows are open- ended; there is a profit motive of course and the success of a show depends on its reviews, word of mouth and customers through the turnstiles. If a show seems to be maintaining its popularity then it will continue. As a generalisation, musicals tend to have longer runs than drama and a good example is Phantom of the Opera which simply went on and on.
Discounts are available for watching the same day, or the following day; this is a very attractive promotion and allows tourists to make a choice at any time during their stay in New York.
The fact that Broadway exists encourages theatre in nearby neighbourhoods. A Broadway theatre is defined by the 500 seats but smaller theatres “off Broadway” also run shows which at times graduate to Broadway based on review, word of mouth and popularity much the same as provincial tours take place in the UK Before a show goes to the West End.
Broadway is a must for anyone enjoying live performance, and it is so accessible it would be a shame to miss out when visiting the Big Apple.