Broadway theatre, commonly known as “Broadway,” is practically synonymous to New York. The 41 theatres that span the Manhattan thoroughfare is the beating heart of NYC's performing arts culture. So much so that Broadway has also become a shorthand for the concept of theatre itself! Whether you're a Broadway enthusiast or not, these fun facts about the American theatre is sure to entertain you!
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Broadway was earlier known as the ‘Great White Way’
The Theatre District was one of first streets in New York to be fully illuminated by white electric bulbs in the 1890s, thus giving rise to the nickname “The Great White Way”. Ever since 1910, the Broadway Signage was illuminted with candescent bulbs as architects realised the advertising potential of dazzling lights, hence adding to the lights of the streets.
Fun Fact : When the lights of Broadway were dimmed during WWI, public demand forced the government to increase the city’s coal ration to restore the lights.
Broadway is the longest street in NYC
Broadway runs for 33 whole miles, of which 18 miles are not even within New York City limits! It begins from Lower Manhattan at Bowling Green and runs north to Bronx all the way to Albany ( out of NY). It is one of the oldest North South thoroughfare's in New York City and has roots traced back to the Native American times. The first written reference of the term Broadway on Maps was seen in 1700s.
Fun Fact : During the Dutch settlement in America, the Broadway street was called Brede weg. The name Broadway is the literal English translation of the earlier known Dutch name.
There is no 'I' in Broadway
There’s no ‘I’ in Broadway. And I’m not just referring to the word’s spelling. While rows A-H and J-Z are present, there isn't a row ‘I’. There were too many people getting disappointed when they realized their row ‘1’ was actually row ‘9’ so to avoid this confusion, the row was taken off.
Fun Fact : This rule was imposed when people started flocking to the front seat with their I row ticket. Fights and dissapointment followed..
Phantom of the Opera is the longest-running Broadway show
The Phantom of the Opera opened in 1988 and is running on its fourth decade of stellar performance. 2018 marks its 30th anniversary and in these 30 years, over 12,500 performances have been staged to 18 million people! Grab your tickets to see Andrew Lloyd Weber's masterpiece at The Majestic Theatre.
Fun Fact : The box office revenues for Phantom of the Opera are higher than any film or stage play in history, including Titanic, ET, Star Wars and Avatar.
Phantom has changed 15 times in 30 years
15 actors have played the role of the Phantom on Broadway in 30 years, with about 5 temporary replacements. Norm Lewis was the first African-American actor to perform the role of the Phantom on Broadway and Ali Ewoldt was the first Asian-American to be cast in the role of Christine on Broadway
Fun Fact : Each actor playing the role of the Phantom gets a custom made mask. As of the show’s 29-year Broadway run, 300 masks have been custom-made.
Chicago is the second longest-running Broadway show
The original Chicago production opened in 1975 and ran for 936 performances. After the break in 1977 , it was revived on Broadway and started running again in 1996. Chicago now ranks as Broadway’s longest running revival, having played in 24 countries in 12 languages. As of 2018, more than 8,000 performances have been clocked in at Broadway.
Fun Fact : Chicago is based on a real-life 1924 Windy City murder case that was transformed by reporter Maurine Watkins into a 1926 Broadway comedy.
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Lion King is the highest-grossing Broadway show
Disney's Lion King is Broadway's biggest money-maker in history. In the 20 years it has run on Broadway, the show has grossed $1.4 billion, with an average of $2 million a week. It is also the first ever Broadway show to gross $1 billion dollars in revenue. You can catch this musical retelling of the 1994 Disney animated classic in Minksoff Theatre
Fun Fact: Julie Taymor, the Director of The Lion King, became the first woman in Broadway history to win the Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical.
The first ever nude Broadway production was Hair
Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, a product of the hippie counterculture and sexual revolution of the late 1960s opened on Broadway in 1968 and ran for 1,750 performances.Though it had an off-Broadway debut, its Broadway revival in 2009, earned strong reviews and the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for Best Revival of a Musical. The most controversial element in the play was a brief nude scene with the entire cast that ended the first act.
Fun Fact: Some of the songs from Hair's music score was in the Top 10 hits of the period and a feature film adaptation was released in 1979.
41 Broadway Theatres but only 4 on Broadway
There are 41 Broadway Theatres in New York but despite the title, only 4 theatres are actually located on Broadway Street - The Winter Garden, The Roundabout, The Marquis, and The Broadway Theatre. In order to qualify as a Broadway theatre , the theatre must have 500 seats and must be located between 40th St. to 54th St., and from West of 6th Ave. to East of Eighth Ave., including Times Square. The rest of the theaters that houses between 99 and 499 seats are called Off-Broadway.
Fun Fact: Only Broadway theaters have been deemed eligible for the Tony Awards by the American Theater Wing and the Broadway League
The Palace Theatre is said to be haunted
Amongst the many Broadway Theatres that are believed to be haunted, the Palace Theatre is said to have almost 100 spirits are supposedly stalking the theatre. The most freuqent phantom is Judy Garland who performed in the theatre in the 1950s. Many people have seen her appear near the door in the orchestra pit. The other common visitor is Louis Bossalina, an acrobat who was gravely injured during a high-wire act in 1935 when the theatre was a vaudeville house.
Fun Fact: Currently SpongeBob SquarePants is playing in Palace Theatre. Grab tickets for an outer worldly experience ( literally!)
Tony Awards were pocket sized (literally) in the past
Tony Awards is the theatre equivalent of the Oscars and the very first Tony Awards was held back in 1947. For the first 2 years, the winners were not given statues as awards but pocket sized awards along with scrolls. The men were given cigarette lighters and the women were given a make up compact.
Fun Fact: In 1947, you could buy a ticket to the Tonys for just $7. The success of the event shot up the prices to $10 in 1948. Today, it costs a whopping $2990 to purchase a ticket to the Tonys.
Max Tony Award Winners - The Coast of Utopia & The Producers
Fun Fact: While the Coast of Utopia and The Producers bagged the awards, Hamilton has recieved the maximum nominations ever received by a single production with 16 nominations in 13 categories
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Waitress has an all female creative team
The musical Waitress, which premiered on March 25, 2016 is the first musical to feature an all-female creative team. Music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles, book by Jessie Nelson, choreography by Lorin Latarro, and direction by Diane Paulus, the top 4 creative jobs were done by women, along with the costume design and musical direction also being handled with an all woman creative team.
Fun Fact: The only other musical with a woman power team was the 1978 Broadway musical Runaways, which had the book, music, lyrics, choreography and direction done by one woman - Elizabeth Swados
66% of Broadway Audience are female
In the 20th Demographics of the Broadway Audience 2016-2017'' Annual Report published by Broadway League, it was found that 66% of the audience were women. Also, there were 13.3 million admissions to Broadway shows from 2016 to 2017. Were you one of them? If not, become one!
Fun Fact: The research also showed that approximately 50% of respondents said they purchased their tickets online. When you get better prices off the net, why not??
Aladdin's Flying Carpet remains a mystery
Though Disney and magic go hand in hand, the mystery of the Flying Carpet in the Aladdin production has baffled many over the years. The scenic production artist Bob Crowley is tight lipped about the technology he has used to create this art, leading to many theories but no true revelation as yet. Watch the show and let us know if you have figured it out!
Fun Fact: The Genie in Aladdin, played by James Monroe Iglehart, has to shower twice after each show in order to remove all the glitter.
The Mean Girls Musical has undergone a 2018 facelift
While the plot remains the same with no major changes, the Mean Girls Musical has been adapted to suit the 2018 generation. A lot has changed its release 14 years ago and Tina Fey has adequately modernized the musical by throwing in apps, internet and social media references. Don't worry, your favourite lines, "On Wednesdays we wear pink” & “You can’t sit with us!” are still intact.
Fun Fact: While Tina Fey was researching on the meanest social media platform, she asked a couple of teenagers and they unanimously answered - Snapchat.
You can watch Hamilton for just $10
That's right! You can watch the fabled Hamilton for just $10 by participating in the digital lottery called #HAM4HAM. During the early days of the show, the Hamilton cast would entertain the crowds outside the theater for the chance to trade a Hamilton - the $10 bill bearing the show’s namesake — for an orchestra seat. The lottery went digital over the years and now get to sit in any of the 46 select seats from the first and second rows if you win the #HAM4HAM lottery.
Fun Fact: Statistics say that if you enter for every performance, eight times a week, then you have about an 88% chance of winning at some point in the next two years.
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'Come from Away' is the new talk of Broadway Town
The tragic events of 9/11 may not seem like the great setting for a feel-good musical but it has stirred a whole lot of emotions amongst theatregoers and is largely under the limelight. Touted to be Broadway’s biggest success stories , Come From Away premeried in November 2017 and is now playing in Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.
Fun Fact: The characters in the musical are based on and share names of real Gander residents as well as some of the 7,000 stranded travelers caught in the event.
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