Broadway is the longest street in New York starting in downtown Manhattan, running through town across Broadway Bridge connecting Manhattan with the Bronx. It has come to symbolise the best in live theatre entertainment and musicals throughout the world. It is also often referred to as the “Great White Way” with 36 theatres located between West 41st Street where the Nederlander Theatre is located, up to W 53rd Street’s Broadway Theatre and between 6th and 8th Avenues.
Generally New York theatres are divided into Broadway, Off Broadway, and Off Off Broadway: A theatre is classed as a Broadway Theatre if it is geographically between 41st street and 54th Street and between Sixth and Eighth Avenues, and has a minimum of 499 seats (there are exceptions). Broadway Theatres are also mainly commercial.
A theatre is classed as Off Broadway if it has less than 499 seats and more than 99 seats and/or is outside the geographical Broadway area. An Off Off Broadway theatre generally has less than 100 seats. Most Off Broadway theatres are also non-profit
Only four theatres are actually physically located on Broadway: the Marquis at 46th Street, the Palace at 47th Street, the Winter Garden at 50th Street and the Broadway at 53rd. The other playhouses are east or west of this twelve block stretch.
This small area in the centre of Manhattan and has been host to some of the most famous stage productions in the world, which is ironic as when this land was a Dutch frontier trading post stage performances were forbidden.
In the 1800’s Broadway was New York’s main street and the most likely place for theatre producers to build their establishments. In 1866 William Wheatley, who managed the large 3200 seater Niblo’s Garden Auditorium, is credited with being the originator of the Broadway musical. During the mid 19th Century Broadway burlesque productions were very popular and Gilbert and Sullivan did a lot to promote the modern stage throughout the 20th Century. This was soon followed by classic productions including The Wizard of Oz and No Business Like Show Business.
During World War II Irving Berlin was considered America’s most popular composer with productions for the troops including “This is the Army.” Broadway played a big part in fund raising during this time with Ethel Merman starring in “Something For the Boys” and newcomer Gene Kelly playing “Pal Joey.”
When you walk down Broadway the theatres may not look that impressive from the street, but once inside some of them you will discover some fabulously dramatic Victorian art deco designs with gilt everywhere.
If you are planning to see a show on Broadway and want good seats or a Saturday night performance it is advisable to book as early as you can. The long running musicals are always on, but there can be quite a few changes with productions closing and new ones opening, so the best thing is to book in advance for the shows you really want to see and then wait until a few weeks before you are due to arrive to book the rest. Bear in mind that many Broadway theatres showing musicals are dark on Monday nights because they have Sunday matinees.
If you buy Broadway tickets from the theatre box office in person you can avoid service fees, which you would have to pay if you bought Broadway tickets by telephone or online via the Internet. Box offices are normally open from 12 noon to 20:00
Buying Broadway tickets by telephone or on the internet will be subject to Service Fees of between $5-10 as most Broadway & Off Broadway shows are handled by either Telecharge or Ticketmaster. There are a number of other ticket broker agencies that sell Broadway theatre tickets, but they will charge a much higher fee of anything from 40% upwards.
You can purchase cheap tickets at the TKTS booths in Times Square or the Lower Manhattan Theatre Centre at South Street, Seaport. They are operated by the non-profit Theatre Development Fund and sells discounted tickets (20-50% off normal price) for selected Broadway and Off Broadway shows on the day of the performance. Not all shows will be available as much depends on how well a particular show is doing. There is a $4 per ticket service charge and you have to pay in cash.