Whether you live in New York City or you’re coming into town for a visit, there’s one destination you absolutely cannot miss: Broadway. If you’ve ever seen a show on the Great White Way before, you know it’s an experience unlike any other. Even theater aficionados will tell you there’s something special about Broadway – the place has a history.
Never been before? Imagine walking into the historic Nederlander Theatre, ready to see Disaster! the musical. It’s a relatively new show, having only just recently made its Broadway premiere. Despite being somewhat untested, you’re excited to see whether the show will live up to its “inspired lunacy” reviews. You make your way through the crowded atrium, you go into the theater and find your seats. After a while, the lights dim, the curtain opens, and history unfolds before you.
It may sound like hyperbole, but when you go to see a Broadway show, you’re – often quite literally – witnessing history. Every show that appears on the Great White Way earned it’s place there, and some of the most fascinating and groundbreaking bits of theater appear on those stages. Skip it, and you might miss seeing the next best thing. After all, someone saw the first Stephen Sondheim Broadway premiere. Someone else saw Sutton Foster take on a game-changing understudy role, and another group watched, recently, as Lin-Manuel Miranda and the rest of the Hamilton cast made history.
People have been coming to see shows on in the U.S.’s most famous theater district since the mid-18th century. The first glimpses of what Broadway would become emerged before the Revolutionary war, in 1750. A small theater company opened up, and mostly performed Shakespeare plays. Though productions went to the wayside while the country fought for independence, theater returned in full swing once the war was won. In 1798, the first large-scale performance space – The Park Theater, which sat 2,000 guests – opened up.
Since then, some of the biggest names in entertainment have made their way to the Broadway stage. Carol Channing, Patti LuPone, Hugh Jackman – all manner of incredible talents were once small names giving breakout performances right in New York City. If you’re in the city and you skip a show, you’re depriving yourself of one of the biggest attractions the city has to offer. This goes doubly if you live in NYC – Broadway is one of the city’s cultural backbones, and it’s one everyone with an interest in music, theater or entertainment should take full advantage of.
Not convinced? Give it a try. Most people who see a Broadway show end up hooked – there’s something addicting about the excited energy that fills a theater just before curtain. The odds are good you’ll get lost in the characters coming to life on stage, and you’ll probably find yourself singing the songs to yourself for at least the next week. The Great White Way has survived for centuries – anything that lasts that long must be doing something right. Check it out for yourself!