Broadway – the Pride of American Theater

One of the oldest avenues crossing New York is Broadway, which is particularly famous for its large number of musical and drama theaters. It was created in the days when the city was still called New Amsterdam, on the site of the former Wickquasgeck Indian trail.

Broadway runs the length of Manhattan from Bowling Green in the south to Inwood in the north and goes all the way to the Bronx and Westchester County. The original Indian trail led through dense vegetation, between the swamps and cliffs of Manhattan Island. However, as soon as the Dutch settled here, it changed its shape and became the main artery of New Amsterdam. The first mention of it dates back to 1642, when it was described by the Dutch explorer David de Vries. The settlers named the street Heerestraat, later Breede weg, or broad street.

In the 18th century, Broadway ended near Wall Street, from where it was connected to other streets, the East Side and the west of the island. By the end of the 19th century, it was already much wider, and its northern part, Bloomingdale Road, or the Boulevard, was extensively modified. Since the end of the 19th century, the entire street has been called Broadway, and this name is still used today.

If you want to walk Broadway to see the sights and interesting places it hides, it’s a good idea to go there on the weekend when the streets are quieter. You can avoid the ever-present rushing crowds and enjoy local restaurants or shop comfortably. Broadway itself can currently be driven by car, but it will be more convenient to use the subway, whose route follows the entire street.

Broadway is the place most famous for its huge number of theaters, the most famous of which is the Broadway Theater, which presents its shows with several thousand reruns. There are 39 large professional stages in the so-called theater district, which can accommodate more than 1,500 spectators. Broadway theater productions are considered the pinnacle of American theater. Every year, the turnover of the theaters is in the order of billions of dollars. Most of the shows were created for profit, but some scenes have a non-profit character as well. They are usually presented in series without a predetermined denier, and the number of reruns is determined by how successful the play is with the audience. During one recent year, 11,890,000 people paid $666 million for theater tickets.

Since 1880, the term Broadway has also denoted a large-scale theatrical performance, which always premieres in New York and then continues to other cities. Famous Broadway theaters include, for example, the Ambassador Theatre, Imperial Theatre, Shubert Theatre, Palace Theatre, Winter Garden Theater and Georgie Gershwin Theatre, which are among the largest stages on Broadway. Another unique feature is the Majestic Theatre, which was opened in 1903. Since 1988, the successful musical Phantom of the Opera has been regularly performed in it, which nowadays already exceeds 8,000 reruns. Another record holder among performances was the musical Cats. Actors performing on Broadway are mostly stage acting specialists, but you can often see film and television stars there as well, who are a big draw and attract a larger audience.

Even today, you can go back in time while walking the streets of Broadway. See the Lyceum, a shining gem built in 1903 in the Beaux Art style. The building has a spectacular facade and is decorated with impressive awnings, columns and theater masks. Two blocks away is the Barrymore Theater, where Marlon Brando made his debut in the play A Streetcar Named Desire in 1947. The architecture of many theaters is really interesting, but of course the most important thing always happens inside. Therefore, the best way to enjoy Broadway is to buy a ticket and go to a show. You might be tempted by the Martin Beck Theater, which resembles a Moorish palace on the inside, or the portal-arched Cort Theater, whose exterior was inspired by Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon Palace in Versailles. The reconstructed Art Nouveau building of the New Amsterdam Theater, where The Lion King has been performed since 1997, is also worth seeing. Between 1913 and 1927, a series of Zeigfeld Follies performances were produced here.

All of Broadway’s artistically acclaimed theaters currently have historic landmark status. It was decided in the interest of their protection in the 1980s. It was primarily to ensure that they did not suffer the same fate as the ancient Bijou, Astor and Helen Hayes theaters, which were destroyed. Many theaters managed to be saved literally at the last moment, either they were in a dilapidated state, or they became so-called “grind houses”, which were unmaintained cinemas with continuous screening of pornographic films. One of the main actors who contributed to the radical transformation of this area was the Disney company, which donated eight million dollars to the reconstruction of the New Amsterdam Theater. Currently, the non-profit organization Times Square Business Improvement District is taking care of the restoration and reconstruction in this area.

On some of the intersecting streets, we can find some well-known squares such as Union Square, Madison Square or the most famous Times Square, which are important centers of tourism. For shopping lovers, one of the largest department stores in the world – Macy’s – has been built on the square called Herald Square. Between 42nd and 53rd Streets near Times Square is the one mile long Great White Way. It is the first street to be lit by Charles F. Brush’s arc lamps in 1880, in honor of the first class in the United States.

Broadway - the Pride of American Theater