Broadway is one of the most iconic streets in the world. It is home to some of the most famous theaters and has been the site of some of the most important moments in theater history. Take a look at this Broadway history guide to learn more about the origination of Broadway shows for kids and adults.
The Changing Face of Broadway
Broadway is a street in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. It stretches from Bowling Green in the south to Inwood in the north. The name Broadway is derived from the fact that it was once called the “Breede” way, after an early Dutch settler named Claes Breede, who owned land on both sides of what is now Broadway. Broadway began as a dirt road and grew slowly in popularity, becoming a busy thoroughfare by the mid-19th century. Before this time, most travels between Manhattan and other parts of New York City took place by ferry or footpath. In 1836, America’s first steam-powered railroad line ran along Broadway from downtown to Union Square. Others followed this line, and eventually, Broadway became one of America’s busiest streets, with trains running up and down its entire length.
The first theater on Broadway was built in 1794 and was known as the Park Theatre. Theaters soon began sprouting up all along Broadway, and it became known as “the Great White Way” due to the number of electric lights that were used to light up the street. The brightest theater on Broadway was always considered to be the Palace Theater, which was illuminated with more than 2,000 electric lights. With its bright lights and lively atmosphere, Broadway quickly became a popular destination for tourists and theatergoers from all over America. Many famous actors and actresses started performing on Broadway, including Shirley Booth, Marlon Brando, Gene Kelly, Barbra Streisand, and many others.
Audiences and Ticket Prices
Audiences and ticket prices are two important aspects of Broadway that have changed dramatically over the years. Broadway began as a way for vaudeville performers to showcase their talents and draw larger audiences. Ticket prices were very low, and most performances were free to attend. As time went on, Broadway became more popular and attracted bigger audiences. This led to higher ticket prices, as well as increased production costs. Today, Broadway is a massive industry with some of the highest ticket prices in the world.
The Musicals on Broadway
The first Broadway musical was The Black Crook, which premiered in 1886. It premiered when Broadway was dominated by vaudeville shows and light opera productions in its early years. However, in 1919, Oklahoma! ushered in a new era of Broadway musicals. These shows were more serious than their predecessors and dealt with more mature themes. Since then, many classic American musicals have been performed on Broadway, including Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, and The Phantom of the Opera. Some newer shows that have succeeded on Broadway include Hamilton and The Book of Mormon.
How Broadway Started Appealing to Children
What started as a way for adults to escape their everyday lives and enjoy a night of entertainment has gradually become something that children can enjoy just as much, if not more. There are a few reasons why Broadway started to appeal to children. For one, the shows became more family-friendly, with less violence and more wholesome stories. Additionally, the cost of tickets became more affordable, making it easier for families to attend shows together. Broadway began to produce more and more adaptations of popular children’s movies and books, which gave children a taste of what Broadway was all about. Today, Broadway is a major tourist attraction; children make up a significant percentage of its audience. Many families make it a tradition to visit Broadway each year, and there are now even tours specifically designed for children. Broadway has become a genre that everyone can enjoy.
Broadway has been a staple of American culture for centuries, and its importance cannot be overstated. From its beginnings as a simple dirt road to its current status as one of the world’s most renowned theater districts, Broadway has been a place where people from all walks of life can come together to experience the power of storytelling.