By Lexi Flowers

The Origin of Broadway

For a performance to be considered Broadway it must be held in any of the 40 professional theaters that have 500 or more seats found in this area. A performance to be held on Broadway is a mark of success that is considered to be the highest level attainable for commercial theater. Over a billion dollars in Broadway theater tickets were sold in 2009 and 2010.

The Very Beginning

The origins of Broadway history in New York did not begin until 1750 when Thomas Kean and Walter Murray opened a theater company on Nassau Street. Theater stopped in the city during the Revolutionary War but began again in 1798. The Park theater, a 2,000 seat theater, was built. After the success of the Park theater the Bowery Theatre was built in 1826. In 1849 the Astor Place Theatre opened and a riot occurred when the lower class audience that frequentely visited the Bowery took offense to the snobbery of the upper class audiences that attended the Astor. This riot separated theater in New York as the upper classes attended the opera, the middle class attended melodramas and minstrel shows and the lower class( or other wise known as the working class) attended the variety shows.

Top 10 Broadway Musicals

20th Century & Today

What can be considered the modern musical, with dance and original music did not appear on Broadway until 1866. It was during this time that the famous Broadway electric signs began with The Red Mill as the first show with its own sign. White lights were used as colored bulbs burned out very quickly, providing the nickname “ The Great White Way”. Theater moved to Broadway in the middle of the century due to inexpensive real estate prices. Many theaters were located near Madison square with the heart of Broadway located at Union Square. Transportation also helped to remove the poverty found in New York which in turn improved theater as longer plays were produced with better profits and larger audiences. It was during the 20th century that the Tony awards were established, in 1947. These awards recognized theater achievement in Broadway theaters. The longest running plays on Broadway are typically musicals, with more than 100 different musicals that have all run for more than 1,000 performances.

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