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History of Broadway and Its Plays

Tracy Xia, Staff Writer

Broadway has been around for a long time and has established a prestigious name for itself. It most often collectively refers to the professional theaters located in New York City and is regarded as a staple for commercial theater. The Theatre District is a popular attraction in New York City and boasts an annual attendance of over 13 million audience members. Broadway performances are commonly musicals that continue to serve as a cultural representation of English arts. Although the emergence of films had threatened the presence of live theater, the authenticity and uniqueness of Broadway theaters have managed to survive and even thrive in the present.

Live theater was present in New York as early as the 18th century, but did not become prominent until the 1750s. In its early days, theaters presented acts such as Shakespeare and ballad operas. The popular form of entertainment Broadway is known for today, musicals, did not hit theaters until about 100 years later. The Black Crook is considered to be the first production that resembles the modern interpretation of a musical, incorporating unique music and dance. Theatrical entertainment became more and more sought after as these performances started to feature renowned singers, and societal circumstances made attending these musicals more convenient and safe.

Currently, there are 41 theaters that are considered part of the Theatre District. Many of these theaters present classics such as The Phantom of the Opera and even unexpected shows such as Frozen and SpongeBob SquarePants. Recently, a musical that has attracted a lot of attention is Hamilton, which incorporates rapping into a show about one of our Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton. Although it is an unexpected mix, the show has received an array of positive feedback. Other easily recognized musicals include  Wicked and The Lion King, which are more contemporary but considered great works of Broadway and live theater nonetheless. In recent years, many renowned productions have been closed due to the intense competition, such as Les Miserables. Although this musical was popular in its literary and film form, it was unfortunately beaten out by competition. From the various works seen in today’s Broadway, it can be concluded that live theater is certainly not as “antique” as many perceive it to be. In fact, it is constantly changing and conforming to pop culture and current interests.

Many productions have open-ended schedules, meaning the closing show will most likely be determined by public response and popularity. In fact, Les Miserables was previously brought back for a limited time, but ended up running for over a year. Today’s Broadway features various popular productions which range from solos to musicals to plays. However, musicals do make up the majority. Many of these performances are based on popular films and books, such as Mean Girls and the upcoming To Kill a Mockingbird. Undoubtedly, Broadway performances remain a prominent form of entertainment and continue to shine in the arts today.

Photo courtesy of PLAYBILL

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History of Broadway and Its Plays