Broadway An Introduction to Broadway history and culture
The beginnings Broadway refers to the Theatre district in New York City, located along Broadway in Midtown Manhattan. Although known by a street name, a “Broadway” theatre is classified by how many seats are in the audience. A Broadway Theatre has 499 or more seats in the audience.
The tradition of Musical Theatre in this region of New York began in the 1860’s. The first shows were performances of dancing, singing and often confusing stories. The stories were just an excuse to stream all the performance pieces together. The Book Musical which is the style of modern Broadway began in 1928 with the musical Showboat. A book musical combines, dancing, singing, music and plot into one cohesive play. All of the elements move the plot forward.
Elements of a Broadway Musical • Spectacle (Scenery, Costumes, Makeup, Props, Special Effects) • Music • Dance • Plot or “Book”
The Plot is often referred to as the “book.” It is the whole comprehensive story which is moved along by the dialogue, action, singing and dancing. Here are a few examples of recent shows and their plots:
Hamilton is a play which follows the rise and fall of the historical figure Alexander Hamilton. The story follows him through his rise in the revolutionary war, his fall from public graces (due to an extramarital affair) and his death from a duel. The denouement of the play details the way his wife survived him and made sure his legacy was saved for history. The music is a mixture of hip- hop, R&B, pop, soul and traditional show tunes. The casting is intentionally very diverse to reflect the modern America.
Dear Evan Hansen is a very emotional musical which follows a troubled boy through his senior year of high school. Evan is an outcast who is bullied and therefore depressed. When a classmate dies by suicide, Evan claims a friendship that never existed and rises in popularity. The play ends with Evan coming clean and learning to be himself. It became popular for its modern topics and relatable characters. This is definitely a show you will cry watching.
Wicked is the story of the “Wicked Witch of the West” from The Wizard of OZ. It follows her through college and shows how she became known as evil. The play shines a sympathetic light on the witch, who some would argue was not truly evil at all. It is famous for its songs, new take on an old story and all of the modern spectacle. The original cast starred IdinaMenzel, of Frozen fame, as Elphaba (the Wicked Witch).
Why is Broadway a big deal? • Newest technology for Theatre • Biggest actors in the Live Theatre world • Prestige • All Theatre geeks accepted • Traveling shows • New acting styles and storytelling