Broadway theatre is often considered the highest professional form of theatre in the United States. Broadway theatre, or a Broadway show, refers to a performance (usually a play or musical) staged in one of the thirty-nine larger professional theatres located in the New York City borough of Manhattan, with 500 seats or more, that appeal to the mass audience.Template:Fact
Along with London's West End Theatre, Broadway theatre is often considered of the highest level of English language theatre, although many deride both Broadway and West End product as excessively commercial.Template:Fact Unlike most developed nations, the US has no nationwide government-subsidized theatre program, and thus the shows that reach Broadway and thrive there have historically been perceived as more populist or crowd-pleasing, less avant-garde or challenging than the plays produced Off-Broadway or in regional non-profit theatres such as the Guthrie Theatre and the American Repertory Theatre. (Whether this remains the case is debatable, as rigorous and harrowing shows such as The Pillowman and The Lieutenant Of Inishmore have met great critical success on Broadway, while conversely many regional theatres have tried to keep audiences by producing fluffy or "commercial" shows.Template:Fact)
While the term "Broadway" comes from the street, Broadway, it is best described as a theatre district as not all Broadway theatres are located on this street. With roots in 1882, and expansions and new construction, by 1900 Broadway was the centerpiece of American musical theater and fast becoming the most important commercially in the world, enticing European stars such as Sarah Bernhardt. Some of the important early investors and developers of the Broadway theater district include Henry Abbey, A.L. Erlanger, Marcus Klaw, Florenz Ziegfeld, Rudolf Aronson, David Belasco,Charles Frohman, Daniel Frohman, Oscar Hammerstein, and the Shubert Family. Broadway theatre played an important role in 20th Century American cultural history, as it featured the work of some of the most influential American composers of classical music, such as George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Marc Blitzstein and Leonard Bernstein, as well as many of the famous American playwrights like Edward Albee, George S. Kaufman, Eugene O'Neill and Neil Simon. Broadway plays and musicals have their roots in 19th Century American dramatic forms such as vaudeville and burlesque in interaction with the influences of European Grand Opera, operetta, and Realist drama. Today, the majority of Broadway theatres are located in the area called Midtown, in and around Times Square. Broadway theatres are usually run by a producing organization (e.g. Nederlander Organization, The Walt Disney Company, The Shubert Organization, etc.), or another theatre group (e.g., Manhattan Theatre Club, Lincoln Center Theater, et cetera).
All Broadway shows are professionally produced and adhere to strict contracts for all artists involved (e.g., performers, directors, musicians, playwrights, stage managers, et cetera). Artistic trades unions such as Actors' Equity, commonly known simply as "Equity," and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers bargain for contracts guaranteeing minimum wages and other rights involved with the rehearsal and production process. On rare occasions, disputes over contracts can result in a group of artists going on strike. In March 2003, musicians in the orchestra pits of Broadway musicals went on strike because producers wanted to reduce the minimum number of orchestra members required. More than a dozen Broadway musicals went dark for four days after the musicians' union walked out, and theaters lost millions of dollars in revenue.Template:Fact
Broadway shows may run for a varying number of weeks, depending on ticket sales. Musicals tend to have longer runs than do stage plays. On January 9, 2006, The Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theatre became the longest running musical with 7,486 performances when it overtook Cats.
In addition to long runs in Broadway theatres, producers often copy the production with a new cast and crew for the Broadway national tour,Template:Fact which travels to theatres across the country. Both musicals and stage plays on Broadway and in their respective tours often rely on casting well-known performers in leading roles to draw larger audiences or bring in new audience members to the theatre. Actors from movies and television are frequently cast for the premieres of Broadway shows or are used to replace actors leaving a cast. Many performers, however, are still primarily "stage" actors, who spend more time on the stages of New York and will appear in television and screen roles as a secondary venue. (Stage actors generally once looked down on other venues, notably film and television, and it was common to hear stagecraft referred to as "legitimate theatre" - the implication being that film and television were not legitimate.)
Broadway shows and artists are honored every June when the Antoinette Perry Awards (Tony Awards) are given by the American Theatre Wing. The Tony is Broadway's highest theatre award. The importance of these awards has increased since their annual broadcast on television began. Celebrities are often chosen to host the show, like Hugh Jackman and Rosie O'Donnell, in addition to celebrity presenters. While some critics have felt that the show should focus on celebrating the stage, many others recognize the positive impact that famous faces lend to selling more tickets and bringing more people to the theatre. The performances from Broadway musicals on the telecast have also been cited as vital to the survival of many Broadway shows. Many theatre people, notably critic Frank Rich, dismiss the Tony awards as little more than a commercial for the limited world of Broadway, which after all can only support a maximum of two dozen shows a season, and constantly call for the awards to embrace off-Broadway theatre as well.
Seeing a Broadway show is a common tourist activity in New York and a business that generates billions of dollars annually. The Tkts Booth in Duffy Square, at Broadway and 47th Street, sells same-day tickets for many Broadway and Off-Broadway shows at half price. This service helps sell empty seats and makes seeing a show in New York more affordable. Many Broadway theatres also offer special student rates, same-day "rush" tickets, or standing-room tickets to help ensure that more people have the opportunity to see Broadway shows.
Some theatregoers prefer the more experimental, challenging, and intimate performances possible in smaller theatres, which are referred to as Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway (though some may be physically located on or near Broadway). The classification of theatres is governed by language in Actors' Equity Association contracts. To be eligible for a Tony, a production must be in a house with 500 seats or more, which pretty much defines the Broadway Theatre. Some theatres (by adding or subtracting seats) can convert from Off-Broadway to Broadway and vice versa.
- American Theatre Wing
- The League of American Theatres and Producers, Inc.
- Theatre Communications Group
- Actors' Equity Association
- The Dramatists Guild of America
- Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers
- American Federation of Musicians
- Costume Designers Guild
- Broadway Theatre Archive
- ↑ While most Americans use the spelling "theater", the majority of venues, performers, and trade groups for live dramatic presentations use "theatre". The -er spelling is more common, for example, when writing movie theater.
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