Overview of Broadway

 Audio Guide

Narrated by Kathleen Marshall, Broadway director & Choreographer


Theater has always formed a large part of New York City’s cultural DNA, a fact made clear by the glamor represented by the term “Broadway.” But how did Broadway theaters start? In 1866, New York City welcomed the five hour-long The Black Crook, a play with musical numbers and a unifying storyline, that is seen as the predecessor to Broadway musicals of the 20th century. The Black Crook marked a step in the journey toward today’s theatrical productions, complete with books, lyrics, and music. The production acknowledged as the first modern musical was Oklahoma! by Rodgers and Hammerstein which debuted in 1943, establishing the format for many musicals following in its footsteps. Broadway plays and musicals are presented at designated theaters that seat at least 500 guests. The 41 Broadway theaters currently in operation are mostly concentrated in the Theater District, an area around Broadway between 40th and 53rd Streets. Broadway theater attracts nearly 15 million visitors annually, with hit plays over the years gathering legions of fans. Famous productions such as Cats, Fiddler on the Roof, Hair, Rent, and today’s longest running musical, The Phantom of the Opera, have spawned hit films and touring productions. New musical productions like Hamilton have adopted contemporary musical trends into their production style, bringing the magic of Broadway’s live theater to new fans across the country and around the world.