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Broadway: A History of Theatre
Transcript of Broadway: A History of Theatre
By: Jade Browder
Broadway is just a street in New York City!
Well, it was until the early 19th century.
In the 1790's brothers Joseph-Francois and Charles Mangin began designs on a new theater.
"Park Theatre" (also known as New Theatre in its time) was opened on Broadway in January, 1798.
It was beautifully designed and was made to seat around 2,000 people.
The theater had no competition for years, even so,
it made very little profit.
What is Broadway?
Constructed in 1826 on the Bowery, This was the second theater built in New York City.
At first, european actors had to be imported to America, but very quickly it began to produce its own stars and companies.
1852: Uncle Tom's Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the novel of the day.
It was a HIT! Very quickly it became a large play.
August 1852, the first adaption of the play (with a new, happy ending) appeared in the National Theater.
In the following year, at the same theater, another adaption was produced, but this time, it followed the original story line.
Child prodigy, Miss Cordelia Howard led the cast in the new production, which included most of her family.
WHHATT? The National began having its first matinee performances with this show. Cordelia performed no less than 12 times a week.
.... So much for 19th Century child welfare laws....
The end of the Park Theatre
This theatre was destroyed by a fire December 16, 1848. The family decided to not rebuild it.
The Twentieth Century
By the turn of the 20th century, the whole street had a different look, with as many as sixteen theaters on Broadway itself.
This was not including the theaters located on the side streets and avenues.
Broadway was more than 12 blocks now.
Throughout the 1900's Broadway became the place to go for entertainment. This was especially the case in the 1920's.
The 1920's were the boom years for Broadway.
In 1927 alone, over 250 shows debuted on Broadway, and over 50 of them were musicals.
It’s estimated that 20 million people attended shows that year, which is twice the box office receipts as now.
This is especially impressive considering how many people more people live in and travel to New York now, as compared to then.
Flames, flames and more flames.
The Bowery was burned down multiple times.
It was burned and re-constructed 4 times in 17 years.
While many people wanted to keep the place alive and going, there were few that could afford it.
When it was burned down in 1929, no one could afford to bring it back.
The large building that stands on its site today houses Chinese restaurants and a walk-through arcade of shops and stalls.
After prohibition passed, new popular music was wafting out of clubs and bars.
More white Americans were falling in love with jazz, which emerged from African American musical styles.
This period also coincided with the change in the “American woman.” The girl from the “Cinderella” musicals donned a flapper dress, drank alcohol with men, and smoked cigarettes outside of musical.
The "Jazz Age" of Broadway
Change was happening quickly, and of course, that change was shown even in Broadway
The Great Depression
The 1929-30 season produced 233 productions.
The 1930-31 season was reduced to 187 productions.
New productions on Broadway dipped to 98 shows in 1939; for the first time since the turn of the century, there were less than 100 shows being offered.
1930 also marked another change in theater history. Many of Broadways famous producers and actors were passing. As this happened, new talents were appearing.
made her Broadway debut in March, and just a few days later, Mrs. Herbert Sondheim presented her husband, and the world... a son,
Phantom became the longest running musical on January 6, 2006, passing CATS.
It is the only musical to ever celebrate 18-25 years on Broadway.
The 10,000th performance was February 11, 2012
1. Why was the Jazz Age (The Roaring Twenties) a really important time on Broadway?
2. What are 2 musicals that have become movies?
3. What is the current longest running musical on Broadway?
4. If you had to be in a musical, what would it be, and why?
5. Why do you think someone would go to a live theater, rather than a movie theatre?