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Broadway Musicals Day

As the curtain opens on September 29th, Broadway Musicals Day walks out onto the stage to wide applause. Both plays and musicals are shown in Broadway theaters, with most Broadway productions being musicals. They are celebrated with Broadway Musicals Day. Broadway theaters, considered to be unequaled in the English-speaking world, are located in the Theater District, in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, from West 41st Street to West 53rd Street, and between Sixth and Ninth Avenue. This is close to Times Square, and is near Broadway, although only a handful of theaters are actually on Broadway. There are more than 40 Broadway theaters. To be considered such a theater, it usually must have at least 500 seats.

Walter Murray and Thomas Kean opened one of the first theaters in New York City in 1750, the Theatre on Nassau Street. The Beggar's Opera, a popular ballad opera of the time, was shown there. Theaters were not open in New York City during the Revolutionary War, but they returned when the New Theatre—later known as the Park Theatre—opened in 1798. The Bowery Theatre, originally called the New York Theatre, opened in 1826. Shortly after, Niblo's Garden opened on Broadway, near the intersection of Prince Street. What is often considered the first musical, The Black Crook, opened at Niblo's Garden in 1866. It ran for 474 performances, a record for a Broadway production at the time.

Broadway Theater originally was centered around Union Square, but by the early 1900s, its home had moved to Midtown Manhattan in the area around Times Square, where the real estate prices were cheaper. Many musical comedies in the 1890s and the early 1900s used songs written in New York City's Tin Pan Alley. In the 1920s, musicals took cues from vaudeville. Productions were filled with big dance routines, popular songs, and star actors and actresses. One of the most popular musicals of the decade was Kern and Hammerstein's Show Boat, which premiered in 1927 at the Ziegfeld Theatre.

The Great Depression cooled the number of Broadway performances in the 1930s, and Broadway was also threatened by the ascendancy of motion pictures. Still, some musicals were successful during the decade, such as Cole Porter's Anything Goes. The 1940s are known as Broadway's golden age. The quality of the musicals improved, and they were replete with the hit songs of Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart (and then Rodgers and Hammerstein), Weill and Gershwin, and Cole Porter. Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma debuted in 1943 and became a hit, running for 2,212 performances. With the burgeoning economy, many other musicals ran for more than 500 performances.

Popular musicals that debuted in the 1950s include Guys and Dolls, The Boy Friend (starring Julie Andrews, in her stage debut), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Music Man, and My Fair Lady. West Side Story debuted in 1957; it was written by Stephen Sondheim, with music by Leonard Bernstein. Hair hit the stage in the late 1960s and was followed during the next decade by other rock musicals such as Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar, and The Rocky Horror Show. Still, compared to the two preceding decades, the 1960s and '70s were not a fruitful time for musicals. But by the end of the century and into the next, there were many musicals that gained favor on Broadway and across the country, such as Rent, Wicked, Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, Lion King, The Book of Mormon, and Hamilton.

The Tony Awards has recognized achievement on Broadway, including in musicals, since 1947. Held in New York City, it first was at the Waldorf Astoria, but in recent times has been at Radio City Music Hall. Its stature was raised when it began being broadcast in 1967.

Musicals connected to Broadway are not only shown on Broadway theater stages. Some Broadway musicals are first shown in off-Broadway theaters, which are located in New York City and hold 100 to 499 people, while others are first shown in off-off-Broadway theaters, which usually have a capacity of less than 100. Some Broadway musicals go on Broadway national tours, traveling to theaters across the United States. They may travel with a new cast and crew, or, if the show has closed on Broadway, the original cast and crew may travel. Sometimes a musical may tie down in a city for a time to present a number of shows. From Broadway, to off-Broadway, to off-off-Broadway, to cities across the United States, Broadway musicals have entertained and inspired Americans and left an imprint on American culture. They are celebrated today with Broadway Musicals Day!

How to Observe Broadway Musicals Day

The ideal way to spend the day is by going to a musical on Broadway. If that's not possible, the next best thing may be to go to a Broadway musical that's on tour. Attending any other type of musical, such as one that's being put on at a college or high school, is another great way to spend the day. You could watch a Broadway musical on video or a documentary about a Broadway musical. Checking out Playbill is another fine way to spend the day.

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