Every year, thousands of people flock to New York City to witness the cultural phenomenon of Broadway Musicals. Broadway Musicals are performed in the 41 professional Broadway theaters along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Many prominent Broadway Theatres are associated with the New York Times Square. Apart from Broadway Theatre, the Palace Theatre, and the Winter Garden Theatre. All other Broadway Theaters are not located on Broadway itself. Broadway Musicals make up the biggest cultural phenomenon of live theatrical performances in the United States of America.
Hadestown weaves together two mythological stories: Orpheus and Eurydice, youthful dreamers, and King Hades and his wife, Persephone. It embarks on a perilous trip to and from the netherworld. Culture is pitted against nature, uncertainty is pitted against confidence, and fear is pitted against passion in Mitchell’s seductive harmonies and Chavkin’s creative vision. Orpheus is adamant that his and Eurydice’s love will triumph over all obstacles. Their love blooms in the springtime and thrives in the warmer months. But when fall and adversity arrive, it is put to the test. Difficult decisions must be taken when faced with adversity. These questions and the ensuing answers make up the plot of the musical.
Hadestown made its debut at Barre, Vermont, in 2006. In 2007, it went on a tour between Massachusetts and Vermont. It was then released as a concept album in 2010 by Anais Mitchell. Then in 2012, Mitchell and Chavkin started working on the project together. The reworked version debuted at New York Theatre Workshop on May 6, 2016. It has received widespread critical acclaim, with the most number of nominations on the 73rd Tony Awards. It was nominated in 14 different categories and won in 8 of those. It remains one of the most successful Broadway musicals.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is the director of Hamilton: An American Musical. Miranda claims that Ron Chernow’s 2004 book Alexander Hamilton prompted him to compose the production. Hip hop and R&B are extensively included in the performance. Miranda played Alexander Hamilton in the Off-Broadway debut on February 17, 2015, at the Public Theater. Eight Drama Desk Awards were awarded to the show, including the award for Outstanding Musical.
Hamilton is the tale of an unexpected National Hero who is driven by a burning passion and hunger to make an impact on this new nation. Alexander Hamilton sees it all in the course of the musical. From being a fatherless child to becoming George W Washington’s main man, he had seen and overcome a lot. He gets involved in everything from sex scandals to rebellions. Hamilton is an exquisitely made musical narrative of a political career. Many historic names appear and play a role. George Washington, Eliza Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and Hamilton’s foil Aaron Burr all have an impact on the storyline and plot.
This musical about Hamilton’s political genius has been dubbed the most thrilling and influential of an era. The New York Times’s David Brooks called Hamilton to be among the most thrilling theatrical events he has ever experienced. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s modern musical infuses bright, colorful life into the narrative of America’s founding fathers with passion, humor, and reverence. Hamilton received awards and honors on an unprecedented scale. On February 17, 2015, it premiered off-Broadway at the Public Theater. Hamilton got 16 nominations at the 70th Tony Awards, the highest number of nominations that evening. It ended up winning 11 awards, including the prestigious Best Musical award.
Apart from conventional Broadway theaters, there is also ‘off-Broadway’ and ‘off-off Broadway’. Off-Broadway generally refers to theaters with a seating capacity of less than 500. Off-off Broadway refers to those with less than 100 seats. These are often avant-garde productions for offbeat performances. Broadway musicals have a long and illustrious history that goes back to the 18th century. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic forced a shut down of Broadway theaters on an unprecedented scale. Now that things are looking better and people are coming out, Broadway musicals are back to business. People are getting back to theaters to see live performances from some of the best stage actors in the world.
Dear Evan Hansen is a bildungsroman Broadway musical written by Steven Levenson and featuring musical scores by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Dear Evan Hansen was shortlisted for nine Tony Awards, earning six of them, notably Best Actor, Best Featured Actress, Best Score, and Best Musical at the 71st Tony Awards. Evan Hansen, the protagonist, is a high schooler with anxiety who discovers himself amid a tumultuous situation following the demise of a friend.
Evan Hansen, the eponymous character, is a high school student who suffers from extreme anxiety, which makes it difficult for him to interact with others and form friendships. He concocts a falsehood after one of his friends dies, accidentally bringing him nearer to the friend’s parents while also helping him to find his inner purpose and direction.
The production has earned widespread praise, notably for Ben Platt’s starring role, the music, and the script. It has served as a conversation point for pre-mature narratives and issues covered in theater productions, including mental disorders and adolescent suicide.
The musical made its debut at the Arena Stage, Washington D.C. Its first run lasted from 10th July to 23rd August 2015. It is directed by Michael Greif, and the orchestration was by Alex Lacamoire. David Korins and Peter Nigrini did the set design and projection design, respectively. Ben Platt was in the primary role from its very first performances. Dear Evan Hansen went on its first National Tour in 2018. The tour covered over 50 venues. It was also staged internationally, with the first show in Canada, in 2019. Jared Goldsmith, Christiane Noll, Phoebe Koyabe, Aaron Lazar are among the members of the star-studded cast.
The Book of Mormon tells the story of two inexperienced preachers who are dispatched to Uganda to convert Ugandans to Mormonism. Elder Price, one of the missionaries, is a hard worker who is committed to his religion. Elder Cunningham, his companion, is an unconfident but well-intentioned geek whose proclivity for embellishing the facts quickly gets him into problems. When Elders Price and Cunningham arrive in Africa, they discover a culture ravaged by AIDS, poverty, and crime. It’s possible that completing the task may be more difficult than they anticipated. The subsequent adventure is the driving force of the plot.
The music, lyrics, and book of The Book of Mormons are by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone. It is a satire of the practices and conducts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as the Church of Mormons. It is a nontrinitarian sect of Christianity the holds beliefs of being the real church founded by Christ himself. The musical made its public appearance at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on March 24, 2011. It was staged in various parts of the world, from Europe to America to Australia. The Book of Mormons has also been translated into Swedish, Norwegian, and other languages.
Come From Away is inspired by the actual account of the world visiting the remote town of Gander, Newfoundland. On September 11, 2001, what began as an ordinary day in a tiny hamlet transformed into a worldwide nightmare. It began when 38 aircraft bringing thousands of passengers from around the world were redirected to Gander’s air runway. Despite cultural differences and linguistic hurdles, the residents of Gander welcomed the stranded tourists with song, an open bar, and the realization that we all belong to a larger global family.
Come From Away’s music incorporates both classic theatrical genres and classic Newfoundland sound design. The usage of a Newfoundland accent distinguishes the Inhabitants from the other People, as they remark in “Welcome to the Rock.” Actors break out of the tale to describe the happenings of the 4 days, in addition to playing them out. The set is simple, with simply a few desks and twelve seats serving as airplanes, buses, and different Gander locales.
Come from Away debuted at The Abbey Theatre in Dublin in December 2018. In the 71st Tony Awards, the musical was nominated in seven different categories. It ended up bagging the award for Best Direction of a Musical.
The plot of Moulin Rouge is set in Paris in 1899 – this was a Paris of hedonistic beauty and unmatched excess. The setting abounds in extreme characters, like those of bohemians, royalty, rakes, and dandies. Satine, a dazzling icon of the Moulin Rouge nightclub, and Christian, a lovestruck American writer, are the central characters, and the story revolves around them. The love story of Satine and Christian is challenged by another character – Harold Zidler. He is the manager of the Moulin Rouge nightclub. His ally in this ill-intended mission is The Duke of Monroth. The Duke is convinced that his immense wealth would be enough to woo Satine. The conflict that comes out of these intersecting lives is the story of Moulin Rouge.
Moulin Rouge premiered on 10th July 2018, at Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre. Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 movie by the same name is the inspiration behind this musical. The musical has been staged across the globe, from North America to Europe to Australia. It has won numerous Drama Desk and Drama League awards. In both commercial and critical circuits, the musical was widely well-received. Moulin Rouge is a testament to how creatively extravagant Broadway theater can be and how it changes the way we perceive art.
Princess Jasmine is becoming caged in by her father’s ambition to get her a princely suitor in the Middle Eastern town of Agrabah. Simultaneously, Jafar, the Sultan’s best man for the job, is preparing his ascension to the crown. When Jasmine escapes the palace in secret, she strikes up an immediate bond with Aladdin. He’s a charming rogue who has turned his life around. Aladdin is condemned to death after they are caught together. But Jafar saves him by commanding him to go to the Cave of Wonders and get a light. This lamp holds a Genie, and everything can happen if Aladdin mistakenly lets it out.
The book of the musical is by Chad Beguelin, and the music is by Alan Menken. Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Beguelin wrote the lyrics for the songs. It is based on the 1992 animated film by the same name from the house of Disney. The show debuted in 2011, at 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle. It has completed almost a decade since it first hit the scene and has amassed a whopping $400 million in revenue over the years. As of now, it stands at 11th place in the list of highest-grossing Broadway musicals.
Jersey Boys is a lyrical history of the Four Seasons. It chronicles their climb to fame, their ups and downs, and their final success as a band of buddies for whom music became synonymous with an era. Jersey Boys is more than just a tribute show; it goes to the essence of the group’s connections. It focuses on Frankie Valli, the little child with the huge falsetto, as the lead. The musical does not solely focus on the quartet’s development as artists. Its central theme is how a commitment to a code of honor developed in the alleys of their hometown of New Jersey helped them overcome a variety of obstacles. Betting debts, Mafia extortion, and family tragedies might all be avoided if there is a code of honor in place.
The Musical is based on the true story of Franki Valli and the Four Seasons. Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice wrote the book for the musical, and Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe did the music and lyrics, respectively. The musical ran for over 10 years. Shows started premiering in 2005 and went on till 2017. In the 2004 Tony Awards, Jersey Boys won 4 awards, including the coveted Best Musical award.
Cats is a Broadway musical concerning a tribe of Jellicle cats. Once every year, they gather underneath the Jellicle moon to choose which of the cats would be reincarnated as a Jellicle and rise towards the Heaviside Layer.
The audience is then introduced to a variety of cats who recount their tales and make their best arguments for why they must be picked. As the audience observes, they understand that a few of them are unlikely to require rebirth. Others are undeserving, while still others haven’t given the proposals any thought. The musical’s narrative is driven by the tension that arises from this situation.
The musical is loosely based on Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, a book of poetry by T.S. Eliot. Andrew Lloyd Webber directed and composed the musical drama. It premiered at the New London Theatre in the West End in 1981. A year later, it was staged for the first time in Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. Over the course of its successful run, it has received many honors and awards. The coveted Best Musical was awarded to Cats in both Tony Awards and Laurence Oliver Awards. By 2012, it had earned a worldwide revenue of $3.5 million, making it a commercial success of unprecedented scale.
The Sound of Music
One of the most well-known Broadway productions is The Sound of Music. It is set in 1938 Austria. As the Nazis take control, an energetic young governess restores music and pleasure to a shattered family, leading to confront dangers and deception. It was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The songs from The Sound of Music have become a cultural milestone. It’s a musical that both kids and adults love.
Kinky Boots is a touching Broadway production on a unique issue. After realizing that the existing business strategy is no longer viable, the proprietor of a faltering shoe manufacturer must discover a new footwear market. He resolves to manufacture high-heeled shoes for men after an accidental meeting with a drag queen. It received six Tony Awards, notably the award for the Best Musical.
The plot of the musical is recounted from the viewpoint of the witches of Oz. Its story opens before Dorothy Gale reaches Oz from Kansas and extends after she arrives. Several allusions to the 1939 movie and Baum’s book are included throughout the play. Wicked depicts the narrative of Elphaba and Galinda, two odd companions who fight with different personalities and perspectives. Wicked received ten Tony Award nominations in 2004 for its Broadway staging. Menzel took home the Tony Award for Best Actress, while the play was also awarded for Best Scenic Design and Best Costume Design.
The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera is adapted from Gaston Leroux’s French eponymous novel, and its primary narrative focuses on Christine Daaé, a gorgeous soprano. She becomes the fascination of a strange, deformed musical genius who lives under the Paris Opéra House in an underground maze. Until The Lion King overtook it in 2014, Phantom remained the most commercially successful Broadway musical. It received the Olivier Award for Best Musical in 1986 and the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1988.
Les Miserables is a theatrical adaption of Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel about the French Revolution. In the narrative, Jean Valjean is sentenced to jail for theft of a mere bread loaf, and after his discharge, he attempts to flee his criminal past. The musical is one of the longest-running events on Broadway. In 1987, it won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
West Side Story
The musical West Side Story is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The narrative is located in New York City’s Upper West Side during the mid-1950s. The play depicts the struggle among Jets and Sharks, two young rival gangs from various ethnic groups. It was nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 1958. It took home the Best Choreography and Best Scenic Design awards.
The Lion King
The Broadway musical The Lion King is adapted from the 1994 Walt Disney animated movie by the same name. The production, staged by Taymor, involves actors dressed as animals as well as enormous puppets. Disney Theatrical Productions is in charge of the production team. The Lion King surpassed The Phantom of the Opera as the highest-grossing musical in ticket sales record in September 2014, topping both theater and cinema performances. Since around 2017, the Lion King has earned over $8.1 billion. After a hiatus due to Covid-19, The Lion King restarted runs on September 14, 2021.
The Lion King is the saga of Simba, a daring and exuberant baby lion who is to be the king of the Pride Lands. The pride lands are a prosperous and magnificent territory on the African forests. It is based on the eponymous 1994 Disney animated movie and William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet. After Simba’s father, Mufasa, is slain by Scar, Simba’s uncle, Simba is persuaded to feel that it was his mistake, and he is pushed to flee permanently. Scar seizes control, and as his increasingly erratic mind deteriorates, the Pride Lands descends into gloom and misery. From such desolation, only Simba can be a savior to the savanna’s animals.
The Lion King is a narrative and an extravaganza about individuality, loyalty, and morality that is appreciated by people of different ages across the world. It features famous songs from the movie. The legendary Elton John is behind the songs of this Broadway musical, and Tim Rice wrote the lyrics. The stage setup of The Lion King is grand, with puppets and giant animal costumes. It debuted at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis on 8th July 1997. It was nominated in 11 categories in the 1998 Tony Awards and was the winner in 5 categories.
The musical Chicago tells the stories of female serial killers Roxy Hart and Velma Kelly, and the popularity and immorality that accompanies them in their lives. The production’s minimalistic sets and clothing allow the actors and melodies to take center stage. The musical is Broadway’s second-longest-running musical, trailing only Phantom of the Opera. It was nominated for 10 Tony Awards in 1976.
A brief history of Broadway musicals
Around 1750, Walter Murray and Thomas Kean founded a professional theatrical production at the Theatre on Nassau Street, which became New York’s first notable stage representation. Shakespearean dramas and ballad operas like The Beggar’s Opera were performed there. P.T. Barnum had an event space in Lower Manhattan by the 1840s. Niblo’s Garden debuted in 1829 at Broadway and Prince Street and quickly became New York’s most popular spot to hang out. The 3,000-seat theater hosted a variety of theatrical shows. Starting approximately in 1850, theaters in New York progressively relocated to midtown Manhattan. In 1857, The Elves became Broadway’s earliest long-running musical with over 50 performances. During the early 1900s, theaters began to appear in the Times Square neighborhood.
After a significant number of theaters got erected around the plaza, mostly in the 1920s and 1930s, they congregated nearby. With 253 performances, Laura Keene’s orchestral burletta The Seven Sisters (1860) smashed prior New York records. The Black Crook is regarded as the first theater play that conformed to the contemporary definition of a musical, integrating dance and soundtracks to effectively tell the tale. In September 1866, it had its world debut in New York. The show lasted for 5 to 6 hours. It went on for 474 shows, which was a record then.
New York’s impoverishment decreased as transit developed, and infrastructure made nighttime travel secure. A Trip to Chinatown (1891) by Charles H. Hoyt was the longest-running show on Broadway. It was performed 657 times. A Trip to Coontown (1898) was the very first comedy-drama on Broadway that was created and acted solely by African Americans. Adaptation of popular late-nineteenth-century European stage productions was common in the early twentieth century. In this period, Winchell Smith and Frank Bacon’s production Lightnin’ was the first Broadway musical to surpass 700 runs. It went on to surpass 1,000 shows after that. With mega-success Oklahoma!, which lasted for 2,212 runs in 1943, Broadway theater finally reached a golden period after the great depression in The 1930s.
Covid-19 and beyond
Broadway theaters shuttered on March 12, 2020, as a consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak. On June 26, 2021, Springsteen became the first complete production to restart operations. It debuted to 1,721 inoculated audience members at the St. James Theater. The initial glimpse of Pass Over was held on August 4, 2021, and it premiered on August 22, 2021, making this the first original production to debut. On September 2, 2021, Hadestown became the first production to start stage performances.
Critically and commercially acclaimed Broadway musicals across the years
Over the years, many Broadway musicals have stood apart from others for their artistic brilliance. They have wowed the audience with their gripping plots, stunning theatricals, and amazing actors. Let’s have a look at the best Broadway musicals across years.
The Tony Awards
The Tony Awards are among the most prestigious awards for musicals anywhere on earth. Its formal name is Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Broadway Theatre. It is named after legendary actress Antoinette ‘Tony’ Perry. The Broadway League and American Theatre Wing jointly present the Tony Awards. The annual award ceremony takes place in Midtown Manhattan. Apart from the awards for Broadway musicals, regional theatres are also recognized and honored. Some of the Tony Awards are discretionary, meaning there is no competition or shortlisting for these. The Special Tony Award, Tony Honors for Excellence in Theaters, and Isabelle Stevenson Award are examples of such discretionary prizes.
The Tony Awards are to the theater what the Academy Awards are to the movie industry. It is widely regarded as the biggest award for stage productions anywhere in the world. There are over 26 categories of awards, with some categories removed and some added in recent years. The latest edition of the Tony Awards ceremony took place in 2019 at the Radio City Music Hall.
Eminent recipients of the Tony Awards
Harold Prince, with 21 Tony Awards, holds the record for receiving the most number of Tony Awards in a career. Stephen Sondheim has won the most number of Tony Awards in musical categories, with eight awards. Julie Harris and Chita Rivera hold the record for having the highest number of Tony Award nominations. Dick Latessa won the Tony Awards at age 72, making it a record for the oldest recipient of the award. Frankie Michaels won the Tony Awards at the age of 11, making him the youngest recipient of the award in its long history.
Drama Desk Awards
Drama Desk Awards are considered to be the second most important awards for theater after the Tony awards. Initially, it was meant solely for off and off-off-Broadway productions. Starting from 1969, Drama Desk Awards included Broadway musicals. New York critics, editors, and directors collectively award this prize to best productions of Broadway and off-Broadway. There are over twenty categories of awards. The latest edition of the Drama Desk Awards took place virtually, hosted by Frank Dilella.
Broadway theatres you should know about
Broadway is a 21KM long street in New York across the Manhattan Borough. It also has a 29KM extension across various municipalities. Altogether, it encompasses an area approximately 51KM long. Housed in this area are the legendary Broadway Theaters. Most of these are a living testament of history and culture. They have witnessed the best of productions across the years.
This theater was erected by the Chanin Brothers in March 1927. The Phantom of the Opera has been performing at the venue since January 1988. It has completed nearly 13,000 shows under its belt and is the longest-running production in history. For people with impairments, the theater provides infrared-assisted hearing aids, compact audio explanation gadgets, and hand-held transcription gadgets for every show.
Address: 245 West 45 Street, Between Broadway and 8th Avenue, New York NY 10036
August Wilson Theatre
Founded in 1925, the August Wilson Theater gets its name from renowned dramatist August Wilson. It is presently run by Jordan Roth of Jujamcyn Theaters. The theater features all modern amenities like merch counters, a bar, and wheelchair friendly entrance.
Address: 245 West 52nd St, New York, NY 10019-5803
Minskoff Theatre is perhaps best known for housing shows of The Lion King musical. It was founded in 1973 and has been home to many important productions. Minskoff has embraced the technology of GalaPro. It is a feature that provides automatic subtitles and audio descriptions.
Address: 200 W 45th St, New York, NY 10036-8901
The Imperial Theater is one of the grandest and beautiful theaters in New York City. It has a seating capacity of 1417 and has all modern amenities and features.
Address: 249 West 45th Street, Manhattan, New York 10036-3902
The cultural phenomenon of Broadway Musicals gets its name from the Broadway Theater. It has been in operation since December 25th 1924. Of all the theatres in the area, this has the highest seating capacity.
Address: 1681 Broadway, New York City
Over the years, some Broadway musicals have stood apart for their musical and lyrical genius. These songs have stayed with people for years and continue to do so.
“The History of Wrong Guys” from Kinky Boots
Kinky Boots is one of the best musicals of all time. The History of Wrong Guys is perhaps the best of all its songs. It has a fun and playful vibe with good lyrics.
“Waving Through a Window” by Dear Evan Hansen
It is a poignant song about high school experiences and disappointments. The placement of the song enhances the audience’s experience of watching the masterpiece ‘Dear Evan Hansen’.
“Home” from Beetlejuice
Home was an immediate hit upon release. It has great lyrics, and the song advances the plot of the musical effectively.
“Defying Gravity” from Wicked
This song has achieved a cult-classic status. Idina Menzel’s amazing performance takes the song to a completely different level.
“Wait for It” from Hamilton
Leslie Odom Jr. does a fantastic work of performing this song in Hamilton. It acts as a very important narrative device in the musical. The song is known for its great lyrics and Leslie’s amazing performance.
Legendary Broadway Actors
Over the years, many talented actors have graced the Broadway stage. Here are a few you should know about.
Billy Porter: She rose to fame through the musical Kinky Boots. She has been awarded the Tony and Grammy Awards for her outstanding performances.
Idina Menzel: She is one of the greatest of all time in Broadway theater. The musicals Rent and Wicked solidified her position as one of Broadway’s greatest.
James Corden: He is widely known for his late-night TV show, but he shot to fame through the musical One Man, Two Guvnors. For this play, he was awarded the prestigious Tony award.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: He is among the musical geniuses of this generation. Hamilton and her other productions reflect her immense creativity and talent. She has won all major awards like Tony, Grammy, and Pulitzer for her work.
Julie Andrews: Best known for her role in My Fair Lady, Julie Andres is one of the pioneers of modern Broadway Theater as we know it. She was nominated for three Tony Awards and has won everything from the Academy Award to Golden Globes.
Audra McDonald: She rose to fame with her stellar performance in Porgy and Bess, for which she was awarded the Tony Award. She has six Tony Awards under her name presently.