Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Heidi. Heidi Wonders, “What is the history of Broadway?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Heidi!
As its name would suggest, Broadway is a wide street in New York City. It runs the full length of Manhattan. It starts at the island’s southern tip at Bowling Green. The street continues all the way to its northern tip at Inwood. It even goes on into the Bronx!
Broadway is the oldest north-south street in New York City. It existed as a path traveled by American Indians long before Europeans arrived. Today, there are many famous sites along the several miles of Broadway. But one small stretch comes to mind when most people hear the word “Broadway.” It’s the stretch between 42nd and 53rd streets—including Times Square—that is considered the home of the American theater industry.
This famous section of Broadway is known as the Theater District. You will also often hear it called “The Great White Way.” Where did this nickname come from? It started when Broadway became one of the first streets in the U.S. to be lit with electric lights. The nickname remains popular today. Millions of lights on theater marquees and billboard advertisements help brighten the night sky.
The Theater District is home to 40 large professional theaters. Each of these theaters seats 500 or more people. They host a constantly changing variety of productions, including plays and musicals.
Many people believe the theatrical productions on Broadway are the best in the world. Each year, the best Broadway shows are awarded Tony Awards.
Broadway shows are one of the most popular tourist attractions in New York City. In 2010, shows sold more than $1 billion in tickets! As you can see, many of the shows are popular and quite profitable. For that reason, they often run for years and years. Shows close when they stop drawing new audiences and become unprofitable.
The longest-running musical in Broadway history is The Phantom of the Opera. It opened on Broadway in 1988 and is still going strong today. It’s had more than 13,000 performances to date. It has earned more than $1 billion. It also won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Musical.
Have you ever seen a musical on Broadway? Would you like to? Will you see The Phantom of the Opera? Other big hits include The Lion King and Hamilton. Maybe you’ll write your own hit play or even perform on Broadway one day. The sky's the limit. Just keep exercising your own creativity!
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2