Museum of Broadway celebrates the history of New York City theater
An opening on Broadway typically applies to a new show starting its run, but a museum about Broadway is celebrating its opening this week.
The Museum of Broadway on West 45th Street, located in the heart of the theatre district, was more than five years in the making. It chronicles the history of Broadway - from its very beginnings - to present day.
"The first documented performance in New York was in 1732. That's a long time ago and so you start to see the context and get to see that mentorship and passing of the torch," says museum co-founder Julie Boardman, a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer.
The museum, which opened to the public on Tuesday, leads visitors through a timeline of Broadway’s development. It takes them into rooms dedicated to groundbreaking shows, including Stephen Sondheim's "Company," the first Rock musical "Hair," "West Side Story," "Cabaret," "Rent," "Showboat" and many others. It also includes exhibits of original costumes and props.
The museum also has a space dedicated to artists who lost their lives to AIDS, which devastated the creative community beginning in the 1980s. It includes a wall with the names of some of those who died of AIDS alongside streaming red ribbons, the symbol of support for those living with HIV/AIDS.
Theatre historian Ben West put together the timeline and says Broadway was once far different than it is today. In fact, the term Broadway used to apply to many forms of entertainment throughout New York City. Today, Broadway contains 41 theatres in the Times Square area where plays and musicals are performed.
"When we're talking early 20th Century, Broadway is really this sprawling Mecca of entertainment," says West. "We have Vaudeville, minstrelsy, burlesque, and nightclubs. So, all of this entertainment is under the heading of Broadway."
Tickets to the Museum of Broadway start at $39 for timed visits. More information can be found at the museum’s website.