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A Brief History of Broadway

• In New York, around 1750, the first resident theater company was established in a theater located on Nassau Street.  The theater held an audience of around 280 individuals.  Shakespearean plays and ballad operas were performed. 
• In the summer of 1753, a company of twelve actors from Britain came to New York from Williamsburg, Virginia establishing a theater and performing ballad operas such as “The Merchant of Venice” and ballad farces like “Damon and Phillida.”
• In 1798, after the end of the Revolutionary War, the 2,000-seat Park Theatre was built on Chatham Street
• In 1826, The Bowery Theater opened and others soon followed in quick succession.
• In 1829, a 3,000 seat theater called Niblo’s Garden opened up at Broadway and Prince Street. This large theater presented musical as well as non-musical entertainment.
• In the 1840s, P.T. Barnum opened up an entertainment center in Lower Manhattan.
• In 1844, Palmo's Opera House opened for business but due to a poor response, later was transformed as a playhouse called Burton’s Theater.
• The Astor Opera House began its operations in 1847.
• As a result of a riot in 1849 where lower-class patrons of the Bowery objected to the upper class audiences at Astor Place, entertainment in New York was separated along class lines where the upper class enjoyed opera, the middle class enjoyed melodramas and minstrel shows and the working class went for variety shows.
• It was during this period of time that the famous actor Edwin Booth performed William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” on the New York Broadway stage, especially in 1865 at the famous Winter Garden Theater.  

The Musical
• Around 1850, theater entertainment relocated little by little from downtown to the midtown area because of the lower price of real estate.
• What was to become the Theater District in the early 1800’s was but a handful of farms.
• In 1836, Mayor Cornelius Lawrence opened 42nd Street to the inhabitants of Manhattan.
• Some half century later, the Victoria Theater was built on West 42nd Street by Oscar Hammerstein I, a theatrical impresario. 
• The Elves in 1857 became Broadway's first long-running musical hit playing for 50-performances.  
• “The Black Crook” which premiered in New York on September 12, 1866 is considered by many to be the first musical that fits the current-day definition.   The production was 5.5 hours long, and it ran for 474 performances.
The Black Domino/Between You, Me and the Post” was the first show to call itself a "musical comedy” and premiered the same year as the “Black Crook.”
• By 1870, Union Square had become the core of Broadway.
• By the end of the 1800’s, there were also many theatres near Madison Square.
• In 1881, the first vaudeville theatre opened one block east of Union Square.
• It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that theaters began to locate near Times Square with a large number of them built from the 1920’s to the 1930’s.
Around 1906, Broadway theaters began installing electric signs as advertisement. White lights were used because they lasted longer than colored lights, and as a result, Broadway was nicknamed "The Great White Way".



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