This web page will explore various aspects of Broadway in New York City (a.k.a. Times Square a.k.a. "The Great White Way.")
Throughout history, Broadway has both influenced and been influenced by the society surrounding it. Located in mid-Manhattan, Broadway is at the center of commercial culture in America, therefore drawing national attention and publicity. Originating in the early 1900's, Broadway has grown and changed considerably over the years, booming in the 1920's, and then gradually declining after the Depression and with the introduction of television and movies. Over the years, Broadway has made its mark on society in many ways. In its early stages, the shows on Broadway were simply produced to provide light entertainment for people living in New York as an escape from the burdens of everyday life. With the onset of World War I in 1917, Broadway's role in America took a sharp turn. The national crisis inspired theater people on Broadway to become active participants in social and political life in America, such as sponsoring theaters and other charities for the soldiers. After the war and in the 1920's, Broadway reacted to the growing commercialism and materialism in America, evolving into the country's center market for ideas and products. The plays that were produced, however, often criticized social and political life, commenting on the frivolousness of war and other activities. During the following decades, Broadway producers and writers continued to use their plays to comment on society surrounding them, although Broadway seemed to support different causes depending on the time period. During the 1930's and the Great Depression, the plays were often critical of political institutions and practices, whereas during World War II, Broadway theater stepped in to support the government and the war effort. Constantly changing and continuing to support new and original ideas, Broadway, however, inevitably began to decline with the rise of mass media, and still today will never be the same as it was in its heyday in the 1920's. Throughout history, Broadway has demonstrated a pattern of responding to national crises or issues by getting involved in charities, advocating and expressing certain opinions, and simply providing enjoyable entertainment. Broadway has, and always will be a truly unique and influential aspect of American society.
Broadway has also allowed for talented people to display their works for the entire country, and make their mark on American society. Giving birth to names such as Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin, Broadway has been a key place for theatrical talent. With people travelling from all over the world to see shows ranging from The King and I to Rent to A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, Broadway provides an important medium through which librettists, lyricists, composers, and directors can gain publicity - internationally. Broadway was around before film was, and even today, while film is growing to be a more internationally accessible artform, Broadway continues to thrive because of its personal nature. Something about seeing a show, where the people are actually in front of you, as opposed to watching a movie, where the people are miles away, makes Broadway plays and musicals easy to connect with for many audiences.
Today, Broadway is still very much alive, although the audience has changed, and with that, shows have changed as well. As making musicals became more and more of an art, shows became more and more "sophisticated," and thus became less accessible to a certain audience. Whereas tickets used to cost little enough so that even the lowest classes could attend shows sometimes, the price of tickets has now soared and only the upper-middle class and upper class can afford to go. In addition, the actual musicals and plays on Broadway are much more sophisiticated than they used to be, and as a result, Broadway is not as accessible to international tourists, although there still are many musicals geared toward a wider audience. As a result of this, many Broadway conposers and lyricists have needed to expand into film and television in order to make any money. However, Broadyway is still going strong, and keeps changing every day.
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