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New York Theater: Broadway

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What is Broadway? Broadway is the general term for roughly 40 legitimate theaters, almost all of which are situated in the vicinity of Times Square, and have between 500 and 2,000 seats in them. (Any theater with 499 or fewer seats is designated as an Off-Broadway venue; unless it has fewer than 100, then it is Off-Off-Broadway.) Very few Broadway theaters are actually on the street called Broadway – most of them are on the side “St.”s, from West 41st St. up to West 54th St., not to forget the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center.

Broadway is not just for musicals. Many plays are also produced in Broadway theaters, but they tend not to run as long and are never as popular with the tourists. Broadway is almost exclusively for commercial theatrical productions; however, there are a few non-profit theater companies that produce shows in Broadway theaters, including the Manhattan Theatre Club, Lincoln Center Theatre, and the Roundabout Theater. Shows coming from non-profit theaters outside New York (the Kennedy Center’s recent revival of Follies) or from non-profit Off-Broadway Theaters are usually done as commercial productions when they arrive on Broadway.

Each year, dozens of new shows open on Broadway. Some play “limited engagements” that aren’t scheduled to last more than a few months. Most shows are designated as “open runs,” meaning that they can close in a few weeks or last 20 years – it just depends on how strong the audience demand is. (Note: Many shows intended for an open run will initially advertise as a limited engagement to stimulate sales.) Almost all Broadway show tickets are sold through either Ticketmaster or Telecharge, or can be purchased directly at the theater’s box office. The standard Broadway performance schedule is Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and 3pm matinees on Sundays, but there are also many exceptions. Ticket prices can be as low as $25 for a Student Rush or Standing Room Only ticket, or as high as $150 for an center orchestra seat at a popular show (special “premium seats” can cost three times that amount).  (Brooke Pierce)