Broadway, the street to run the length of Manhattan in new York City, has actually been associated with American theatrical task since 1735, once the first theatre opened on the street. Through the end of the 20th century, words Broadway had come to refer come a theatrical district in new York (which included Broadway itself and also the side roads from time Square to 53rd Street), a classification (a theatre with more than 500 seats), and also a sensibility (commercial theatre operation strictly because that profit). Throughout the century, however, the word was most closely associated with the American musical.

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The tendency in musicals toward the integration the songs through plot into a cohesive whole, which began in the so late 1920s with mirrors such as Kern and Hammerstein’s Show Boat (1927), was completely realized when Hammerstein joined through Richard Rodgers in the 1940s to create Oklahoma! (1943), Carousel (1945), and South Pacific (1949). The type acquired much more sophistication with such Broadway successes as Frank Loesser’s Guys and also Dolls (1950) and also Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s My fair Lady (1956). Composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim, and also choreographer Jerome Robbins broke brand-new ground with West next Story (1957), which conveyed lot of its plot through dance. The selection of topics widened in the 1960s; youth society was celebrated in the absent musical Hair (1967), and dance came to be the main element in Bob Fosse-choreographed musicals such as Chicago (1975) and Dancin’ (1978).

The 1970s and ’80s were years of decrease in the Broadway district: vagrancy and also crime to be rampant, numerous theatres were closed, shops to be converted to sex clubs, and also the area became regarded as brand-new York’s sleaziest. In the 1990s the city instituted policies intended not just to clean increase the neighbourhood yet to convert it come an entertainment district specializing in lavish musicals and glitzy hotels. Beauty and also the Beast (1994) and The Lion King (1997) were noteworthy not only since they were stage adaptations the animated movie but additionally because they significant the Disney that company foothold in the ar in the 1990s. These shows characterized the district’s “tourist attraction” atmosphere and also emphasis ~ above family-friendly entertainment.

In the late 20th century, Sondheim and the brothers Andrew Lloyd Webber became the most essential figures in American musical theatre. Sondheim linked the functions of composer and also lyricist for functions of technical and also intellectual sophistication, consisting of Follies (1971), A small Night Music (1973), Sweeney Todd (1979), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), and Into the Woods (1987). Lloyd Webber was the most commercially successful purveyor of music theatre during the last decades of the 20th century, significantly with Evita (1978), Cats (1981), Phantom that the Opera (1986), and Sunset Boulevard (1993). His influence have the right to be traced in the musicals the Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg, whose Les Misérables (1980; an initial English-language production 1985) and Miss Saigon (1989) were also among the many successful phase spectacles of the 1980s.

At the rotate of the 21st century, Broadway theatres tended to produce an ext new functions than revivals, however revivals and also long operation of original works—even of i have lot of money musicals—could much more reliably create profits. Cats closed in 2000 after a run of 7,485 performances, and A Chorus heat (1975), Les Misérables, and Phantom of the Opera all had surpassed 5,000 performances by the rotate of the century. In the later on 1990s the nature of the musical together a genre started to undergo numerous changes. Rent (1996) was distinctive in adapting an operatic collection and, just like Urinetown (2001), in use the musical because that social commentary. In addition, the limits of the genre were significantly blurred, as in Julie Taymor’s manufacturing of Carlo Gozzi’s The eco-friendly Bird (2000). Likewise, the “dance play” Contact (1999), a collection of unconnected scenes with no initial or live music, winner a Tony compensation for best musical. The mix of aspects that traditionally constituted a musical—dialogue, music, and dance—could no much longer be presume by the very first decade of the 21st century.


The Off-Broadway theatre movement started shortly after civilization War II. It centred top top widely dispersed theatres, frequently located in ~ converted spaces, that were creating productions viewed as too risky through Broadway theatres. The one in the Square, one arena theatre cofounded by José Quintero, established artistic credibility for Off-Broadway when in 1952 it developed to an essential acclaim Tennessee Williams’s Summer and also Smoke, a beat that had previously flopped on Broadway. The success the Off-Broadway’s often-experimental productions intended that the work of some writers (such together Edward Albee), and some productions, subsequently moved to Broadway.

By the 1960s, Off-Broadway to be championing put in order playwrights such as Beckett, Genet, and also Ionesco. Off-Broadway also enabled playwrights such as James Baldwin and LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) come dramatize racial worries with a frankness not formerly seen ~ above the American stage. If the experimentation of the 1960s and ’70s subsequently gave way to more-conventional writing, the highly inventive, socially incisive works of respectable Wilson, john Guare, Ntozake Shange, David Mamet, Sam Shepard, Wendy Wasserstein, and Lanford Wilson were significant exceptions.

By the finish of the 20th century, Off-Broadway, which was staging around twice as plenty of productions together Broadway, had actually grown to resemble Broadway aesthetically and also in regards to its high manufacturing costs. Even Neil Simon, as soon as hailed as the “King of Broadway,” had actually taken to premiering his mirrors in Off-Broadway houses in the 1990s. Off-Broadway was likewise not immune come the allure of long runs, through The Fantasticks clocking an ext than 17,000 performances before it closeup of the door in January 2002.

Off-Off Broadway and regional theatre

During the 1960s, a solid avant-garde theatre movement recognized as Off-Off Broadway arised in new York City. The surname is a beat on the ax Off-Broadway and a geographic description: most of this venues have tendency to be much removed indigenous Broadway theatres—indeed, some have said that every American regional theatres should be thought about Off-Off Broadway. The Caffe Cino, which opened in 1958, to be the faster Off-Off Broadway locale; it noted an experimental milieu that invited Beat poetry, music, and “happenings.” The living Theatre, amongst Off-Off Broadway’s most overtly political repertory companies, was founded by Julian Beck and Judith Malina in 1947 to explore brand-new and standard works in unorthodox locales with explicitly agitational intent. Cafe La Mama (later renamed La MaMa speculative Theatre Club) was started in 1961 by Ellen Stewart and also served as home to many companies.

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Among other at an early stage influential groups were Joseph Chaikin’s open up Theatre, Richard Schechner’s performance Group, the negro Ensemble Company, Mabou Mines, Richard Foreman’s Ontological-Hysteric Theatre, the Wooster Group, and also Joseph Papp’s new York Shakespeare Festival (where Hair premiered in 1967 and also the Broadway mainstay A Chorus Line had its start in 1975). Plenty of of these teams explored ritual, sexuality, primitivism, and also political problem in productions that sought to an obstacle the barriers between actor and also audience. In ~ its best the Off-Off Broadway motion generated great excitement and vitality, but at that worst that works presented gratuitous violence and self-indulgence and alienated the audience it set out to engage.

As Broadway and Off-Broadway came to be increasingly commercialized, various American regional companies offered more-innovative works. Most of these suppliers were not identified by a “house style” of power or repertoire; rather, they often tended to market an eclectic mix of classic classics and contemporary experimental plays, and they frequently produced civilization premieres by listed writers. Top companies throughout the second half of the 20th century included the American Repertory Theatre the Cambridge, Mass.; the long Wharf Theatre and the Yale Repertory Theatre, both of brand-new Haven, Conn.; the Goodman Theatre and also the Steppenwolf Theatre, both of Chicago; the Guthrie theatre of Minneapolis, Minn.; the Alley Theatre of Houston; the gibbs Theatre the Louisville, Ky.; the American Conservatory Theater and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre of san Francisco; and the La Jolla Playhouse of mountain Diego. Their continued existence at the turn of the 21st century together subscription houses offering seasons of plays evidenced the vitality of American theatre regardless of the inroads made on audiences’ attention by film, television, and also other famous media.