It all probably began in the 18th century and quite a bit further south than today: A comedy called “The Recruiting Officer” (in German: Der Recruiting Officer) is said to have been the first professionally performed play in New York in 1732, at that time in a small theater near the southern tip of Manhattan. Over the centuries, theaters grew in number and, for space reasons, moved further north on the island, concentrating along Broadway near Times Square.

With hits like “Show Boat”, “The Ziegfeld Follies”, “Hair”, “The Phantom of the Opera”, “The Lion King”, “Rent” and “Hamilton”, New York’s Broadway became famous in the 20th and 21st th century finally became a cultural phenomenon – and a place of longing for millions of actors, singers, theater makers and fans. On Tuesday (November 15), Broadway will have its own permanent museum for the first time – and the “Museum of Broadway” is of course also located in the immediate vicinity of Times Square.

“We created this museum to honor Broadway: its legendary history, its brilliant artists, its tireless preservers and its priceless supporters,” said co-founders and Broadway producers Julie Boardman and Diane Nicoletti. “And we built it for the fans and community to have a place to gather and celebrate. We hope the museum will become a place that educates and inspires through a uniquely immersive theater experience. So have you you’ve never seen Broadway!”

Observers hope that the museum will give Broadway a new lease of life, because the industry has been hit hard by the corona pandemic. Theaters remained closed for 18 months, many people lost their jobs, and numerous shows never reopened or closed months after reopening.

It is a phase of consolidation for Broadway: while almost 15 million people watched one of the plays and musicals in 2018/2019, it was just under seven million after the reopening in 2021/2022. But some hit shows like “Hamilton” are still holding up and numerous new shows have recently been added – such as a revival of the comedy classic “Some Like It Hot” – so that there is also a lot of optimism for the future around Times Square.

The Broadway Museum doesn’t have a lot of space, but it packs quite a few things in it: an historical overview of the history of theater in New York, an exhibition of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into plays and musicals, and rooms to various individual shows such as “Rent”, “Hair” or “Phantom of the Opera”, the longest-running show on Broadway, which is scheduled to have its last performance in February after around 35 years. There is also art, music and costumes – including the dress in which Hollywood star Meryl Streep gave her Broadway premiere in 1975 in the play “Trelawny of the Wells”.