New York City has a long history of theater and musical productions. The first theater in the city was established in 1798. That’s a really long time ago. Now, Broadway is basically the pinnacle of success for any theater production.
People spend their whole lives dreaming about making it to Broadway. This place has tons of history. Tens of thousands of plays have been performed on 7th Avenue in NYC.
Keep reading to find out some of the best-kept secrets and the coolest facts behind your favorite Broadway plays.
The Difference Between “On Broadway” And “Off Broadway”
“On Broadway” versus “Off Broadway” refers not to location but theater capacity. A play or musical is considered to be “on Broadway” if the theater seats more than 500 people. An “off-Broadway” theater seats between 100-499 people. “Off-off Broadway” refers to venues that seat less than 100 people.
So technically, you could have an off-Broadway play on Broadway street, or 7th Avenue, as it’s also called in New York.
Even Though Matthew Broderick Is A Trained Broadway Singer, He Didn’t Provide Simba’s Singing Voice
For those of you who weren’t previously aware, Matthew Broderick, AKA Ferris Bueller, voiced adult Simba in the Disney animated feature, The Lion King. Matthew Broderick is actually a trained singer, and he’s performed in a whole bunch of Broadway musicals.
Broderick didn’t get to sing in The Lion King, though. Simba’s singing voice was provided by Joseph Williams, the lead singer of Toto.
Female Sharpshooter Annie Oakley Had A Broadway Musical Made About Her
Annie Get Your Gun is a musical by Irving Berlin, Dorothy Fields, and Herbert Fields. The story is based on the life of Annie Oakley, a lady sharpshooter who starred in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. The 1946 Broadway production was a hit, and the show spawned a few revivals as well as a television show.
That song, “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” comes from Annie Get Your Gun.
David Merrick Cheated The System
David Merrick was a Tony-winning producer who was hugely influential in the American theater scene. Once, when his musical Subways Are For Sleeping wasn’t getting very good press, he found seven regular New Yorkers who had the same names as seven of the top theater critics in the city.
He had them see his show and write rave reviews. He then published those reviews and the show stayed open for another six months.
Alanis Morissette Extended The Broadway Run Of Jane Eyre
In 2001, Alanis Morissette single-handedly extended the Broadway run of “Jane Eyre” by a month when she donated $150,000 worth of tickets to underprivileged children. Alanis Morissette is a close friend of Paul Gordon, who composed Jane Eyre.
The two of them wrote songs together before Jagged Little Pill. Alanis was so excited when Jane Eyre was nominated for five Tony awards, then a week later the show was set to close due to poor turnout. Alanis stepped in and saved the day.
Black Panther‘s John Kani Lost His Eye As A Result Of His Performance In A Broadway Play
John Kani, who plays King T’Chaka in Black Panther,lost his left eye when he was beaten by South African police. The South African actor had returned home after performing in a Broadway production Sizwe Banzi Is Dead.
The play was critical of apartheid, and the South African police had a real problem with that. Kani later won a 1975 Tony Award for his performance.
Everyone Booed The 1988 Carrie Musical
In 1988, a musical version of Stephen King’s Carrie opened on Broadway. The show was met with hisses and boos from the audience. Some audience members cheered, and two of the actors even got standing ovations. Talk about mixed reviews.
The actress playing the mother resigned on opening night after nearly being decapitated by a moving set piece. The play closed after five performances. According to The New York Times, the “more-than-$7 million show…was the most expensive quick flop in Broadway history.”
In The Original Production Of Avenue Q, Actors Collected Money From The Audience To Donate To
There’s a song in the musical Avenue Q called “The Money Song.” Throughout the song, the puppet characters sing lines like, “When her dream comes true It’ll all be partly Thanks to you So give me your money!”
The puppets actually collect money during the money song, and then they donate all of that money to Broadway Cares and Equity Fights AIDS. The Broadway community has always been really good at supporting important causes.
RENT Composer Jonathan Larson Died Hours Before The First Performance Of The Show
Composer and playwright Jonathan Larson suffered an aortic dissection possibly caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome the day before the first preview performance. He never got to see his show go on to win three Tony awards and the Pulitzer Prize.
On the night of the preview performance, the cast agreed to just sing through the show not in costume while sitting on three prop tables lined up on stage. By the time they got to “La Vie Boheme,” they couldn’t contain themselves, and they fully performed the rest of the show. They got a standing ovation.
Hamilton Got A Lot Of People To Visit Alexander Hamilton’s Grave
Because of the musical Hamilton, more people visited the grave of Alexander Hamilton in 2015 than in the previous 212 years since his death. A lotof those visitors were on their way back from seeing Hamilton or on their way to the musical.
It’s always cool to see popular media bring people closer to history. Hamiltonis based on Rob Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton.
T.S. Eliot, Author Of “The Waste Land,” Wrote Cats
Ok, so he didn’t write the music, that was all Andrew Lloyd Webber, but the ideas and the characters come from Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
T.S. Eliot is a Nobel Prize winner who is famous for his dark postwar poems such as “The Waste Land” and “The Lovesong Of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is his 1939 collection of poems about feline psychology and sociology.
WickedIs Universal’s Highest Grossing Production
The musical Wicked, which tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, is Universal’s highest grossing production ever.
It even outgrossed Jurassic World and Furious 7. Don’t tell me there’s no money in theater, because Wicked definitely proved otherwise. It’s earned over three billion dollars so far. That’s over a billion dollars more than Jurassic World made.
The Book Of Mormon And Avenue Q Have An Interesting Relationship
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were inspired to make their musical,T he Book of Mormon, after seeing the Broadway musical Avenue Q. The creator of Avenue Q,Robert Lopez, was inspired to make that play after seeing Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s movie South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut.
This cycle of inspiration and creation is what Broadway is all about. That and all the silliness in both Book of Mormon and Avenue Q.
The Real Reason Andre The Giant Never Saw A Broadway Play
Andre the Giant always wanted to see a show on Broadway, but never attended one because he was worried about blocking the view of other audience members.
Andre was seven feet and four inches tall, and he weighed five hundred and twenty pounds. I guess he could have gotten a seat at the very back of the theater. Then he wouldn’t be blocking anybody. Maybe he just didn’t like musicals that much.
The Phantom Of The Opera Is The Longest Running Show In
The Phantom of the Opera is the longest-running show in Broadway history — by a long shot. It celebrated its ten thousandth Broadway performance in February 2012. It was the first Broadway play that was ever performed ten thousand times. By 2011, it had been seen by over one hundred and thirty million people in a hundred and forty-five cities across twenty-seven countries.
Who knew that a play about a disfigured ghost singer could get so much hype?
The Seven Dwarfs Weren’t Always Named After Emotions
The Seven Dwarfs didn’t have names in the original source material. In a Broadway play produced in 1912, their names were Blick, Flick, Glick, Plick, Snick, Which, and Quee. Before Disney, some renditions of the story used the days of the week as the names of the Seven Dwarfs.
I think I prefer the Disney names. They give each Dwarf a distinct personality.
Julie Andrews Was Supposed To Play Eliza Doolittle
The role of Eliza Doolittle inMy Fair Lady was originally played on Broadway by Julie Andrews. When it came time to make the film version of the movie, producers chose to cast Audrey Hepburn instead because they didn’t think that Andrews was “known” enough as a film actress.
That year she ended up winning an Oscar for best actress for her starring role in Disney’s Mary Poppins.
All Of The Dogs Who Played Sandy In AnnieWere Shelter Dogs
Everyone involved in the Annie Broadway revival that happened in 2012 was on board with hiring shelter dogs to play Sandy in their production. Sunny is a two-year-old mutt who only had days to live when animal trainer William Berloni found her.
She was a stray who had a wound on her back leg. With some love and stage training, Sunny got a starring role on Broadway as Annie’s best friend Sandy.
The Masks Used In The Lion King Are Made From The Same Materials As The Frames Of Formula 1 Race Cars
All of the masks used in the Broadway production of The Lion King are made from carbon graphite, which is the same material that Formula 1 race car frames are made out of.
The material is particularly good for race cars because of its high strength-to-weight ratio. The masks need to be strong, but they also need to be lightweight so the actors can easily act and dance in them.
In 1985, Nobody Was Good Enough To Win A Tony For Best Actor Or Best Actress
In 1985, for the first time in Tony history, awards were not presented for lead actor or lead actress in a musical and choreography.
The Associated Press wrote: “For the first time in the Tony’s 39-year history, awards in three categories— best actor and actress in a musical and best choreography — were scrapped because of a lack of candidates.” Basically, nobody was good enough to win an award.