Broadway. Just the mention of the word sends shivers down the spine of theater enthusiasts. So when the Museum of Broadway finally threw open its doors in Times Square after a series of pandemic-related delays, it instantly became a must-see ticket.
As the first permanent museum in New York dedicated to Manhattan’s iconic theater district, it’s a testament to the magic and history of Broadway.
Julie Boardman, the museum’s co-founder, aptly remarks to Smithsonian magazine, “Broadway is such a huge part of the fabric of New York society.” Yet, it’s surprising to realize that there wasn’t a dedicated space for it until now. This museum aims to remedy that oversight, offering visitors a comprehensive journey through Broadway’s illustrious timeline.
Original Ziegfeld Follies costumes: Marvel at the early 1900s showgirl garments, glittering with rhinestones and feathers.
A Hello, Dolly! headpiece: Witness the iconic red feathered headdress worn by stars like Bernadette Peters and Bette Midler.
Military Jacket from Hair: A testament to the 1968 groundbreaking rock musical.
Siamese Cats costume: A shimmering spectacle designed by John Napier for the 1982 Broadway debut of Cats.
Meryl Streep’s Broadway debut costume: The ivory two-piece outfit from Trelawny of the “Wells”.
Simba and Nala masks from The Lion King: Artful masks from the 1997 production that could easily fit in an art gallery. This one caught me off-guard, as we hadn’t watched a tour or too many spoilers of the experience before going to the museum, and when we turned the corner and saw the masks – it brought a tear to the eye.
Mini city block for In The Heights: A detailed set model capturing the essence of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s classic.
Kinky Boots from Kinky Boots: The famous lace-up red heeled boots from the 2013 sensation. When you get to see the details up-close, it’s so much more impressive than in the orchestra section of a theatre.
Mask molds from The Phantom of the Opera: Discover the behind-the-scenes creation of the iconic half-face mask.
Al Hirschfeld’s Barber Chair: A tribute to the caricaturist’s long-standing Broadway legacy.
What to Expect When Visiting:
As soon as you step into the museum, prepare to be transported through the annals of Broadway’s rich history via a video that sets up the expectations of what you’re about to see. From its 18th-century origins to the challenges faced in 2020, and its grand 2021 reopening, the museum captures the essence and resilience of the theater district.
Expertly Curated Displays:
Founders Julie Boardman and Diane Nicoletti have meticulously arranged a selection of artifacts that tell a comprehensive story of Broadway. Whether you’re a theater aficionado or a newcomer, each display offers a wealth of information.
The hidden gems are everywhere and may take a second pair of eyes – but you’ll definitely find something that you didn’t expect to see.
Glimpses of Authentic Artifacts:
From miniature set designs, intricate costumes, to original props, witness firsthand the materials that graced the Broadway stages. These artifacts paint a vivid picture of the Great White Way’s legacy.
In addition to passive displays, expect areas where you can engage more deeply with the content, diving into the making of shows and understanding the behind-the-scenes processes.
There are things that you get to touch…which is a cool part of the experience.
The museum offers rotating displays, ensuring that repeat visitors always find something new. For instance, during your visit, you might encounter a tribute to caricaturist Al Hirschfeld and explore his extensive contributions to Broadway.
Nestled in the heart of Times Square, the Museum of Broadway’s location immerses you in the vibrant energy of New York’s theater district. After your museum visit, you’ll find yourself surrounded by theaters, restaurants, and iconic New York landmarks.
Gift Shop & Souvenirs:
Like any good museum, you have to check out the museum’s gift shop. From posters to trinkets, it’s a great way to stock up on broadway stuff.
Accessibility & Facilities:
The Museum of Broadway is designed to be accessible to all. Wheelchair-friendly paths, guided tours, and other facilities ensure everyone can enjoy their visit comfortably.
As you navigate through the exhibits, don’t hesitate to approach the staff with questions. Their knowledge and insights will enrich your museum experience.
I got a chance to ask a couple of questions about the various Tony Award trophies on display, as I was trying to decipher which were real and which ones were reproductions. The answer allowed me to see behind the curtain, as all the trophies are real. There are a couple that were presented to individuals, which are identifiable by the faceplate.
A Sense of Community:
The museum’s opening, especially in the wake of the challenges posed by the pandemic, symbolizes the rebirth and resilience of the Broadway community. As Boardman mentions, the timing of its unveiling holds a special meaning, not just for the founders but for the entire theater community.
Whether you’re a Broadway aficionado, a history buff, or simply looking to explore New York’s rich cultural tapestry, the Museum of Broadway promises a memorable experience. So next time you find yourself in the Big Apple, ensure this museum is on your itinerary. It’s not just a museum; it’s a tribute to the world of theater.