Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Broadway – the broad way – was originally called Breedeweg by Dutch settlers who founded New Amsterdam in 1625. The British captured the Dutch city in 1664 and renamed it New York City. ‘Breedeweg’ was subsequently anglicised in 1668 to its current form. Known as the longest road in the world, the entire street actually goes from Sleepy Hollow to the southern tip of Manhattan, i.e. roughly 23 miles (or 37 km).

However, the most famous section – less than twenty miles – only passes through Manhattan by its most famous borough, Times Square, and by its financial district, the ‘Canyon of Heroes’. Broadway is also the name given to the theatre district of New York City with 39 professional theatres of 500 seats or more. Shows on Broadway are very popular attractions; they are considered as the most successfull productions of the theatre world with more than 12 million people and about $1 billion worth of tickets every season. This popularity makes it possible to hire top American dramatists and actors for whom being part of a Broadway play remains one of their ultimate goals. The impact of Broadway plays is significant on American television, music, dance, literature and most notably cinema. Many Hollywood films were based on Broadway plays and actors such as Gene Kelly (and his famous "I'm singing in the rain"), Katharine Hepburn and the multi-talented Barbara Streisand began their career in the theatre district of New York City.

“I got started dancing because I knew it was one way to meet girls.”
Gene Kelly

Katharine Hepburn (on the left) was "ranked by the American Film Institute as the greatest female star in the history of American cinema". However, like all stars, she also had her own caprices.

There are two types of Broadway plays: the escapist musical, in which singing and dancing support the stories, and the “straight play” only including dialogues. The musicals, known for their productions and budgets of a “high calibre”, are the most lucrative and famous. "Cats" is one of the most famous musicals and the second longuest-running show in Broadway history. The first longuest-running Broadway show is "The Phanthom of the Opera" which started in 1988 !

In the Canyon of Heroes, Broadway has seen several people being honoured by receiving ticker-tape parades. It consists in throwing lots of shredded paper from buildings into the procession. The first parade was spontaneously organized for the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1886. However, people have also received ticker-tape parade such as Albert Einstein, the only scientist to have ever received one; the Apollo crew was paid tribute to in 1969; and the most recent parade was held in 2009 to celebrate the New York Yankees championship win in the Major League Baseball. To sump up, Broadway has become the city’s main business street and the cradle of theatres’ expansion; in other words, it is the heart of the city that never sleeps.

By Vivian Collard and Martin Gerard

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