The First-Ever Broadway Museum Makes Its Debut
Interactive exhibits will walk visitors through the Great White Way’s history and evolution
Despite Broadway’s rich history and unique cultural cachet, New York City has never been home to a museum dedicated to celebrating the shows, performers and creators who have made the Theater District what it is today.
That will change this fall, when the Museum of Broadway finally opens its doors. Located in the heart of Times Square, the museum will spotlight more than 500 shows from the 1700s to today, Time Out’s Anna Rahmanan reports. Tickets go on sale this week, and a portion of all proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The museum is the brainchild of Tony Award–winning Broadway producer Julie Boardman and marketing executive Diane Nicoletti, according to the museum’s website. Originally slated to open in 2020, per the New York Times’ Laura Zornosa, work on the museum stalled during the pandemic.
“There will be Easter eggs for people who think they might know everything about Broadway,” says Boardman in a video introducing the museum. “Well, maybe they didn’t know the story. I think it will give a deeper appreciation to people who go to see their next Broadway show.”
The museum experience is built around three components: a map room, a timeline and a “making of” section. The map room will examine how New York’s theaters have shifted geographically over time, starting in the Financial District and moving to Union Square and Herald Square, eventually finding their modern home in the Times Square area in the early 20th century.
In the timeline section, which makes up the bulk of the museum, guests will explore the evolution of Broadway shows—from The Ziegfeld Follies to The Wiz and Rent—through props, costumes, photos and other artifacts, per Time Out. The museum will highlight particularly influential productions that “pushed creative boundaries, challenged social norms and paved the way for those who would follow,” according to a statement from the museum.
As Playbill’s Andrew Gans reports, guests will walk through rooms created by Tony-winning scenic designers. For example, in the Rent section, “you’re going to be immersed [in] the East Village,” says Nicoletti in the video; when visitors reach The Wiz, adds Boardman, “you ease on down the yellow LED staircase.”
At the end of the timeline, visitors will find an interactive section detailing how Broadway shows are made, from the actors in the spotlight to the crews working backstage.
“It really paints the picture of how that all comes to be, and then honors all of the brilliant, talented creatives, and people who bring that to life,” Boardman told the Times last August.
The museum’s opening comes after more than two years of pandemic-related closures both on Broadway and off. Per CNBC’s Robert Hum, recent reports have found many shows are playing to sold-out or nearly full houses, and tickets are more expensive now than before the pandemic. It’s a far cry from the ghostly scenes around Times Square in the pandemic’s earlier days, when Broadway shows shut down.
Still, the transition wasn’t seamless. Despite vaccine requirements and mask mandates, Covid has taken a toll on many performances. Understudies, swings and standbys have been keeping the Theater District alive by filling in whenever cast members come down with Covid, and some shows still went dark for short periods when too many performers were out of commission.
At the Tony Awards last Sunday, host Ariana DeBose paid tribute to these unsung members of the Broadway community.
“I want to give a round of applause to some people who played a vital role in keeping Broadway shows open these past few months—the understudies, the swings and the standbys,” she said. “And let’s not forget the stage managers and the associates and the dance captains who rehearsed them to go on in a moment’s notice.”
The Museum of Broadway will open on November 15 in Times Square.