New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, January 08, 2009

National Drama Queen

There are some things so absolutely integral to this city that to write of them in a general way is to inform no one of anything - who has not heard of the theater district or Broadway theaters? To take in a Broadway show in New York City is really one of the best uses of the phrase de rigueur. Trips to the city to see shows from the surrounding areas often are a person's first, if not only, experience to New York.
Cable television and the Internet have dramatically changed our world - there is infinitely more knowledge and exposure to products and culture. And the character of the city itself has changed - unfortunately gentrification has homogenized the planet and there really is less for many to visit urban areas. Many of our unique businesses have disappeared, being replaced with large chain stores which can be found outside New York. This phenomenon has been written about for some time. In 1995, a New York Times article appeared which referred to "The Malling Of Lower Broadway."
There are things, however, that do require population density and an artistic community to exist. One of those things is the theater district. Individual shows do travel to local theaters but for breadth and depth, New York City is the place to go.
Like retail, the theater has also suffered from rising costs. To survive, shows must be capable of supporting a large overhead, so like film, there has been an aversion to risk. Shows are mounted which are much more formulaic, with elements that tend to give shows the "Broadway show" character that many newcomers to theater expect. We find a stable of old standbys, revivals and shows which tend to be highly derivative of historical successes. And ticket prices are extremely high. There are always discounts available, however, and prospective theater goers would be well advised to investigate the options.
Streets lined with marquees like this one in the photo (Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theater at 247 West 44th Street), signals loud and clear that you are in New York City and nowhere else. Most of us do look for constants, anchors we can hang on to - the heart of nostalgia. When I pass through Times Square and the theater district, I am reminded of my first visits to New York and how different and exciting it was. The theater district is such a perfect icon for New York - a city which is itself so theatrical in character. I dub it National Drama Queen :)

Note: The term Broadway theater refers to a group of 39 theaters defined both by size (minimum of 500 seats) and location in the theater district. Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway theaters are also defined by size, not location. Off Broadway with between 100 and 500 seats and Off-Off Broadway with fewer than 100 seats.


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Chuck Pefley said...

Brian, a nice informative depth to NY shows. Your explanation of house size having a bearing on designation was particularly enlightening.

Michael George said...

It would be important to note that Broadway is really suffering lately. So many shows are closing or have closed due to economic woes: Spring Awakening, Spamalot, Hairspray, Gypsy, Title of Show, etc. etc.

It's really sad :/