The Broadway Theatre is one of only five playhouses that front on the street named Broadway. It opened in 1924 as B. S. Moss’s Colony, a premiere film house. The most notable film that played there in the early years was Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie which opened in 1928, and introduced American audiences to an adorable rodent named Mickey Mouse. The theatre went “legit” from 1930 to 1934, when it was re-christened the Broadway. From 1934 to 1940, the house was once again dedicated to motion picture exhibition, and offered the premiere of Disney’s Fantasia in 1939. In 1940, however, it returned to legitimate stage production and, except for a brief stint as a Cinerama movie theatre in the 1950s, has remained in the business of showcasing live theatre ever since.
Cole Porter and Herbert Fields’s The New Yorkers (1930) starring Jimmy Durante was the inaugural theatrical production at the Broadway. It was followed by Vanities (1932) with Milton Berle.
Rodgers and Hart’s Too Many Girls transferred here from the Imperial in 1940, the first of many long-running shows to move to the Broadway from other theatres. Others include My Sister Eileen (1942) from the Biltmore, the Gertrude Lawrence tour of Lady in the Dark (1943) from the road, South Pacific (1953) from the Majestic, The Most Happy Fella (1957) from the Imperial, Funny Girl (1966) from the Winter Garden, Cabaret (1968) from the Broadhurst, Mame (1969) from the Winter Garden, Fiddler on the Roof (1972) from the Imperial, and The Wiz (1977) from the Majestic.
The 1940s and 1950s saw some significant premieres. Irving Berlin’s hugely popular This Is the Army opened on July 4, 1942 as a benefit for the Army Relief Fund. Two non-traditional adaptations of traditional stories also achieved success: Billy Rose’s all-black Carmen, entitled Carmen Jones (1943) and Beggar’s Holiday (1946), Duke Ellington’s adaptation of The Beggar’s Opera. Among the stars at the Broadway during the 1950s were Sammy Davis, Jr. in Mr. Wonderful (1956) and Ethel Merman in Gypsy (1959).
Notable productions of the 1970s and 1980s included a number of big-name stars and British imports. In 1979, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s Evita debuted, starring Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin. It was followed by a revival of Zorba (1983) with Anthony Quinn, Yul Brynner’s farewell performances of The King and I (1985), and Bob Fosse’s final Broadway show, Big Deal (1986). Les Miserables, another British hit, opened in 1987, but transferred to the Imperial in 1991 to make room for Miss Saigon.
Other shows at the Broadway include Blast! (2001), Baz Luhrmann’s production of La Bohème (2002), Bombay Dreams (2004) and The Color Purple (2005). More recent shows include the musicals Shrek (2008), Promises, Promises (2010), Sister Act (2011) and Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella (2013).
B. S. Moss commissioned architect Eugene DeRosa to design the Colony as part of his chain of movie theatres, many of which also housed vaudeville. The large size of the theatre (1,765 seats) made it ideal for musical comedies, and its large stage, originally built to accommodate an orchestra to accompany silent films, proved large enough for aircraft. The original façade (like the interior) was built in the Italian Renaissance style, and then resurfaced in polished granite when a skyscraper was constructed above the theatre in 1991.
Details on the Broadway Theatre's Accessibility
Theatre is not completely wheelchair accessible.
Accessibility by Seating Section
Orchestra: Seating is accessible to all parts of the Orchestra without steps. Wheelchair seating is located in the Orchestra only.
Mezzanine (second level): 2 flights of stairs (up 31 steps) 11 steps/landing/9 steps/landing with restrooms/3 steps/landing/8 steps. Please note, once on the Mezzanine level there are approx 2 steps up/down per row. Entrance to Mezz. is behind Front Mezzanine row F and in front row A of rear mezzanine.
Handrails: Available at the end of every stepped seat row in the Mezzanine.
Located in lobby.
Wheelchair accessible (unisex) restroom is located on lobby level.
Located in the restrooms.