I might not have seen Hamilton yet, but I have seen my share of Broadway shows. I remember going to my first one when I was 10. We were almost in the last row of the theatre to see 42 Street. Once I moved to New York City, I saw as many shows as I could – well, as many as I could afford anyway! Still, I felt like I had just scratched the surface. When I learned there was an Inside Broadway Tour, I knew it would be interesting and planned on going the next time I was in New York City. Let me tell you about my experience taking this Broadway and Theater District tour so that you can decide if it’s something you would like to do when you visit New York City.
I know a lot of New Yorkers avoid Times Square and the Theater District at all costs. While I was living there, I would too unless I wanted to see a show. As a tourist though, I do think Times Square is an area that you should see for yourself. It’s quite unique, the lights will mesmerize you, and the people watching will surprise you. On our way to the Broadway walking tour, we saw the Naked Cowboy, even though it was a chilly day! Tourists might also like this affordable hotel near Times Square.
We met the group 10 minutes before the scheduled tour start time by the statue of George M. Cohen on 46th Street in Times Square. It was easy to find the group because our tour guide, Filip, was holding a bright orange flag. Once everyone checked in, Filip announced that they would be splitting the group into two to make it more manageable. He called the names of people who would be going with another guide.
Filip gave us an overview of the Broadway and Times Square tour. All of the tour guides are actors. We would be getting an inside look at how Broadway works. The tour would take us to see some of the different theaters but we would not be going inside – no tour company is allowed to do that. Then he asked where everyone was from. I thought it was interesting that many people in our group was from outside the US. We had people from Spain, Chile, and England.
He started by explaining a little bit about Broadway history. It goes back all the way to 1904 when the subway opened. Times Square was the easiest place to get to because it was the only place where two subway lines met. Originally, Times Square was called Long Acre Square because there were horses everywhere but was renamed after the NY Times newspaper which used to have its headquarters here.
The area where we were standing was called Panic Island. Actors, like James Cagney, would perform here to try and get discovered. The statue we were standing by was George M. Cohen, who was an American entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer, producer and is known as father of American theatre.
Broadway Theater History
Next, Filip took us to see a couple Broadway theaters and told us about their history, how they got their names, and some of the famous people that performed in them. It was interesting to learn which theater was haunted, which one was cursed, and how one of the theaters kept their audience cool. Marlon Brando had his Broadway debut at the Barrymore Theater. Walt Disney saw Julie Andrews perform at the Majestic Theater. He was so impressed he went backstage to her dressing room after the show and offered her the role of Mary Poppins.
I didn’t realize that there are a few Broadway theaters named after critics and the Barrymore Theater was built for Ethel Barrymore. She was the first big Broadway star, but she only got to do 5 shows in her theatre before she died. Ethel was quite the diva and in case you were wondering she was Drew Barrymore’s great great aunt.
Hamilton is playing in the Richards Rodgers Theater which is named after Mr. Rodgers from the duo of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the musical theater writing team behind the Sound of Music and many other classics. It was actually the first theater to have democratic seating where everyone would enter through the same doors.
Broadway vs Off-Broadway vs Off Off Broadway
As Filip mentioned a lot of people think the difference between On Broadway and Off-Broadway theatres is the location, but that is not correct. In New York, theatre type is defined by the number of seats. A theatre with 500 or more seats is designated a Broadway theatre, it does not need to be located on Broadway. Off-Broadway theatre seat 99 to 499 people while an Off Off Broadway theatre has less than 99 seats.
Broadway in Numbers
Filip also gave us some insight into the financial side of Broadway. Of course, all the actors must be part of the union so there are minimum wages. I was surprised to learn that it costs between $10 and $12 million to put on a Broadway show. Yes, it is expensive but the shows can also make a lot of money. Lion King is actually the highest grossing show with $6.5 billion in ticket sales alone.
Wrapping up the Inside Broadway Tour
It seemed fitting to end our tour of the Broadway historic district outside the Majestic Theatre, where the Phantom of the Opera is currently playing. The theatre is known as the most blessed theatre on Broadway which makes sense since the Phantom of the Opera is the longest-running Broadway show.
Before we all went our separate ways we took a group picture. Filip took the picture on his cell phone and told us it would be emailed to us. Then he gave us a discount code for $10 ooff-Broadway tickets. (Check out the post I wrote about ways to save money on Broadway tickets.)
Inside Broadway Tour Review
The Inside Broadway tour is perfect for Broadway fans and history buffs. Even though I have seen many Broadway shows, I still learned a lot from this tour – more than I could fit in this post! Our tour guide, Filip, was great. Filip shared lots of interesting stories and was happy to answer any questions. I enjoyed hearing his perspective and learning more about Broadway history. He did a great job keeping the group together in a crowded area. It was nice that he had a microphone, so we never had any trouble hearing. I also liked that they kept the group small.
Russell, who has less Broadway experience than I do, may have enjoyed the tour even more than I did. Right after the tour, he turned to me and his words were “That was brilliant!”
I would have liked to go inside some of the theatres but I understand that is not possible.
Inside Broadway Tour Logistics
Inside Broadway Tour Tickets
Tickets should be purchased online in advance. (Click here to check price and availability). If you plan on doing several tours and visiting other tourist attractions while you are in NYC, you may want to consider purchasing an NYC tourist pass to save money. The tour is also included in the NY Pass (Click here to get more information and check prices) and the NY Sightseeing Pass (Click here to get more information and check prices).
Route and Schedule
The tour runs daily at 4 and lasts around 90 minutes. You begin your tour at the George M. Cohen statue on 46th Street in Times Square and end at the Majestic Theatre on 44th Street. The best subway station to use for both points is Times Square. To find your tour guide, look for the orange flag.
Other Tours From New York Tour1
In addition to the Inside Broadway Tour, New York Tour1 offers a broad range of NYC walking tours including:
- One Day NYC Tour which is a one day tour that covers top attractions in Midtown and Downtown Manhattan. You will also ride on the Staten Island Ferry. Click here for more information.
- Various neighborhood walking tours like Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown, the Highline and Chelsea, Greenwich Village, and Lower Manhattan. Click here for more information.
- A few different tours with reserve boarding access to the Statue of Liberty Ferry. Click here for more information.
Are you a fan of Broadway shows? What are some of your favorites? Would you like to learn more about the history of Broadway musicals?
Expert Tips for the Inside Broadway Tour
- Be on time for your tour, it will start promptly and you won’t want to miss any of the Broadway history facts.
- Dress appropriately for the weather since the majority of the tour will be outside.
- Check out some of the other tours that New York Tour1 offers.
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Disclosure: We were given complimentary tickets for the Inside Broadway Tour so that we could share our experience with our readers. As always, opinions expressed here are my own.
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