You already know that there is no shortage of musicals set in the Big Apple, but did you know that a lot of them actually have been filmed on the streets of New York City as well?
In the first installment of A Guide to New York City, Broadway Direct is bringing you our top five New York City filming locations from some of our favorite movie adaptations of musicals. These films take you across the island of Manhattan (with a special stop in Brooklyn) so you can “step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch” your way through NYC.
West Side Story (1961)
In Jerome Robbins’s 1950s retelling of Romeo and Juliet, the Capulets and Montagues are replaced with the Sharks and the Jets, two rival street gangs of New York City. The now-iconic film opens with the Sharks and the Jets dancing through the streets to Robbins’s distinctive choreography. The prologue was shot in two different locations, on Manhattan’s east side at 110th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues and on the west side on 68th Street between Amsterdam and West End Avenue in a part of the city that was then known as the San Juan Hill neighborhood, which has since become part of Lincoln Center.
A Chorus Line (1985)
Set entirely on a bare stage in an unnamed Broadway theatre, it made no sense for the filmed version of A Chorus Line to be shot anywhere but on Broadway. The entire film was shot in two different theatres, the Helen Hayes and the Mark Hellinger. The recently renovated Hayes Theatre, owned and operated by Second Stage, still runs as a Broadway house. The Mark Hellinger Theatre, however, no longer exists on Broadway as a theatre. It was sold by the Nederlanders in 1989 and is now the Times Square Church.
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Before it was a Broadway musical starring Orfeh and James Carpinello, Saturday Night Fever was a musical film that introduced the world to John Travolta. In one of the most iconic opening scenes of all time, viewers see Travolta strutting down a street in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood to the Bee Gees before ending up at Lenny’s Pizza. Opened in 1953, the pizza joint still stands at 1969 86th Street, so you too could visit Lenny’s and make your own pizza sandwich like Travolta did.
The Last 5 Years (2014)
Filmed entirely in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island in just 21 days, The Last 5 Years is a film that hard-core musical film buffs can re-create practically any scene from. One of the most pivotal locations in the musical is Cathy’s apartment, located at 125 West 119th Street. Take a trip up to Harlem to belt your own version of “Goodbye Until Tomorrow” on the same stoop that Anna Kendrick did.
On the Town (1949)
Released five years after the Broadway premiere, the movie adaption of On the Town marked the first time in film history that a major Hollywood studio staged musical numbers on location instead of in a studio. Directors Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly (who also starred) took sailors Gabey (Kelly), Chip (Frank Sinatra), and Ozzie (Jules Munshin) on an island tour of Manhattan in just three minutes, going to a whopping 16 different locations still standing in New York City. Among the big tourist destinations like the Statue of Liberty, Washington Square Park, and Rockefeller Center, Donen and Kelly add a few less-traveled spots like Grant’s Tomb (located near 122nd Street along Riverside Drive), the Obelisk in Central Park (near East 81st Street behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art), and Riverside Church (between 120th and 122nd Streets on Riverside Drive).