Think of a famous museum and you might name the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim, the Louvre. Now there’s the Museum of Broadway, which opened its doors this month right in the heart of Times Square.
A museum about Broadway might be something one might think has been around for decades, but who knew one was missing all these years? Five years ago, producer Julie Boardman and her friend and creative director Diane Nicoletti did. That’s when wheels were put in motion to make it reality.
Some of Broadway’s biggest names have already toured the space and have been wowed. “People walking through, they’re saying ‘it’s extraordinary,’ ‘brilliant,’ ‘bravo.’ I keep crying all day because it’s so emotional,” Boardman said recently over Zoom before the museum’s big opening-night celebration.
Inside, there are several rooms full of archival costume displays, from Annie to Rent; historic memorabilia; and a timeline of Broadway’s progression through the last 100 years. And there are so many spots to feel like you’re actually on the set of a Broadway show, with ample opportunity for selfies and photos. You’ll also get the scoop on how a Broadway show gets made from a behind-the-scenes standpoint, which is being called the museum’s “11 o’clock number,” added Boardman.
Broadway Direct spoke to the museum’s cofounders about what visitors can expect — and about composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s recent visit.
What was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s biggest reaction to the museum?
JULIE BOARDMAN: He kept using the words brilliant and bravo. He grew up knowing all of the bodies of work. Then to hear that person walk through the thing that we created was really emotional.
Was there one specific exhibit he spent a long time taking in?
JB: When we were in [the] Oklahoma! [room], he said he had the original program when it was called Away We Go. He said he would scan it in and let us have it.
The story goes that five years ago you set on a path to create this museum. Why?
DIANE NICOLETTI: The idea was Julie’s to begin with. We were doing some event together and she was like, “Why isn’t there a Broadway museum?” I was like, “This is brilliant.” Then we just started brainstorming different ideas of how and what the structure of it would be.
Is five years a long time to build a museum? Or do you think it’s not a lot of time?
DN: Compared to shows and different artistic projects people have worked on where you hear [it’s taken them] five years, 10 years, maybe 15 years [to reach Broadway], it definitely doesn’t seem like too much time.
What will ticket holders see inside the museum?
DN: Components that we thought were really fascinating were telling a little bit of that New York history and how the Theatre District migrated from the Financial District to Times Square. A number of people as they’ve been touring have said how much it gives New York history in addition to Broadway history.
When it comes to the exhibits, the Map Room is a video-projection room. We’ve got a wall of all the theatre owners. When you come into the Timeline of Broadway, [one of] the first rooms is the Ziegfeld Follies room. That room is all about the opulence and the Follies Girls. We have original Follies costumes. You go through the Oklahoma! [section] and there’s the barn and the cornfields. It feels like “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” For Cabaret, it’s like a deconstructed Kit Kat Club where you can get photos on chairs from the revival production. You get to actually swing on the swings like in Hair. And [in the] Company [section], you get almost a mini version of the set from the revival.
Why is this museum so important?
JB: It helps contextualize what you’re seeing on this stage. [Some people] don’t realize all of the different jobs and all the hard work that went into making [a Broadway show]. What they’re seeing now is a product of all of the people from the past having done that groundbreaking work along the way. Oklahoma! was the Hamilton of its day, and making these shows was so important and momentous. If someone is an artist who walks through, hopefully they get inspired and they see that [many successful shows are the result of] mentorship that happened. Oscar Hammerstein mentored. Stephen Sondheim mentored Jonathan Larson. Who inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda? We have to know and understand our history to know how to continue forward.
Last updated and effective as of January 14, 2019
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