Have you been to the Broadway museum?

You know the Broadway Museum, right?  That place where you can see costumes from the original production of West Side Story?  And sheet music from Candide?  And see old TV commercials of Pippin?

And every year, thousands and thousands of tourists go there.  After all, seeing a Broadway show is one of the first things on their “to-do in NYC” list, so it only makes sense that they’d go learn a bit more about it at the same time, right?  And what about all the students that go to the Broadway Museum, who, as a result, may be more inclined to see more Broadway shows when they are no longer students?

You’ve been, right?

No, you haven’t.  Because the truth is, it doesn’t really exist.

But you bet your bottom dollar, it should.

We’ve got a Hall of Fame (it’s in the Gershwin Theatre, in case you missed it, which I’m sure you did because you can’t really get in unless you’re seeing a show at the Gershwin), and I’ve written about my desire for a Broadway Walk of Fame like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and yes, there is even something called The Theatre Museum started by some very smart folks . . . but I’ve never been there, have you?

It’s time we consolidate all these ideas into one centrally located, industry-supporting, admission charging Broadway Museum.  All major cultural influences have ’em, from professional sports to Pez, so why shouldn’t we?

Museums have a bad rap.  They’ve got a bad name, and they reek of boredom.

But, they are a way of establishing something as being of serious value to our society.  We already know theater has value.  But we could use everything we have to help spread that message to the rest of the world.

 

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Comments
  • I had an excellent conversation with Bobby Pearce (costumes – Taboo) many years ago about this. From what he said, I believe he had some interested funders and at least part of a plan for a Broadway Museum. I recall being very excited by his plans for it, but not sure whatever happened. You might want to go open one with him! 🙂

  • bob ullman says:

    walk of fame?you are kidding. the only real star today is angela lansberry. the rest are talented but not box office dispite names above title of play or musical. should have happened in the fifties and the golden days of broadway. too late now.

    • Dave says:

      Bob Ullman,

      This could be one of the most ridiculous posts I have ever seen. YOU must be the one that is kidding. And who is Angela Lansberry??????? Pull yourself together and put on the thinking cap before posting nonsense.

  • Doug Plaut says:

    I think it’s a seriously long term project that requires a massive amount of fundraising and a very prominent space that it really richly deserves, on par in size and location with the paley center in the 50’s. Probably a 5-10 year plan with all kinds of events in the meantime to try to get it to happen.

    • James says:

      If you ask me, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History needs a special wing or division in New York City dedicated to the American Theatre/Musical Theatre. They certainly know how to run a museum and have SO much already in their collection — most items that aren’t even on view due to lack of display space.

      I always envisioned that this would take over 1 Times Square until Wallgreens moved in there.

  • Michael Dale says:

    There used to be a Broadway museum in Shubert Ally. I think it was in the early 80s. Small, but nice. They didn’t get much business and only lasted maybe a couple of years.

  • David Merrick Jr says:

    It may not be an actual museum, but what about that big Hoohah they recently announced for 42nd Street?

  • Amanda says:

    How about the NYPL – Performing Arts Library in Lincoln Center?

  • Sue says:

    “Museums have a bad rap. They’ve got a bad name, and they reek of boredom.” WHAT??!!??? Ken, you need to check attendance data for the MoMA and the Met versus Broadway. Every time I go, the museums are jammed. How many people come to NYC for the museums as compared to for the theater? Maybe vouchers or Broadway ticket discount coupons offered with paid NYC museum entry are what’s needed.

  • Stephen Marmon says:

    Great idea! Use the old Times building in the heart of Times Square (the zipper building between 42 and 43). It’s mainly just offices now. Cost a batch to renovate, but the location is perfect. Costumes, set models, photos, etc.

  • Lois Jacobs says:

    I would love a Theater Museum in New York. It should be somewhere near Broadway. Patrons who love theater and they are all around the world, would be supportive. Maybe, a museum could be located at a university: NYU, Fordham though far from Broadway but it would be a start. Here in Boston at Boston University, actors have left their papers to the archives. There are all types of museums in NY.
    There is room for a Broadway/Theater museum.

  • Kathy Siler says:

    I love to visit London because they are generally proud of their theatre history and spend money to preserve it. Although the Drury Lane Theatre Museum is awesome, the inter-active “museum” at the Globe draws the attention of clients in old and young a like. New York City needs one and the Smithsonian needs a theatre wing. Are there enough would-be-clients to promote and create such?

  • Robin F says:

    There’s a theatre museum in London that I went to while studying there. From what I recall, it had costumes, set designs, photos, and a ton of history. Elements were interactive as well, and there was even a make up demonstration. It was free to get into, but it may have since closed as I cannot find it online. It was a great afternoon spent there!

  • ken marion says:

    Sounds like another opportunity for crowd funding (rather than investing) and a few good names to get us started. It seems to me that followers of the Producer’s Perspective should all have a vested interest in such a project. Whether it should be connected to what exists is an early question to ponder. Should it be a project that includes the Museum of the City of NY? There’s plenty to think about and act upon.

  • Tim McNair says:

    As a “civilian,” I’d go in a heartbeat. We go to New York from Seattle twice a year just for theater. It would become a regular stop for us.

  • Marcia Rodd says:

    It’s hard to believe there isn’t one. I think people would flock to it. A fantastic idea. How do we get it going?

  • Kristen says:

    I nearly burst into tears reading today’s blog post. I think a museum to this art that ABSOLUTELY has value is not only a great idea but our civic responsibility. The fact that we have no museum to honor all our hard work on the Great White Way is a travesty. Thank you, Ken, for this fantastic idea. I will help in any way I can!

  • Paul Mendenhall says:

    It always amazes me that there isn’t already such a museum. There is plenty of material scattered around in various collections and warehouses, stuff that people would love to see but can’t. I always imagine the Flatiron Building housing it, though I don’t know if it’s really big enough. Strip that hideous “modern” cladding off of it, restore it to it’s 19th century glory, and it would be spectacular. I love the idea of the Smithsonian running it. That would give it a prestige and aura of permanence that would attract sponsors. Collectors aren’t going to leave their prized posessions to anything that doesn’t seem major and well-funded.
    I’m not that keen on the Walk of Fame idea. Smacks of pathetically copying Hollywood.

  • Janet Wilber says:

    That’s a museum I would happily pay to see. Thank you, Mr. Davenport, for your blogs. I’ve been a life-long theater fan, but I’ve learned so much from your pieces about aspects of the theater that I had never thought about before.

  • The Museum of the City of New York had a wonderful Broadway exhibit for 5 years. I didn’t know it was gone till I searched for it today. http://www.mcny.org/exhibitions/past/perform-a-history-of-new-york-theater-and-broadway.html

  • Gordon Firemark says:

    Actually, there’s a guy in L.A. Who has accumulated a large collection of Broadway memorabilia and artifacts, and gives private showings. A few years ago, I heard he was looking for funding to renovate his facility an open as a museum.

    Problem is, it no in NYC. Maybe the League, the Wing, et.al. could do som kind of coventure to move it back…

    It’s a project worth doing

  • queerbec says:

    I’m sure that Broadway’s creative geniuses could come up with ideas for innovative exhibits and programming that would set such a museum apart from others in the City. Just look at how popular the Newseum is in DC and that’s about the dwindling world of newspapers. They do some wonderful stuff and have some great exhibits there. (Oh to relive the theatrical riots of the 1860’s and Julie Andrews’ egregious tirade over the Tony Awards!).

    I also look forward to the day when there will be a company like the Met or City Opera that is devoted exclusively to producing and reviving musicals in repetory. If there ever is such a company, it needs to be in the USA, where the contemporary musical was born.

    Plus the Walk of Fame idea was tried a number of years ago and I believe that four stars were placed in front of the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Broadway, but they were eventually removed and a friend actually purchased one at a collectors’ convention in Hartford.

  • Clair Sedore says:

    I feel fortunate to have been at the British Theatre Museum before it closed, and it was a wonderful experience. I thought it was small and would only take an hour or so, but I spent the entire day there. There was a display of “The Redgraves,” with programmes, letters, memorabilia, which was worthy of a museum of its own. Now the items have been scattered, with some to the Victoria and Albert Museum, but much will never be seen again!
    In Toronto, we have had hopes of a Theatre Museum for many years. Some items are at the Winter Garden Theatre, owned by Ontario Heritage Organization of our Government, but the theatre along with the Elgin, part of the piggyback theatre, is hardly ever open. I do wish the Ontario Government would sell these theatres to someone who would make use of them and operate 52 weeks a year, rather than a Christmas pantomime, and Opera Atelier with a very limited season. What a shame for Toronto!!!! One can take tours of the theatres and that is about it.

  • Michael L. says:

    Brilliant idea.

  • Mark Graham says:

    The League or Disney or Davenport should transform one of the older, less desired theaters – Lyceum,Belasco into “The Broadway Experience”…present a history of broadway in a musical revue format- a multi-media live actor 60 minute must-see…5x a day… w/guest stars from b’way shows, backstage tours and rotating exhibits curated by the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library.

  • Shannon D. says:

    Just simply…. YES!

  • Kevin Kaufman says:

    Gordon, the guy in LA is Miles Kreuger who runs the Institute of the American Musical. I know him well and been in his collection is awesome! He has one of Irving Berlin’s pianos, film footage from Bway performances going back to the 1930s, and memorabilia from Alan Jay Lerner, et al.

  • Ken,
    of all your bright and creative ideas, this is surely the greatest so far! A brillinat idea, both for the cultural importance and for its possiblilities in drawing future generations. There should be a stage as part of the complex where actors could return and give master classes and performances, etc…This is a Brilliant idea!

  • Lois says:

    Ever been to the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center….wonderful exhibits

  • Katie says:

    I found this while looking to see I their is a broadway museum. Very disappointing that there isn’t I would go in a second. The walk of fame idea is great too!

  • Tim Dolan says:

    Hey Ken and Producer’s Perspective readers: I had the exact same thoughts as you did about the lack of preservation of our history and stories. Four years ago I created a tour called Broadway Up Close that tries to do just that: explore all the historical elements of the buildings, shows, stars and even ghosts of these incredible theaters! Until something more permanent like a Broadway Museum is built perhaps you could all join us for a tour. Check out http://www.BroadwayUpClose.com for more details and hopefully you can all join us!

  • Wow that was odd. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  • mike says:

    I have two albums I am willing to donate to the museum if you are interested. The first is “Broadway Blockbusters – Stanley Black conducting The London Festival Orchestra and Chorus” and The Sound of Music. If you are interested, please contact me so i cam mail them to you

    thanks

    Mike

  • Robert chapman says:

    I have a rare relic from the majesti theater built in 1900 on Columbus circle. Designer of grants tomb. Duncan. The only surviving piece of that theater. So rare . One of a kind. The first showing of the wizard of oz was there. Needs to be appraised then will sell .

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