August 20, 1983 was a day that changed my life forever. As I've written before, it was on that date that I saw my very first show on Broadway. On the way there, I was excited, sure, because I had never been to New York City before, but I had been seeing professional theater for most of my life. My grandparents made sure I was exposed to cultural events of all kinds - concerts, symphonies, ballet and theater. Even when we moved to a new city, we were sure to subscribe to the local venue where national tours and pre-Broadway companies played each season.
But it wasn't until high school that theater became more a part of my life than an occasional night out with my grandmother. It was high school where I figured myself out, and like many of you, found a family with our drama department. The summer before my senior year, my teacher took a small group of us to the Big Apple to see her favorite show, Mame, and she was particularly excited because this production featured many members of the original company. Out of all of us in the group, I was the only one who had never seen a show on Broadway. We lined up, tickets in hand outside the Gershwin Theatre, and my stomach churned with nervous excitement, my eyes widened as we approached escalators(!!!) to the house. I will never forget when my teacher turned to me as we slowly went up, "Jeff, you will never forget your first Broadway show." That may be the single truest thing anyone has ever said to me. I have never forgotten it, and I think of it every single time I go to a Broadway show. (RIP Linda) And I always wonder if there are any kids there that day seeing their first show.
How It Started & How It Ended
40 Years of Broadway: By the Numbers
1st Show: August 20, 1983, matinee. Mame at the Gershwin Theatre. Orchestra Center, Row M, Seat 105
Since 8.20.83: 491 Performances, 333 Distinct productions:
- 196 Original Musicals
- 77 Musical Revivals
- 37 Original Plays
- 22 Play Revivals
- 1 Solo Show
Most Recent Show: June 4, 2023, matinee. New York, New York at the St. James Theatre. Mezzanine Center, Row K, Seat 101.
- 18 shows each: St. James and Marquis Theatres
- 12 shows each: Broadhurst, Gerald Schoenfeld/Plymouth, Imperial, Lunt-Fontanne, Neil Simon and Walter Kerr Theatres
- 11 shows each: Bernard B. Jacobs/Royale, Lena Horne/Brooks Atkinson Theatres
- 10 shows each: Al Hirschfeld/Martin Beck, Palace, Broadway, Lyceum, Circle in the Square, Shubert, Music Box Theatres
- 9 shows each: Nederlander, Richard Rodgers, Studio 54 Theatres
- 8 shows each: Longacre Theatre
- 7 shows each: Eugene O'Neill, Minskoff, August Wilson/Virginia, Booth, Vivian Beaumont Theatres
- 6 shows each: John Golden, Winter Garden, Ethel Barrymore Theatres
- 5 shows each: American Airlines, Gershwin, Belasco, Lyric/Foxwoods/Hilton/FordCenter, Samuel J. Friedman/Biltmore, James Earl Jones/Cort, Sondheim/Henry Miller's Theatres
- 4 shows each: Helen Hayes Theatre
- 3 shows each: Criterion Center Stage Right, New Amsterdam Theatres
- 2 shows each: Ambassador, Hudson, Majestic Theatres
* - distinct productions, + six productions that changed theaters, and saw them at both places: Chicago (Shubert, Ambassador), The Lion King (New Amsterdam, Minskoff), Mamma Mia! (Winter Garden, Broadhurst), Les Miserables (original production, Broadway, Imperial), Beauty and the Beast (Palace, Lunt-Fontanne), 42nd Street (original production, Majestic, St. James)
** - theaters that changed names count as one theater, also includes one theater that no longer exists - Criterion Center Stage Right (Roundabout Theatre Company)
How many of these shows have you seen? (Playbill Aug. 1983)
Tickets 1983 vs 2023:
- Cats at the Winter Garden at its prime, really, in 1983. Saturday evening performance, Center Right Mezzanine, Row D, Seat 121: Box Office Price: $37.50.
- Back to the Future at the Winter Garden new show, a relatively hot show in 2023. Saturday evening performance, Center Right Mezzanine, Row D, Seat 121: Box Office Price: $169.00.
- In 2023 dollars, my Cats ticket would cost $113.69. Do with that what you will...
So, looking back over it, I guess going to see a show on Broadway 491 times in 40 years is less impressive when you average it out to 12.275 shows a year. Of course, figuring that I don't live in/near NYC, that for several years I was a poor college student, that life gets in the way sometimes, and that there was a pandemic, it's really pretty impressive.
I am so very fortunate no matter how you look at it.