“Curtain up!” at the Museum of Broadway

The lights of Broadway have always beckoned, but something was missing. Julie Boardman, co-producer of nine Broadway shows, said, “There has never been a permanent place to go in Times Square to experience and learn about Broadway history.”

So she and her college friend Diane Nicoletti, who works in brand marketing, start the Museum of Broadway.

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A puppet show from The Lion King, which won six Tony Awards when it opened in 1997.

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Nicoletti said, “We want it to inspire guests. We want it to be fun and we want to provide education too.”

Historian Ben West told correspondent Rita Braver, “The Broadway we now think of essentially began in the late 18th to early 20th centuries.”

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West has created a Broadway timeline with hundreds of images: Gene Kelly in Pal Joey, Ethel Merman in Gypsy, Ben Vereen in Pippin.

“Broadway is our story,” West said. “Broadway is an integral part of American culture, of American life. And the story of Broadway is the story of a people. It is the story of a country.”

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Historian Ben West and correspondent Rita Braver attempt to emulate the choreography of “West Side Story.”

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The exhibition includes the seminal musical Show Boat, which opened in December 1927. West said the show “represents the maturity of the American musical and where it’s going by tackling serious issues and contemporary issues.”

The museum features items such as Jennifer Hudson’s costume from The Color Purple, the little red dress from Annie, a mask from The Lion King, a pair of Kinky Boots, and more.

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Tony Award winner Joel Gray visits the “Cabaret” exhibition.

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Now 90. Joel Gray is a Broadway legend, famous for roles like Emcee in ‘Cabaret,’ whom the museum portrays as a Broadway game-changer. Set in Berlin when the Nazis came to power, it was a musical that dared to explore dark themes.

Gray said he was thrilled when he heard the composers play the score for the first time:

“And I sat and heard John Kander play, Mm-bup-bup-mm-bup-bup-mm-bup-bup-bup-mm-bup. And I heard Fred Ebb sing, ‘Welcome, bienvenue, welcome…’ And I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is going to be my song.’”

Joel Gray plays”Welcome” at the 1967 Tony Awards:


Cabaret 1967 Tony Awards through
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But on the premiere night in 1966? “The audience was terrified!” Gray remembered. “The first act came to an end and there was silence.”

“No applause?” Braver asked.

“No. And everyone walked out not knowing whether to applaud or not. They were just stunned.”

Still, “Cabaret” became a big hit, winning eight Tonys, including one for Grey. He also received an Oscar for the 1972 film version.

The founders of this museum, which is supported by a crowd of investors, hope that visitors will be willing to shell out about $50 per ticket to learn the stories of Broadway.

Braver asked, “How much does it all cost?

Boardman and Nicoletti laughed, “Millions and millions!”

All to showcase one of America’s great art forms. As Gray said, “There’s nothing quite like it. The theater is historical. It’s a… (sings) tradition!”

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Story produced by Robert Marston. Publisher: David Bhagat.

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