The Museum of Broadway unveils the show behind the show

A few years ago, Tony Award-winning producer Julie Boardman and Diane Nicoletti, who created fan experiences for game of Thrones and Marvel, chatted at an event. Boardman said one of their investors asked why there was no Broadway museum.

“I just paused,” said Nicoletti. “I thought, ‘You’re right. Why isn’t there one? That’s brilliant!’ So let’s move on!”

And they did. The couple reached out to theater producers, organizations and theater owners to sponsor the non-profit museum. And after the pandemic hit, they rented a closed Irish pub just off Times Square and filled three floors with exhibits, some of which were interactive.

Now, after years of work, the Museum of Broadway is open and is located right on Times Square and right next to the Lyceum Theatre.

The Museum of Broadway is located in the Theater District just off Times Square.

Monique Carboni / The Museum of Broadway

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The Broadway Museum

The Museum of Broadway is located in the Theater District just off Times Square.

“We are a museum. We are also an attraction,” said Nicoletti. She said it’s supposed to be fun. “You know, they still see the artifacts and get a great education. But I really hope it’s something they’ll be really excited about.”

The museum itself consists of three parts: The Map Room, in which a short film outlines the history of New York theater and a map of current theater locations, a Broadway timeline that spans most of the exhibit, and a special section called “Making of a Broadway Show”.

The timeline walls educate visitors about the history of theater in New York.

Monique Carboni / The Museum of Broadway

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The Broadway Museum

The timeline walls educate visitors about the history of theater in New York.

The Broadway timeline itself spans two floors of images and artifacts—costumes, props, documents—that illustrate the history of New York theater from minstrels and vaudeville to the present day.

There are special rooms dedicated to Broadway shows. The glittery Room Ziegfeld Follies is papered in pink feathers and has a small dressing table and mirror and a display case with show swag, like little wooden “applause hammers”. On the one hand are current costumes from the early 20th centuryth Century with feathered headgear and panniers so wide it’s surprising they could squeeze through tight backstage spaces.

The Ziegfeld Follies room is papered with pink feathers.

Monique Carboni / The Museum of Broadway

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The Broadway Museum

The Ziegfeld Follies room is papered with pink feathers.

Many of the exhibits were designed by Broadway set designers.

In one room, the (fake) corn is “as tall as an elephant’s eye.”

It is of course the Oklahoma! Room.

“The corn is pretty high,” said resident historian and timeline walls curator Ben West, laughing as he gave a guided tour.

With “Oh What A Beautiful Mornin'” playing in the background, visitors brush past that corn and examine what appears to be a barn wall, where they can see images of the original 1943 production as well as replicas of Richard Rodgers music manuscripts and lyrical sketches by Oscar Hammerstein . Oklahoma! wasn’t the first to integrate music, song, story and dance, but, according to West, “really represents an excellence in how they are all woven together to tell a single theatrical story.”

There are many imaginative stops along the timeline – a space dedicated to that Westside Story, which is designed to look like the drugstore where the Jets hang out and has a “roof” where you can dance to a video of the original choreography; a room dedicated hair, where you can check out funky original 1968 costumes, a Broadway revival, and sit on a swing and listen to the songs (or snap a selfie for Instagram). Costumes are shown off A chorus line amid sparkling, mirrored panels.

The museum has many Instagrammable settings, like this one celebrating Hair.

Monique Carboni / The Museum of Broadway

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The Broadway Museum

The museum has many Instagrammable settings, like this one celebrating Hair.

A gloomy room features a Broadway section of the AIDS quilt, and the walls are inscribed with the names of artists lost to the epidemic, including Michael Bennett, who directed A chorus line.

Curator Ben West said the museum is constantly updated — for example, a display of current costumes has a mannequin with a sign, but no clothing. “Hugh Jackman is currently nude,” he said, laughing. “This will sell tickets!”

The final stop on the tour is The Making of a Broadway Show, created by set designer and architect David Rockwell.

The exhibit is an immersive look inside the sets of each Broadway show – from a stage manager’s desk, to a room dedicated to the writers, to areas explaining costume and set design. In one of the museum’s Instagram-able scenes, visitors can have their picture taken on a “stage,” with large videos making it appear as if the auditorium is in the background. And there are videos with hundreds of theater makers describing their craft.

“You know, I think a lot of people come to Broadway and want to see the show and get inspired,” said Dan Marino, one of the exhibition’s designers. “But there is such a show Behind the show that’s on.”

At the end of the exhibit there is a link to a website with information on Broadway careers. Although it’s not quite the end yet.

“Because there’s a gift shop,” West said. And what would a visit to Broadway be without merch?

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The gift shop at the Museum of Broadway.

Monique Carboni / The Museum of Broadway

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The Broadway Museum

The gift shop at the Museum of Broadway.

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