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The musical theatre celebrates two things best: Number one, of course, is the musical theatre itself. The other, however, is New York City. Big Apple landmarks crop up as touchstones in show after show. Many of these landmarks are long gone, especially in the older shows, but plenty still exist. Any place you walk in the theatre district, you’re following in the footsteps of the gods. But you can step into a Broadway musical by checking out these locations the next time you are in town.
Here's Part One of our list of places to visit to make your own Broadway musical memories.
Famous Broadway Musical Locations You Can Actually Visit!
Famous Broadway Musical Locations You Can Actually Visit!
Playbill.com offers a visitor's guide to real New York places mentioned in Broadway musicals.
– This is one of the few Broadway musicals that actually has a scene in Times Square proper, and the opening “Runyonland” sequence is set on its sidewalks. Guys and Dolls G&D is also one of the few shows to mention a real Manhattan address for a fictional place. The script specifies that Sgt. Sarah’s Save-a-Soul Mission is located at 409 West 49th Street. Kids play today in a playground at that approximate address. A key scene near the beginning of the musical is set in a bistro called “Mindy’s,” a reference to the longtime Times Square watering hole Lindy’s that used to stand at 1655 Broadway, between 49th and 50th Streets, a favorite hangout of author Damon Runyon, along with the gamblers and mobsters he wrote about. The original restaurant closed in 1969, but the name was revived a decade later, and a touristy eatery bearing the Lindy’s name now stands nearby at the corner of Seventh Avenue and 53rd Street, where it trades on its past with large photos of Guys and Dolls-era celebrities. One thing hasn’t changed: On a recent visit, Playbill.com found that both cheesecake and strudel were still on the menu, and (spoiler alert) Lindy’s still sells more cheesecake than strudel.
– Theatre lovers cherish both the film and Broadway musical versions of The Producers The Producers, and both contain references to places in New York that are easy to visit, including the the rowboat scene on The Lake in Central Park in Central Park. Among the film’s iconic moments are Gene Wilder’s transformation at the fountain in the plaza of Lincoln Center, shouting, “I want everything I’ve ever seen in the movies!” The plaza faces Ninth Avenue at about 64th Street, and many people run around the fountain recreating this scene. All the scenes inside the theatre where Watch it here. Springtime for Hitler is playing were shot at the old Playhouse Theatre, 137 West 48th Street, which was about to be torn down. A garage entrance and a Chipotle occupy the site today. Ah, but the scene where the theatre is blown up shows the exterior of the still-extant Cort Theatre, which was conveniently directly across the street when they were shooting. It is the Cort’s distinctive script marquee at 138 West 48th Street that goes up in smoke in that scene. The 2001 Broadway musical adaptation of The Producers sets its opening number, “Opening Night/The King of Broadway,” at the 225 West 44th Street entrance to the Shubert Theatre and the south end of Shubert Alley where the fictional musicalization of Hamlet, titled Funny Boy, is playing. Here’s the scene from the film version of the musical, which is obviously a set and a stylized version of the location. The Shubert Theatre logo can be glimpsed starting at 2:11. Watch the clip here.
– The original Woody Allen film of this title was shot at Broadway’s Belasco Theatre on 44th Street near Avenue of the Americas. The stage musical version doesn’t specify the theatre at which it takes place, but does specify that Cheech’s favorite place to whack his victims (and where he eventually plugs his boss’ girlfriend) is the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. Allen shot several key scenes around Times Square in his other films, most memorably outside the Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue in "Hannah and Her Sisters."
Bullets Over Broadway
– This cockeyed valentine to Greenwich Village opens with “Christopher Street,” a song that contains the refrain “Such interesting people live on Christopher Street!” Reputed to be the oldest thoroughfare in the Village, Christopher runs from Avenue of the Americas to the West Side Highway and includes the still-standing Stonewall Inn at number 53, site of the Stonewall Riots that launched the gay rights movement in 1969. Among the “interesting people” who lived on this street over the years were actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, singer Yoko Ono, comedian Amy Sedaris, poet e.e. Cummings, sci-fi author Harlan Ellison and actress Rosemary Harris. Literally around the corner at 14 Gay Street, between Christopher and Waverly Place, is the building housing the basement apartment where author Ruth McKenny moved with her sister Eileen in the 1920s, eventually serving as inspiration for the play Wonderful Town My Sister Eileen and this musical. The street-level windows that are depicted in the show as such a misery to the sisters are still (all-too) easily visible from the sidewalk today, behind a small wrought iron railing.
– The plaintive song “Frank Mills” opens with the lines “I met a boy named Frank Mills/ On September twelfth right here/ In front of the Waverly/ But unfortunately/ I lost his address.” His address may have been lost, but the Waverly — by which they meant the old Waverly movie theatre at 323 Avenue of the Americas near Waverly Place — has been saved and still shows “art” films under the name The IFC Center. Much of the rest of the action of Hair Hair takes place in a park modeled on Washington Square Park, located two blocks east of the IFC Center, on the far side of MacDougal Street. It still attracts artists, writers, musicians and more than a few wanna-be hippies.
– Madison Square Park, the bucolic urban space where Liz/Beth’s timeline splits, is very much still in evidence on Madison Avenue between 23rd and 26th Streets. As in the show, the park is often filled with strolling couples and street musicians, and is notable for its many walkways that divide and join, perhaps serving as inspiration to the authors of this musical. Madison Square was home to the original Madison Square Garden, which has moved to various locations over the years and now is located in the West 30s between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.
– This musical is full of New York references, but two are especially notable: The song “The Night That Goldman Spoke at Union Square” refers to the plaza where Broadway crosses Park Avenue between 14th and 17th Streets. Formerly the site of a potter’s field and the Union League Club (mentioned in the musical Ragtime Let ’Em Eat Cake), the square memorializes the “union” of its two cross streets. Nevertheless, the name stretched enough to include new meanings for new generations. During the Civil War it served as the scene of rallies to celebrate the “Union” over the Confederacy. It later became associated with labor “union” rallies, and fiery revolutionary speeches, such as Emma Goldman’s. It’s now a landscaped park that’s home to a farmer’s market each summer. Also in Ragtime, Coalhouse Walker barricades himself in the Morgan Library, threatening to blow it up if the men who destroyed his car are not delivered to him. The real-life library still looms at 225 Madison Avenue at East 36th Street, and is currently a museum.
– On her first night in Daddy Warbucks’ Fifth Avenue mansion, little orphan Annie is invited by the billionaire (after some strategic pressure from his secretary Grace Farrell) to go see a movie at Radio City Music Hall. The 5,200-seat Depression-era movie palace still towers over the northeast corner of Avenue of the Americas and 50th Street, though it’s now used for big concerts (and the annual Tony Awards) instead of films. However, the corps of precision dancers known as the Rockettes are still a part of the venue’s annual Christmas show.
– The Bronx (up)! The Battery (down)! Coney Island! So many New York landmarks are namedropped in in this 1944 musical about sailors on leave in the Big Apple. For our purposes, however, the centerpiece is the song “Come Up to My Place,” in which the lusty taxi driver Hildy tries to lure the sailor Chip to her apartment for an afternoon of passion. Chip, however, is determined to go sightseeing. A crucial part of the joke is the fact that most of the places listed in Chip’s outdated guidebook were long gone, even in 1944. Most – but not all. The Hippodrome Theatre on Avenue of the Americas between 44th and 45th Street is now a parking garage of the same name. The long-running On the Town Tobacco Road was closed, but the playhouse where it played, the Forrest “The-a-tre,” was renamed the Eugene O’Neill in 1959, and is now home to another long-running hit, The Book of Mormon. Battery Park is still there at the lower end of Manhattan (named for the “battery” of cannon once housed there to protect the city from seaborne attack), but the New York Aquarium (which provided a rhyme for “so big I couldn’t carry ’em”) moved to the Bronx and then to Coney Island, Brooklyn. The Woolworth Tower still stands at Broadway and Barclay Street overlooking City Hall, but the tower has long since relinquished the top of Manhattan’s skyline to The Empire State (Building) on 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, the late mourned Twin Towers and now the Freedom Tower.
– The action of this musical takes place in vaudeville and burlesque theatres across North America, but the sometimes-deleted Christmas a la Minsky scene is set at the grandest (if that’s the right word) burlesque house of all, New York’s Minsky’s Burlesque. The Minsky Brothers operated at several locations, but Gypsy Gypsy is likely set at the former National Winter Garden at the southwest corner of Houston Street and Chrystie Street, which had a performing space awkwardly located on the sixth floor above Boris Thomashefsky’s National Theatre. Always seeking legitimacy, the Minskys moved their operation in 1931 to the heart of West 42nd Street at the old Republic Theatre, 209 West 42nd Street. That theatre has since been rechristened the New Victory and, ironically, specializes today in children's entertainment.