Backstage on Broadway, stage managers alert the actors to prepare for "places" with a loudspeaker message: "15 minutes to curtain."
Now, theatregoers in Times Square are getting a similar reminder. The office tower at 1501 Broadway -- right in the heart of the theatre district between 43rd and 44th Streets -- has begun playing the George M. Cohan tune "Give My Regards to Broadway" from its clock tower 15 minutes before evening curtain times.
The idea is to alert theatregoers who may be soaking up the ambience of Broadway a little too long that it's time to get to their seats.
A spot-check by Playbill On-Line Jan. 30 showed that the tune was difficult to hear from the north end of Times Square.
Put in place by property manager Rhonda Panensky in mid December, the tune is part of a $1 million-plus refurbishment of the clock tower at 1501, an office building that houses producers, publicists and many other theatre-related businesses. The tower is topped with a huge light-up glass ball. Power to both the ball and the clock were cut during World War II blackouts, and never restarted, according to a spokesman for Newmark & Co., the building's manager. The refurbishment and the creation of what Newmark & Co. hopes will be a new Broadway tradition are intended as part of the rebirth of Times Square. The 1501 clock tower stands directly across Broadway from the tower where the lighted ball descends on New Year's Eve. Two blocks away, at 46th Street and Broadway, a statue of the tune's composer Cohan looks out over Times Square.
-- By Robert Viagas