When theater buffs walk into the Museum of Broadway, opening this fall right next door to the storied Lyceum Theatre in midtown Manhattan, they’ll be able to see the history, artistry, and legacy of Broadway musicals, plays, and theaters come to life.
That’s the goal Julie Boardman and Diane Nicoletti, co-founders and college friends, set out to accomplish when they began mapping out the concept for this museum, in 2017.
Finding the right space in the heart of New York City’s theater district—a process that began in 2018 and continued throughout the pandemic—was the first step.
“We spent a long time looking,” says Boardman, an entrepreneur and four-time Tony Award-nominated producer. “We needed to have at least 20,000 square feet and a ground-floor entrance. We feel so lucky that we found something right next door to the oldest operating Broadway theater.”
Encompassing four floors, the interactive space, founded in collaboration with Playbill, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the Al Hirschfeld Foundation, and several other partners, highlights groundbreaking moments throughout Broadway’s illustrious history.
“We got our inspiration from different experiential museums,” Boardman says. “There will be artifacts, costumes, and history, but instead of seeing it on the wall you will walk through the timeline of Broadway.”
Throughout the experience, visitors will travel through a visual history of Broadway, from its inception in the Financial District to its present day in Times Square.
The layout of the museum is intentional: Upon entering the space, fans will learn all about the shows currently running on Broadway, including long-running productions and new ones in all 41 theaters.
Next, museumgoers will go back in time and learn about the pioneers of Broadway, the landmark moments of social change, and delve into the back story behind many of the most beloved plays and musicals of all time via immersive installations designed by leading contemporary visual artists and acclaimed Broadway designers.
“As you walk through the museum, you’ll not only see a show’s artifacts but we’ll also have recreations of a set and artistic interpretations of that show,” says Nicoletti, founder of Rubik Marketing, an award-winning experiential agency in New York City, which has organized Game of Thrones and X-Men experiential fan events, among many others. “We hope that when someone remembers a room for its visual elements it might help them understand the history of Broadway a little bit better.”
Another highlight: Guests will go backstage to get a taste of “The Making of a Broadway Show,” with a special exhibit honoring the community of talented professionals—both onstage and off—who bring magic to every performance of a Broadway play or musical.
In the ground-floor retail store, Broadway fans can shop for everything from show-specific items to limited-edition Hirschfeld merchandise and bespoke products from small local businesses. A ground-floor studio space has been configured for multiple purposes, from kids’ birthday parties and panel discussions to cocktail parties and corporate get-togethers.
There will be show-specific events and, even, classes that will take place in that space.
“For example, if you want to take a dance class and learn choreography from the Moulin Rouge instructors, we can do that in that space,” Nicoletti says.
The space will take its cues from the timed ticket experiences at such exhibits as “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” in order to control the flow of guests in the space and enforce social distancing.
Whether visitors are die-hard Broadway fans or simply enjoy theater from time to time, the museum’s founders are committed to creating a space that pays homage to Broadway’s legacy.
“A Broadway museum could be organized in a lot of different ways but the path we’ve taken acknowledges that the art we create today can exist because of all the pioneers who pushed the boundaries,” Boardman says. “They really made this art form what it is today and we want to honor that.”
The Museum of Broadway will open next door to the Lyceum Theatre in Manhattan. At left, an exterior rendering.
Photo Credits: Paul Bennett Architects, PC