(WYTV) – What do we mean when we say a certain play or musical is “off-Broadway”? Does that mean you see it not on Broadway itself, but down a distant alley in the New York City theater district or up some side street?
Broadway is the name of a large boulevard in Manhattan. Today, only three “Broadway” theaters are actually on that boulevard. The rest are centered east and west of the boulevard around Times Square.
You’ll find off-Broadway theaters almost anywhere in New York City, but most are centered in Greenwich Village and the West Side.
But the expression has nothing to do with location. The term refers to the number of seats in the theater.
A theater with 500 or more seats is considered Broadway. A theater with between 100 and 499 seats is off-Broadway and a theatre with less than 99 seats is off-off-Broadway.
It happened this way to cover different union pay scales in different-sized theaters.
A lot of off-Broadway shows have become Broadway shows, including Hair, Godspell, Little Shop of Horrors and Hamilton. Big productions, such as Stomp, Blue Man Group and Nunsense, also started off-Broadway and moved successfully to bigger audiences in larger theaters.
The expression also has nothing to do with the quality of the show, so if you’re ever vacationing in New York City, never rule out seeing an off- or off-off-Broadway production.