Friday, June 10, 2016

Review: Walking By Theater History

By Michael Block

If you’ve ever seen a Broadway show, chances are you never realized the history in the buildings that house them. Many of these Broadway houses have been around for decades. Sure they may have had a facelift or two and some cosmetic surgery, but the intrigue remains. For the Broadway fans in all of us comes Broadway Up Close, a walking tour that takes you around the theater district as you learn the history of the theaters.
Because there are 40 Broadway houses, Tim Dolan and his Broadway Up Close team offer different “acts” that break down the theaters by area. I was fortunate to get an almost private tour. Tim guided me and an adorable older couple from Los Angeles from 41st St., home of the Nederlander to 43rd St., where there’s a fascinatingly complex theater called the Belasco. In about two hours, Tim and his team provide the almost complete history of nearly ten locations including current and retired Broadway theaters. At each pit stop, you learn the intricacies and pasts of location. From legendary shows occupying the space to tales of the owners or architecture, it’s clear you get all of the facts. What’s great about Broadway Up Close is along with the itinerary of facts, you have the opportunity to interact with your tour guide, asking the burning questions you’ve been longing to ask. And no, there’s no secret way of getting Hamilton tickets. Some of the story highlights from Act I include the saga of David Belasco’s apartment above the Belasco Theatre to the wondrous journey down 42nd St. the Empire Theatre took from Burlesque venue of yore to movie house of today.
If you love your experience so much, Broadway Up Close has a way to take your memories home with you. Dolan has compiled a comprehensive companion book with the stories from the tour along with a surplus of stunning pictures, many of which you don’t get to see on the tour iPad the guides are equipped with. To put it bluntly, the souvenir program is a dramaturg’s wet dream. There is a care and passion on each page. The stories are equally exciting on the page as they are on the tour. And it also serves as the perfect coffee table book to share with your friends. Maybe even intrigue them to take the tour themselves.
If you’re a theater fan, Broadway Up Close is a tour you do not want to miss. Whether you’re a tourist visit New York or a native of the Big Apple, you will thoroughly enjoy this adventure. I hope I get the chance to go on Act II and Act III of the tour!