Where to See Broadway Shows Across the Country
Broadway is a microcosm of the American theater. Every day, marquees light and curtains rise all across the United States, and there are hundreds of theaters and presenting houses from coast to coast that are part of the country’s rich performance history. From Vaudeville houses that hosted touring acts, to theaters that first presented the great American musicals. From opulent movie palaces that premiered silent films, to cinemas that ushered in the “talkies.”
Today these majestic theaters play a vital role in the theater ecosystem—developing and producing new works, and presenting large-scale Broadway shows. New musicals and plays get their legs with out-of-town tryouts and pre-Broadway runs. And after hitting the boards on the Great White Way, many shows make the rounds with national tours. Seeing a Broadway show shouldn’t be relegated to a trip to New York City’s Times Square. From Seattle to Boston, Los Angeles to Washington, DC, Broadway magic is happening everywhere.
Los Angeles may be the epicenter of the film industry, but the city is full of aspiring and established actors with a penchant for the stage. There are a number of presenting houses and small ensemble-based companies that produce theater works in the City of Angels.
The Ahmanson Theatre
The Downtown LA theater, which is one of four venues that’s operated by Center Theatre Group, opened in 1967 with “Man of La Mancha,” starring Joan Diener and Richard Kelly. Throughout its history, many stars trod the boards. The 2,000-seat theater presents works direct from London’s West End and Broadway, and also provides audiences the opportunity to see Broadway-bound plays and musicals first. “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations” bowed at the Ahmanson in 2018 before moving to Broadway.
Hollywood Pantages Theatre
The Pantages opened in 1930 as part of Vaudeville’s The Pantages Theatre Circuit. Built by Vaudeville impresario Alexander Pantages, the Art Deco theater first presented films and Vaudeville acts. The 2,703-seat theater is now operated by the Nederlander Organization and is one of L.A.’s leading venues for live performance. “The Lion King” and “Wicked” are a few of the large-scale musicals that have appeared there.
Washington, DC is where the intersection of civic life and the performing arts converge. Whether you’re a District resident or visiting the nation’s capital, be sure to add a trip to the theater to your itinerary. From opera performances in concert halls to contemporary plays in intimate theaters, there’s a variety of live performance offerings.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
The Kennedy Center opened its doors in 1971. The performing arts complex, which is the national cultural center of the United States, has six performance spaces ranging from expansive Concert Halls to its intimate Family Theater, as well as other public spaces on-site that offer free events and performances on a regular basis. The organization has also co-produced more than 300 theater productions, including “Titanic” and the American premiere of “Les Misérables.”
The National Theatre
The National Theatre is the oldest, longest-running theater in Washington, DC. The theater opened in 1835 and has operated as a theater longer than any other major touring house in the U.S. Throughout its storied history, The National Theatre has hosted presidential inaugural balls, special events, and world premieres of American musicals. “Show Boat” first bowed in 1927, and the 1964 season introduced both “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Hello, Dolly!” Recently, both “Beetlejuice” and “Mean Girls” had their world premieres here before moving to Broadway.
Golden Gate Bridge? Check. Fisherman’s Wharf? Check. Lombard Street? Check. When in San Francisco, be sure to add a visit to the theater on your list of must-dos. The Golden City is home to a number of beautiful, historic theaters.
The SHN Golden Gate Theatre
The Golden Gate Theatre is a 2,200-seat theater located in the Market Street Theatre and Loft District, an area included on the National Register of Historic Places. The historic theater opened its doors in 1922 as a Vaudeville house. The theater has presented a number of Broadway shows and national tours, including “Hairspray” and “Rent.”
The SHN Orpheum Theatre
The Orpheum Theatre opened in 1927 as part of Alexander Pantages’ theater-circuit of Vaudeville houses. The theater had a facade modeled after a 12th-century French Cathedral and has been dedicated as a historic landmark. A $20-million renovation was completed in the 1970s to make the theater space suitable for large-scale Broadway musicals. “Evita” had a pre-Broadway run at the SHN Orpheum Theatre in 1979, and “Bring It On: The Musical” first appeared at the theater in 2011.
The Curran was built in 1922 and has housed more than 8,000 performances throughout its history. Homer Curran partnered with Shubert Incorporated to construct the theater and establish The Curran as a West Coast theater destination. Some notable productions include “Oliver!” in 1952 and “Peter Pan” in 1954. The theater space underwent a major restoration and renovation project and reopened its doors in 2017 with “Fun Home.” The San Francisco production of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” will start performances there in the Fall.
Seattle is a seaport city known for its rainy weather and as the birthplace of Starbucks. It’s also an excellent city to catch a show. The thriving theater scene boasts a number of historic theaters, and today, the city is a starting point for new musicals.
The 5th Avenue Theatre
The 5th is a breeding ground for new musicals. The landmark theater building is home to the 5th Avenue Musical Theatre Company, a non-profit theater company that develops and presents tuners year-round. The theater has hosted a number of pre-Broadway runs, including “Jekyll & Hyde” in 1995, “Shrek the Musical” in 2008, and “A Christmas Story: The Musical” in 2014. Next up: The world premiere of the musical adaptation of “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
Paramount Theatre opened in 1928 and reigned as a silent film palace through the 1920s. In 1995, the theater reopened after a stage expansion and restoration of its opulent gold leaf-ceiling with “Miss Saigon.” The theater’s Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, which has been housed at the theater since its grand opening, still accompanies silent film presentations. Catch “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” there this summer.
Hey, Red Sox fans! Did you know that the performing arts were part of Beantown’s culture long before the ball game? Boston’s first playhouse was constructed all the way back in 1794. There are several preserved theaters in Massachusetts’ capital city.
The Shubert Theatre
Known as the “Little Princess” of the Boston theater district, the theater opened in 1910 with Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.” Pre-Broadway tryouts at the theater included “Camelot” and “Meme,” among others. In 1996, the theater reopened after a restoration project with the U.S. National Tour of “Rent.”
The Wang Theatre opened in 1925 as The Metropolitan Theatre. In comparison to the “Little Princess,” the Wang Theater was nicknamed the “Grand Dame.” The theater presented films, Vaudeville performances, and big band performances throughout its storied history. In the ‘60s, the theater was home to the Boston Ballet.
Emerson Colonial Theatre
The Emerson Colonial opened as The Colonial Theatre in 1900 and is the oldest, continually operating theater in Boston. Winston Churchill attended “Ben-Hur,” the theater’s inaugural production that featured horses on stage. The theater, now operated by Emerson College, reopened in 2018 with the pre-Broadway run of “Moulin Rouge!” after changing ownership.
The City of Brotherly Love is home to the Liberty Bell, the Declaration of Independence, and world-famous cheesesteaks. It’s also a great place to find entertainment. From enormous concert arenas to small theater spaces, be sure to check out Philly’s live entertainment offerings.
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
The Kimmel Center is a cultural hub. The venue has two performances spaces: Verizon Hall with 2,500 seats and the Perelman Theater with 650 seats. The Kimmel Center is home to the Philadelphia Orchestra, and programs jazz, pop, and classical music concerts seven days a week. The venue’s glass ceiling, which reaches 150 feet in height, is reason enough to pay a visit. “Hamilton” will be playing at the theater this fall.
Connecticut offers a reprieve from the glare of New York City. It’s a hotbed for the creation of new works — but it is close enough to the city that it shares the same resource and talent pool.
The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts
The Bushnell Center in Hartford, Connecticut, was built by Dotha Bushnell Hillyer in memory of her father Horace Bushnell. The Bushnell opened in 1930 and was designed by the same architects as Radio City Music Hall two years before the New York City landmark was constructed. The theater boasts the largest hand-painted ceiling mural in the United States by artist Barry Faulkner. Legendary performers who have made appearances here, include Judy Garland and Marlon Brando.
The Windy City has staked its claim as an imperative player of new musicals. With more than 300 theater companies, and a number of presenting houses for large-scale musicals, the theater scene in Chicago rivals New York.
Broadway in Chicago
Broadway in Chicago is a production company that operates five theaters: The CIBC Theatre, The Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, Cadillac Palace, James M. Nederlander Theatre, and the Auditorium Theatre. The Auditorium Theatre was built in 1889, and The Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, the latest addition to the group, opened in 2013. The productions presented at these theaters — which have included “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Hamilton” — have contributed to the revitalization of the city’s theater district.