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The Golden Age of Broadway

Primary Source Set

Tucked into the enormous metropolis of Manhattan is a street with approximately forty theaters that contain 500 or more seats: Broadway. A name synonymous with “theater,” Broadway has always been a place where societal norms and boundaries are reflected and, in many cases, pushed to their limits. The “golden age” of Broadway was no exception. The period of the 1940s and 1950s was a tumultuous period in American history: The role of women was shifting, people were becoming more open to new styles of music, dance, art, and architecture, and World War II affected virtually every aspect of American culture. On Broadway things were changing as well. A new form of theater, the musical, was emerging as a force to be reckoned with under Rodgers and Hammerstein and other trailblazers in this new form. Whether sharing a memorable moment through a ballad or offering a comical interlude to lighten a serious topic, the musical was reshaping the way Americans saw theater and, in turn, themselves. As Americans witnessed the issues of their time on stage, they were able to see firsthand how times were changing throughout this “golden age” of Broadway.

Additional resources for research

  1. Internet Broadway Database, The Broadway League.
  2. 1943-1959: Golden Age timeline, PBS.
  3. History of the Theater District, Spotlight on Broadway.

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