Regarding New York City theatre shows, there are countless options to choose from. But what differentiates a Broadway show from an Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway production? The answer is surprisingly simple and has to do with seating capacity.
What are Broadway and Off Broadway Theatre?
The term “Broadway” has come to mean many things to the general public, from a glitzy, expensive production that features the latest in Broadway star power and dazzling special effects to a high-quality, artistically rich, and historically significant piece of theatre.
Off-Broadway theatre refers to theatrical productions performed in smaller venues in New York City, typically outside the main Broadway theatre district. Off-Broadway shows are characterized by intimate settings, smaller budgets, and more experimental or unconventional content.
Location and Venue Size
Broadway shows are held in a specific set of theatres located throughout Manhattan that must be certified by The Broadway League. This is the industry’s trade association that oversees Broadway productions and gives out awards to the best of them every year.
Broadway plays, and musicals must also have 500 seats or more to earn the coveted moniker, so theatres that hold less than this number are considered Off-Broadway.
This means that you can find exciting, award-worthy shows at a variety of different venues throughout NYC.
When it comes to Off-Broadway, it is often associated with lower production values, simpler sets, a more limited number of musicians in musicals, and sometimes a darker or more avant-garde tone. These shows are performed in theatres throughout Manhattan but not necessarily on Broadway. The venues are typically smaller, with seating capacities ranging from 100 to 499 seats.
Production Scale and Budget
Broadway shows typically have larger budgets and higher production values than other musicals and plays in NYC, allowing them to attract bigger stars and adapt works from film and literature that may be difficult or expensive to procure for smaller venues.
On the other hand, Off-Broadway shows are generally more intimate and have smaller production budgets than Broadway. They focus more on theatre’s artistic and creative aspects, often relying on innovative storytelling and strong performances rather than lavish production values. If you are looking for a great deal, you can catch an Off-Broadway play or musical at a lower price than a Broadway one.
Commercial Success and Popularity
Broadway shows are typically more commercially oriented and aim for mainstream success. They often feature well-known actors, established directors, and familiar titles or adaptations. Broadway shows have a higher potential for generating substantial revenue and attracting a wider audience, including tourists.
However, Off-Broadway shows are usually more experimental, avant-garde, or niche-oriented. They often explore new theatrical forms, tackle unconventional subjects, and offer more artistically challenging experiences. While some Off-Broadway shows gain popularity and transfer to Broadway, many focus on critical acclaim and artistic integrity rather than commercial success.
It is important to note that some shows may transition from Off-Broadway to Broadway or vice versa based on their success, critical acclaim, or financial considerations. The categorization as Broadway or Off-Broadway primarily differentiates the shows based on venue size, production scale, and commercial orientation.