On the ‘final’ performance of Avenue Q this past September 13th, Kevin McCollum, the show’s producer, announced it would be re-opening Off-Broadway on October 9th. As promised, the show will present its first performance at the New World Stages this Friday. Playbill noted in a September article that this transition of a Broadway show to an Off-Broadway theater is unprecedented. But what’s the difference, anyway? Read on and we’ll go through the formal and informal factors that decide whether a show qualifies for Broadway or Off-Broadway.
Over time Broadway developed authorities which distinguished differences between theaters. The League of New York Theatres and Producers, now known as the Broadway League, was created in 1930. The league serves as the official trade association for the commercial theatre industry. In 1939, a group of women involved in theater created the American Theatre Wing, which later went on to give the first Tony Awards in 1947. The name ‘Tony’ actually comes from the name of one of the association’s co-founders, Antoinette Perry. The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing co-present the Tony Awards each year. The organizations deem certain theaters eligible, and therefore they appear on the Broadway box-office charts and are generally considered to be a part of Broadway.
Off-Broadway has its own League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers, founded in 1959 to establish an Off-Broadway theatre community. Its Board of Directors established the Lucille Lortel Awards in 1986, and eligible shows and theaters are considered Off-Broadway.
Other factors also decide the categorization of a show. The League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers require member theaters to seat between 99 and 499 people, and thus most theaters that seat 500 or more people qualify as Broadway. Exceptions include large theaters that often present music or dance shows in place of pure theatre, such as Carnegie Hall.
Don’t worry, though. Just because Avenue Q is moving Off-Broadway, and therefore to a smaller theater with fewer seats, does not mean that Applause can no longer get you tickets!