By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you needed any proof that Broadway is still going strong, the Broadway show “Hamilton” is on pace to eventually generate $1 billion in sales. Hamilton and other shows continue to be New York destinations.

So how did Broadway get started? Good Question.

Ron Perrier is a retired St. Cloud State theater and film professor, who also happens to be a Broadway Superfan.

“You’ve got the best actors, the best directors. You can hear your audience breathing. You can feel their response. And there’s nothing like it,” he said.

Perrier has travelled from Minnesota to New York to see more than 200 Broadway shows.

“Rarely do you see a dud. Because a dud show just doesn’t run long,” he said.

That’s one reason Broadway has lasted as long as it has. Broadway, the street, was built in the early 1800s and was known for retail, but by the 1920s and 1930s, busy retail had attracted opportunistic theater, and Broadway evolved from shopping to show time.

Tim Weil is the Musical Director for “South Pacific” at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

“From the early Jerome Kern musicals, Showboat, and then on through, and it’s still there today,” he said.

Weil held that same title in New York for the hit Broadway show “Rent,” 20 years ago.

“It, much like Hamilton, is doing now, was kind of revolutionary for its time,” Weil said.

Hamilton is being called a “Hip Hopera,” a musical that combines hip hop with the story of our Founding Fathers. Weil’s friend Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and stars in the show.

“He’s brilliant. He’s one of those once-in-a-generation guys. He’s something else,” Weil said.

Catchy acting and lyrics performed live have built Broadway over time.

There’s no redo on the Broadway stage. Popularity hasn’t changed much over the years, but ticket prices definitely have.

“You can spend as little as $250-$300 for a family of four, but as much as $2,000 without even blinking,” Weil said.

Broadway was originally on the southern part of Manhattan, but it’s epicenter is now between 42nd and 45th Streets. The cheaper, smaller theaters are called off-Broadway theaters.

There are about 40 Broadway theaters in all.

Experts say Minneapolis has the most theaters per capita in the United States.

John Lauritsen

Comments