No, there is no Broadway in Hawaii. Broadway refers to the theater district in New York City that is famous for staging large production musicals and plays. Hawaii is a state located in the Pacific Ocean, far from New York City, and does not have a Broadway district. However, Hawaii does have live theater performances and productions, just not on the same grand scale as Broadway in NYC.
What is Broadway?
Broadway is a street in the New York City borough of Manhattan that is synonymous with theater performances in the United States. The term “Broadway” refers to the Broadway theater district that stretches from West 40th Street to West 54th Street and from 6th Avenue to 8th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. This area contains 40 professional theaters that seat 500 or more people. Some of the most famous and iconic theaters located here include:
- The Nederlander Theatre
- The Gershwin Theatre
- The Majestic Theatre
- The Winter Garden Theatre
- The Imperial Theatre
Broadway productions are stage musicals and plays that are performed in these large theaters. Broadway shows are considered the highest level of commercial theater in the US and are the pinnacle of achievement in American theater. Broadway productions feature elaborate sets, costumes, music, and star actors. Some of the most famous Broadway musicals include hits like The Lion King, Wicked, Hamilton, The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Rent, and Les Miserables. Broadway plays include works by legendary playwrights such as Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller.
History of Broadway
Broadway became a theater district in the early 1900s. At the beginning of the 20th century, most theater was centered around Midtown Manhattan between Herald Square and Union Square. In the late 1890s, the first theaters were built along Broadway between 38th and 42nd Streets, sparking the northward expansion of the theater district. This Broadway section was deemed the “Rialto” after the famous entertainment district in Venice. Eventually as more prestigious theaters opened further north along Broadway through the 1900s, the district shifted uptown. The establishment of the Theater District solidified Broadway’s status as the heart of American theater.
Importance of Broadway
Broadway is considered the pinnacle of commercial American theater. Broadway shows are the most economically successful and popular theater productions in the US. The term “Broadway show” has become synonymous with the biggest and most glamorous musicals and plays in the country. Successful Broadway shows and their songs become embedded in American pop culture. Broadway is also an important tourist attraction, bringing in visitors from around the world who want to see a Broadway show in NYC. The economic impact is huge, generating over $14 billion for NYC annually.
Theater in Hawaii
While Hawaii does not have a Broadway district, the state does have vibrant local theater. There are professional, community, educational, and amateur theater companies that perform plays and musicals in Hawaii.
Professional Theater in Hawaii
Some of the professional and semi-professional theater companies in Hawaii include:
- Hawaii Shakespeare Festival – Performs plays by Shakespeare and other classics at locations around Oahu.
- Manoa Valley Theatre – Honolulu’s Off-Broadway theater company staging diverse productions.
- Diamond Head Theatre – Community theater performing a mix of popular plays and musicals in Honolulu.
- Kumu Kahua Theatre – Dedicated to plays by Hawai’i authors telling local stories.
- Paliku Theatre – Professional experimental theater in Windward O’ahu.
While not Broadway-level productions, these theater companies provide high quality local theater with paid actors, directors, and staff. The productions range from Hawaiian stories to contemporary comedies and dramas.
There are also many vibrant community theaters around the islands that rely on volunteer performers and crew. Some of the biggest community theaters in Hawaii include:
- Leeward Theatre – Stages 4 large-scale musicals annually on Oahu.
- Mapuana de Silva’s Hale Mua – Hawaiian performance group on Maui.
- Aloha Theatre – Long-running community theater on Kauai.
These groups allow Hawaii residents to actively participate in theater productions. The shows include comedies, dramas, musicals, and programs celebrating Hawaiian culture.
University Theater Programs
The theater programs at Hawaii’s universities and colleges also stage excellent productions for the public. Notable programs include:
- University of Hawaii at Manoa Theatre Department – Produces 6 mainstage shows annually.
- Chaminade University Theatre Program – Puts on musicals, plays, and original works in Honolulu.
- Hawaii Pacific University Theatre – Stages productions in downtown Honolulu.
These university-level theater programs cultivate talent locally and some alumni go on to careers in theater and Broadway.
Many hotels and resorts in Hawaii also offer luau dinner shows incorporating Polynesian dance and music. These outdoor amphitheater shows provide lively entertainment for visitors throughout the islands.
While Hawaii does not have a Broadway district, the state does have an active and enthusiastic local theater scene. From professional regional theater to university programs, Hawaii residents have ample opportunities to experience quality productions without leaving the islands. And the state’s outdoor luau shows incorporate Hawaiian culture and history into nightly performances for tourists. So while the bright lights of Broadway are far away, Hawaii has developed diverse, vibrant local theater traditions throughout each island. The aloha spirit is shared on stages statewide, showcasing Hawaiian stories and reflecting the islands’ unique cultural heritage.