Theatre performances in New York can be traced back nearly to the time of the first colonists in the late 1600s. Record keeping at that time was pretty much nonexistent of course. The first actual stage shows could have taken place starting in 1696 at a coffee shop just south of Trinity Church called The King’s Arms. The first real documentation of theatrics on Broadway occurred in 1732. A group of London actors took over the second floor of a building near Maiden Lane and Pearl Street. They performed a comedy play on December 6, 1732 called The Recruiting Officer. Just look what they started.
More recently, the early 1900s brought electricity to advertisement signs on Broadway. Traffic stopping and eye popping signs gave the area a new nickname: “The Great White Way”. Broadway business peaked in 1927 with more than 70 theatres running. Things were going well until the Great Depression. At that point most people stayed home, that is, if they had a home. Things got a bit better in the 1940s, especially when the show Oklahoma came in 1943. The 1980s brought mega-musicals including Cats and Les Miserables. Currently Broadway is still a prime tourist attraction.