Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Broadway blazed into a brave new world, boosted, in part, by a chorus of diverse new voices and a collection of trenchant new tales. Many captured the social, cultural, and political pulse of the relative present, tackling timely subjects such as teen suicide, sexuality, systemic racism, and cultural identity. Others provided an invigorating escape. Of the many new developments to take place on the Main Stem at the dawn of the new millennium, one of the most noticeable involved the American musical. The extraordinary art form, whose own rich history remains intrinsically bound to that of the Broadway stage, took significant steps toward regaining its footing. Featuring an assortment of styles ranging from rap and hip-hop to rock and R&B, the best of the contemporary bunch successfully blended new stories, new themes, and new musical languages with the professionalism, craft, and theatrical composition that moved the fledgling form into maturity throughout the middle of the 20th century.
Meanwhile, where Broadway once originated the majority of its productions, supplying the country – indeed, the world – with some of the finest plays and musicals written for the stage, a sweeping change in the practice of producing, several years in the making, found the country – indeed, the world – fueling Broadway. The majority of its productions now originated at Off-Broadway establishments like Atlantic Theatre Company, New York Theatre Workshop, Playwrights Horizons, and the Vineyard Theatre; at regional outfits like American Repertory Theatre, Deaf West Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, and Steppenwolf Theatre Company; at international venues like the Donmar Warehouse and Théâtre du Châtelet. Though it may still signify only a select number of legitimate playhouses located within a clearly defined quadrant around Times Square, Broadway remains a national – indeed, a global – institution, one which is presently in the business of sprouting a dazzling array of theatrical seeds planted perhaps in your own backyard.
In 2007, the majority of theatres on Broadway went dark for nineteen days due to a stage hands strike that resulted from a labor dispute between the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the League of American Theatres and Producers. It became the third longest business-related blackout in Broadway history, following a month-long Actors’ Equity strike that shut down the Rialto in 1919 and a 25-day musicians strike that disrupted the musical stage in 1975.
In 2018, the transgender and genderqueer communities experienced a groundbreaking year on Broadway, including performances by Jess Barbagallo in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Alexandra Billings and Bianca Leigh in The Nap, Kate Bornstein and Ty Defoe in Straight White Men, and Peppermint in Head Over Heels. “If you put it in context,” Billings remarked, “it's sort of outrageous and it's about time. Now what we have to do is make sure that this is about momentum and not just a fluke.”
On March 12, 2020, Broadway was plunged into darkness due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though all performances were initially suspended for a period of 32 days, the devastating shutdown ultimately lasted more than fifteen months at a considerable personal, professional, and economic cost. The venerable thoroughfare was eventually reopened on June 26, 2021 with Springsteen on Broadway, but several of the productions that had either been running or scheduled to open never returned.