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On this day in history, August 25, 1980, the Broadway musical ’42nd Street’ opens

On this day in history, Aug. 25, 1980, the musical “42nd Street” opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway.

The show — notable especially for New Yorkers — stands out for its focus on the heart of Manhattan. 

Well before that, in 1735, the first theater opened on Broadway in New York City. Since then, thousands of shows have delivered theatrical performances to audiences who have come from all over the world for the experience.

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The musical “42nd Street” was based on the 1933 Warner Brothers original film.

The audience watches as a small-town chorus girl rises to stardom after saving the show when the leading lady gets injured — prompting her to take the center stage spot, as Broadway.com noted. 

42nd Street Majestic Theatre

The Majestic Theatre on Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York, circa 1985. The theatre was staging a production of the musical “42nd Street.” (Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The original cast included Jerry Orbach as Julian Marsh, Tammy Grimes as leading lady Dorothy Brock, Wanda Richert as Peggy Sawyer and Lee Roy Reams as Billy Lawlor. 

Some of the most memorable songs from the musical included “We’re In The Money,” “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” and “Lullaby of Broadway,” according to Playbill.

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The show included music from the original film and was produced by David Merrick — who was well known for his work on “Hello, Dolly!” and “Travesties,” among others. 

42nd Street curtain call

American actor Jerry Orbach (right) and the cast of the Broadway musical “42nd Street” look on as the show’s producer, David Merrick (center), at the curtain call, announces that the show’s director, Gower Champion, died of a rare blood disease just hours earlier.  (Robin Platzer/Getty Images)

During the curtain call of Broadway’s first “42nd Street” performance, actors took the stage to bow when an unexpected announcement came. 

Merrick took to the stage to announce that the show’s director, Gower Champion, had died of a rare blood disease just hours earlier. 

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The cast appeared shocked in a photo that shows the somber moment. 

The show opened with its first performance at the Winter Garden Theatre in 1980 — winning a Tony Award in 1981 for Best Musical. (Gower Champion also won a Tony for Best Choreography for the show.)

The musical had a couple of different homes over its original eight-year run.

42nd street dancer auditions

David Merrick re-auditions young dancers (whom he first tried out in 1981) for his 1990 company of “42nd Street.”  (Getty Images)

The show moved from the Winter Garden (to make room for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cats”) to the Majestic Theatre in 1981; there, it ran until 1987. 

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After the show departed from the Majestic, that theater was renovated to house “The Phantom of the Opera,” which became home to that popular musical beginning in 1988 up through April 2023 — making it the longest-running musical on Broadway, according to the Majestic Theatre. 

42nd street in London

A sign in front of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London, England, advertises the American musical “42nd Street.” (Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

In 1987, “42nd Street” moved to the St. James Theatre, where it stayed until the last curtain call in 1989. 

After completing nearly 3,500 performances, “42nd Street” closed on Broadway, according to the Internet Broadway Database. 

That wasn’t the end for the showstopping musical, however.

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The tap dance-filled show had a Broadway revival in 2001 and performed over 1,500 times at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts — now known as the Lyric Theatre, according to Concord Theatricals. 

42nd street on tour

Artists perform during the musical “42nd Street” on Nov. 4, 2007 in Wuhan of Hubei Province, China. At the time, “42nd Street” was the second longest running American musical in Broadway history. (China Photos/Getty Images)

The revival then won the Tony Award for Best Revival in 2001 — and the show closed again in January 2005. 

Even then, the show lived on. 

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“42nd Street” has had many different revivals in other countries — including a tour in Asia, the United Kingdom, China and Germany. 

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