Day 4 – Broadway

“The Great White Way” is our focus today. Here’s the video, with another Bobby Short song, “Broadway.” (If you’re curious about the song’s background, I’ve put some details about it at the end of this post.)

After breakfast at another French restaurant on West 44th Street, Saju Bistro, Barbara roams through shops, while I head to the Shubert Archives, a theatrical research library on the second floor of the Lyceum Theatre on 46th Street in what was originally the lavish apartment of producer Daniel Frohman, who opened the theater in 1903. I first visited the Shubert Archives in 2016, early in my research for a biography of Fred Astaire. The gracious and knowledgeable curators opened their files, and I found a cornucopia of undocumented letters from Fred Astaire early in his Broadway career. After two full days there in 2017, I wrote an article, “Steps in Shubert Time: Fred Astaire in the Shubert Archives,” which the Archives published in 2018 in their “The Passing Show” newsletter. With so much interesting material and such wonderfully helpful archivists, I always try to spend at least a few hours here whenever I visit Manhattan.

After a morning at the Shubert Archives, it’s appropriate to go to Shubert Alley, just west of Broadway, between 44th and 45th Streets, connecting the Shuberts’ flagship theatre, the Sam S. Shubert, and the Booth. There’s an interesting tiny gift shop, One Shubert Alley. A bigger and more interesting store focused on Broadway is the Theatre Circle, farther west at 268 W. 44th St., which offers scripts, books on theatre history, posters, and much more.

We head back to Broadway and walk north to 52nd Street and gaze over at Rosie O’Grady’s Saloon and the Manhattan Club on the northwest corner of 52nd Street and Seventh Avenue. In 1925 this was the Club Trocadero, a fashionable night spot where Fred Astaire and his sister, Adele, danced each night after having already performed for two hours in the Gershwins’ Lady, Be Good! at the Liberty Theatre at 236 W. 42nd St.

Advertisement from “The New Yorker” May 2, 1925.

We then head back up Broadway to 54th Street and walk past the location of the old Ziegfeld Theatre, where the Astaires also once performed. Then it’s up to 55th Street and east to La Bonne Soupe, our favorite inexpensive Manhattan restaurant at 48 W. 55th St. We always savor their escargots and French onion soup and often indulge in a chocolate mousse for dessert.

After lunch we return to Broadway in time to pick up discount tickets at the TKTS booth at Duffy Square on 47th Street and Broadway. People watching as we wait in line is always fun. In the 1920s, this square was nicknamed the “Palace Beach” for the Palace Theatre across Seventh Avenue. Dozens of theatrical agents had offices in the floors atop vaudeville’s most famous theatre, and “at liberty” (out-of-work) performers would linger on the “beach” hoping to catch the eye of an agent or producer and snag a new billing.

After picking up our tickets, it’s back to the Algonquin for enjoying a scotch in the lobby, more people watching, and getting ready for tonight’s show.

Afterwards, we complete our day of Broadway nostalgia with a late dinner at Sardi’s. We always start with a Stinger, followed by a light dinner, and more people watching, as well as browsing the hundreds of classic star caricatures on the walls.

Today’s Song: “Broadway” from Bobby Short’s fantastic album, Songs of New York. The song was originally recorded by Count Basie in 1940. The song was written by Bill Bird, Teddy McCrae and William Henri Woode.

Today’s Drink: Stinger (Sardi’s)

Tonight’s Dish: French Onion Soup (La Bonne Soupe)

Tonight’s Movie: Love Is a Racket (which has scenes at Sardi’s)

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