Despite Recession, Broadway Booming

A scene from the revival of the musical "West Side Story"
A scene from the revival of the musical "West Side Story"; Broadway

In Manhattan's Times Square, the lines wrap back and forth and around the block for discount theater tickets.

"We were her about an hour and a half, two hours ago," said newlyweds Alicia Wilson and Adam Wilson of Portland, Maine.

The nation may be in a recession but Broadway is booming.

"Every show we have been to has been full," said Lisa Langford of Sacramento, California. "Not a single seat in the house."

The musical revival of "West Side Story" grossed an unexpected $2 million in its first two weeks.

It's surprising because just a few months ago, the lights seemed to be dimming on Broadway. More than a dozen shows closed in January alone. But now, the great white way is shining brighter than ever - with 43 new productions opening this season, the most since the early 80's.

"We have a lot of good shows and we have a lot of big stars, probably more big stars than I can remember in a long time," said one theatergoer.

It has helped Broadway pull in $713 million so far this season, about $30 million more than this point last season. Tonight, a special burst of star power - the president and first lady are paying Broadway a visit.

"Joe Turner's Come and Gone" is the show the Obamas are attending tonight. Written by one of the nation's most influential black playwrights, it focuses on life in America, after slavery.

"This is a serious play, for serious theatergoers," said Adam Feldman of Time Out New York. "He's not going to a big glitzy musical and I think that does send a message - sends a message that that is what is important right now."

But for some, what's important, is escape.

"It's a way to forget all your troubles," said Andrew Rivers of Washington, D.C.

A way that ensures the shows must go on.