Our insider’s guide to Broadway

Nick Curtis on the best places to eat, drink and avoid in New York's theatreland


Tom Stoppard once told me that New York made him feel small, and I know how he feels. I saw my first Broadway show at the age of 16 on a school exchange visit (the original production of Dreamgirls, since you ask), and have been back many times since, but only now, three decades on, do I feel I’ve got a handle on New York’s theatre district and on the wider mosaic that is Manhattan.

My visit before this year’s 70th Tony Awards (on 12th June) was to see Christopher Wheeldon’s airy, scintillating staging of the Gershwins’ An American in Paris, which comes to London in March next year. On impulse I also went to David Harrower’s troubling Blackbird at the Belasco, in which Michelle Williams acted her fellow Tony nominee Jeff Daniels off the stage.

Unless you are one of those completists who has to see Les Mis in every world capital, trips to Broadway should be used to take a punt on a play not yet seen in London (such as The Humans, which, by the time you read this, could have won the Best Play Tony), catch an exciting star on stage, or bag a show that’s due to transfer to the UK so you can boast about it in advance. If you haven’t pre-booked an itinerary, see what is available on the day either direct from theatres or through the TKTS Booth in Times Square, rather than through an agent or online (seats for the sold-out smash hit Hamilton are trading from $650 on Stubhub). 

Times Square

Next tip: forget about a sit-down, pre-show supper. With many curtains going up at 7pm, you are likely to be hurried, harried and plagued by indigestion, even if you do manage to get into a coveted Broadway joint rather than a tourist trap for a 5.30 table. (Though obsequious, service in New York remains painfully slow.) Instead, get out of Times Square for a relaxed lunch at one of the city’s better restaurants – Daniel Boulud’s Daniel in Lenox Hill, Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern in the Flatiron district, or Marcus Samuelsson’s zingy Red Rooster in Harlem. Then, before showtime, grab a bagel or a Reuben sandwich at one of the theatre district’s many delicatessens, a grade of eatery that New York does better than fine dining. The Times Deli Café and the Star Lite Deli, either side of Broadway on 44th St, both fit the bill.

What about those pre- and post-show drinks? I used to favour Sardi’s for its old-school charm and showbiz caricatures, but was disappointed by both my martini and the atmos- phere on my last visit. Lantern’s Keep at the Iroquois Hotel on 44th St is charming but tiny: if it’s full, try the Blue Bar at the Algonquin two doors down and invoke the spirits of its legend- ary regulars, writers Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woollcott. The Rum House on 47th St is sumptuous, the Lambs Club at the Chatwal on 44th theatrical, but for views try Bar 54 at the top of the Hyatt Hotel on 45th St. If, however, you just want to kick back with a beer or a boilermaker, Jimmy’s Corner is a frill-free but friendly paean to boxing.

Finally, even if your afternoon is taken up with a matinee, use your mornings for New York experiences that are genuinely worthwhile. The new Whitney Museum of American Art is dazzling, having moved from the Upper East Side to the Meatpacking District at the end of the ever-beguiling raised park-cum-walkway, the High Line. For panoramic views, ascend to Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. For my money, the Circle Line Ferry tour right around Manhattan is a great way of putting Manhattan’s history, height, geography and greenery in perspective.

Good luck. Or should I say, break a leg…

Rather catch a play closer to home? You can book West End tickets from the Radio Times box office


Explore the side streets off Broadway

Make time to go uptown and downtown

Remember that most Broadway shows play Tuesday to Saturday

Walk or take the subway

Visit Grand Central Station – it takes the breath away

Grand Central Station


Take loads of selfies with the advertising hoardings on Times Square

Pay the man with the sign reading “give me a dollar or I’m voting for Trump”

Eat anything from a hot-dog cart

Bother taking cabs or buses

Visit the Empire State Building – it takes ages

Elaine Paige presents highlights of the 2016 Tony Awards on Friday 17 June at 8pm on Radio 2