Monday, June 2, 2014

Experiencing Broadway up close -- ghost stories and all

I’m still high from Saturday’s Broadway Up Close walking tour of the theatre district. It’s two hours of fun, fascinating stories and in-depth histories of the theatres and the productions and actors who played —and sometimes haunted — them.

Broadway Up Close Walking Tours was started as a germ of an idea four years ago by actor Tim Dolan. While touring the country in a small bus and truck production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Tim was fascinated by the ghost stories and legends told by local stagehands at different vaudeville and touring houses each night.

When he moved back to New York City after the tour, he started to explore the history and legends that have taken place in the current 40 Broadway theatres. He did extensive research about the history of the theatres and Broadway of long ago, and has transformed this information into fascinating stories, making them come alive even more with historical photos from The Museum of the City of New York that he shows on his iPad.

Tim is loaded with personality and a born storyteller. He clearly loves what he does and I could have listened to him all day. He’s unearthed fantastic stories from more than a century ago. With his insider knowledge and experience of theatre life today, he adds to those stories backstage looks into the inner workings of the lives of actors, stage managers and other theatre professionals, creating a comprehensive tour that changes the way even a seasoned theatre writer like myself experiences the theatre district.

His hard work and enthusiasm have paid off. In the past four years Broadway Up Close has expanded from just Tim to a staff of 12 highly passionate tour guides. Their cumulative experience encompasses Broadway, Off-Broadway, national tours, regional theatre, film and television, both onstage as well as behind the scenes. In addition to their work in the theatre each is a licensed by the city of New York as a tour guide.  And Broadway Up Close is now the third highest rated tour of NYC out of 481 activities on

An added bonus at the end of each tour is a group photo Tim takes of everyone with Times Square as a backdrop. It’s a nice visual souvenir of a great time. That’s me in the sunglasses and hat behind David Sheward, with Tim on the left in the kelly T-shirt.

I want to take this tour again, as well as Act II, which moves north from where we stopped at the Belasco on West 44th (we started in front of the Nederlander on West 41st.). This fall Broadway Up Close will launch Act III, which will journey even farther north. I want to be on that one too! For details, check out Broadway Up Close Walking Tours and visit them on Facebook.

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