Thursday, February 18, 2010

Broadway Theatres: The Old and the Beautiful, Part 3

In the first two parts of this series on the theatres of Broadway, I examined the 20 youngest houses currently in use.  Among the interesting facts I've found in researching these places so far is that the youngest, The Hilton, is really a conglomeration of two of Broadway's oldest.  And that during this country's lowest economic times, there was actually a boom in theatre construction.  Plays by Shakespeare and operettas by Gilbert and Sullivan are by far the most frequently produced.  And many many theatres have been repurposed to television studios and movie houses and repurposed back into legitimate use.

The last two statements are just as true about the 20 oldest theatres, as you will see.  But what special secrets do America's oldest and most famed playhouses hold in store?  We shall see.  Today's blog will cover theatres 20 - 11, as we get closer to the oldest theatre on Broadway.

20.  Imperial Theatre

Opened: December 25, 1923
Opening Production: Mary Jane McKane (a musical)
Current Tenant: Billy Elliot
Notable Productions: Fiddler on the Roof, Dreamgirls, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Pippin, They're Playing Our Song, Jerome Robbins' Broadway
Notable Flops: Chess, High Fidelity

19.  Nederlander Theatre

Opened: September 1, 1921 as the National; later named the Billy Rose, then the Trafalgar.  Became the Nederlander in 1980.
Opening Production: Swords
Current Tenant: Million Dollar Quartet
Notable Productions: RENT, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, The Little Foxes, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Notable Flops: The Neil Simon Plays, Wind in the Willows, Raggedy Ann, Dangerous Games, Solitary Confinement

18.  Walter Kerr Theatre

Opened: March 21, 1921 as the Ritz; became the Kerr in 1990
Opening Production: Mary Stuart/A Man About Town
Current Tenant: A Little Night Music
Notable Productions: Grey Gardens, Angels in America, Doubt, Proof, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Take Me Out, The Weir
Notable Flops: A Catered Affair, Chu Chem, Late Nite Comic, Seven Guitars, Gem of the Ocean

17.  The Music Box

Opened: February 22,1921
Opening Production: The Music Box Revue of 1921
Current Tenant: Lend Me a Tenor
Notable Productions: August: Osage County (transfer from the Imperial), Blood Brothers, A Few Good Men, Deathtrap, Closer, State Fair
Notable Flops: Duece, Superior Donuts, In My Life, Amour, Swinging on a Star

NOTE:  The Music Box and the Ambassador opened one day apart!

16.  Ambassador Theatre

Opened: February 21,1921
Opening Production: The Rose Girl (a musical)
Current Tenant: Chicago
Notable Productions: The Lion in Winter, Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk, revivals of Dreamgirls, Ain't Misbehavin', You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
Notable Flops: Leader of the Pack, Ride Down Mt. Morgan

15.  The American Airlines Theatre

Opened: October 2, 1918, as the Selwyn Theatre; reopened in 2000 as American Airlines Theatre, home of Roundabout Theatre Company
Opening Production: Information, Please
Current Tenant: Present Laughter
Notable Productions: The 39 Steps, Twelve Angry Men, revivals of Big River, Pajama Game, The Man Who Came to Dinner, The Women, The Royal Family
Notable Flops: After Miss Julie, Helen of Troy, New York, The Singing Rabbi

14.  Henry Miller's Theatre

Opened: April 1, 1918
Opening Production: The Fountain of Youth
Current Tenant: All About Me
Notable Productions: Cabaret (1997 revival), Urinetown: The Musical
Notable Flops: Bye Bye Birdie

13.  Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

Opened: October 10, 1917 as the Plymouth Theatre; renamed in 2005
Opening Production: A Successful Calamity
Current Tenant: A Behanding in Spokane
Notable Productions: Revivals of A Chorus Line, All My Sons; Passion, Jekyll and Hyde, The Odd Couple, Equus, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby
Notable Flops: Brooklyn, Thou Shalt Not, Runaways, Impressionism

12.  Broadhurst Theatre

Opened: September 27, 1917
Opening Production: Misalliance
Current Tenant: Enron
Notable Productions: 110 in the Shade, Fosse, Dancin', Broadway Bound, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The History Boys, The Tap Dance Kid, the revival of Les Miserables
Notable Flops: Getting Away with Murder, 70, Girls, 70, Lennon

11.  Booth Theatre

Opened: October 16, 1913
Opening Production: The Great Adventure
Current Tenant: next to normal
Notable Productions: The Pillowman, Sunday in the Park with George, Once on this Island, I'm Not Rappaport, Blithe Spirit, The Elephant Man, The Matchmaker, for colored girls..., Mass Appeal
Notable Flops: The Story of My Life, The Most Happy Fella (revival),

There you have the next ten oldest theatres, from the Imperial, which will turn 87 this year, to the Booth, which will turn 97!  And yes, there are 10 theatres still in use that are older.  In fact four of them are over 100 years old!

Comments?  Leave one here or write to me at

1 comment:

  1. I know this post is over three years old, but strictly speaking the Stephen Sondheim is the newest theatre on Broadway; the only thing it actually has in common with the old Henry Miller's is the facade. The entire lobby, auditorium, backstage areas, everything is new. it's not even the same physical space, as the new theatre is actually below where the old one was, lower than street level.

    Of course that means that the Sondheim has the most modern facilities available. With their other two (Studio 54 and the AA/Selwyn) being relatively recently renovated, Roundabout has some really good space to work with.


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