Saturday, February 27, 2010

Broadway Theatres: The Old and the Beautiful, Part IV

And finally, we arrive at the 10 oldest, currently in use, Broadway theatres.  And this bunch is certainly interesting.  By virtue of their famous tenants (Cats &/or Mamma Mia!, A Chorus Line, and Beauty and the Beast) it is likely you have been in at least one of three of these.  One of these, you would never recognize without the giant biilboard that obstructs the view of most of it.  One has a famous ghost trapped in apartment - and you thought Phantom was creepy!.  Another pair has offices with stage views, and one didn't start life as a theatre at all - it was a horse exchange!  Finally, there is a discrepancy over which one is really the oldest!

Here are the oldest theatres on Broadway.  Enjoy!

10.  Shubert Theatre

Opened: September 29,1913.  Named for Sam Shubert.  The Shubert Organization offices are here.

Opening Production: Othello
Current Tenant: Memphis
Notable Productions: A Chorus Line, A Little Night Music, Crazy for You, The Apple Tree, Wait Until Dark, Spamalot, Promises, Promises
Notable Flops: Big, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Musical, The Creation of the World and Other Business

9.  Longacre Theatre
Opened: May 1, 1913.  Named for its location on Longacre Square, today known as Times Square

Opening Production: Are You a Crook?
Current Tenant: La Cage aux Folles
Notable Productions: Ain't Misbehavin', Boeing Boeing, Children of a Lesser God
Notable Flops: Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1 performance), Well, The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm, Prymate (5 performances)

8.  Palace Theatre

Opened: March 24, 1913. There are offices at the very top of the building that includes a window looking out on the stage.

Opening Production: Miss Civilization (a play)
Current Tenant: West Side Story
Notable Productions: Legally Blonde, AIDA, Beauty and the Beast, Applause, George M!, Woman of the Year
Notable Flops: The Grand Tour, Home Sweet Homer, All Shook Up, Lestat

7.  Cort Theatre

Opened: December 20, 1912

Opening Production: Peg O' My Heart
Current Tenant: A View from the Bridge
Notable Productions: Sunrise at Campobello, The Magic Show, The Little Dog Laughed, Sarafina!, Ma Rainey's Balck Bottom
Notable Flops: Kat and the Kings, Bobbi Boland (never opened), The Green Bird, Hollywood Arms, Radio Golf

6.  Helen Hayes Theatre

Opened: March 12, 1912.  Spent most of its life at The Little Theatre or some variation of that name.  It is Broadway's smallest house, with 597 seats, depending on the show.  Became the Helen Hayes in 1983.

Opening Production: The Pigeon
Current Tenant: Next Fall
Notable Productions: Xanadu, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Defending the Caveman, Torch Song Trilogy, Romance/Romance, Dirty Blonde, Say Goodnight, Gracie
Notable Flops: Sally Marr...and Her Escorts, By Jeeves, Band in Berlin, Epic Proportions

5.  Winter Garden Theatre

Opened: March 10, 1911.  Started life as The American Horse Exchange!  And for decades most of the theatre facade has been coverd by billboards.

Opening Production: La Belle Paree
Current Tenant: Mamma Mia!
Notable Productions: Cats, Mame, West Side Story (original), Beatlemania, 42nd Street (original), Follies, Funny Girl
Notable Flops: Pacific Overtures, Zoot Suit, Comin' Uptown

4.  Lunt-Fontanne Theatre

Opened: January 10,1910.  Originally the Globe Theatre; renamed in 1958

Opening Production: The Old Town
Current Tenant: The Addams Family
Notable Productions: Titanic, The Sound of Music, transfers of Beauty and the Beast and Raisin, Little Me
Notable Flops: Smile, A Broadway Musical (1 performance), The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public (8 performances)

3.  Belasco Theatre

Opened: October 16, 1907 as the Styvesant Theatre; renamed Belasco Theatre in 1910.  David Belasco had a private apartment above the theatre, where he could watch performances from a small window.  His ghost has been seen many times in the theatre.

Opening Production: A Grand Army Man
Current Tenant: No current tenant.  Theatre is being rennovated
Notable Productions: Passing Strange, Joe Turner's Come and Gone (revival), Awake and Sing (revival), Oh! Calcutta!, Enchanted April, Journey's End
Notable Flops: Dracula, James Joyce's The Dead, American Buffalo (revival)

2.  Lyceum Theatre

Opened: November 2, 1903.  Claims to be the oldest theatre on Broadway.  It isn't.  But it is the oldest theatre on Broadway in continuous legitimate use.

Opening Production: The Proud Prince
Current Tenant: Looped
Notable Productions: I Am My Own Wife, Our Town, Is He Dead?, Steel Magnolias, [title of show]
Notable Flops: Is He Dead?, Steel Magnolias, [title of show]

1.  New Amsterdam Theatre

Opened: October 26, 1903.  It is the oldest Broadway theatre by 8 whole days!  It was, however almost exactly 60 years between productions - a revival of Othello opened and closed in January 1937.  King David reopened the theatre in May 1997.

Opening Production: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Current Tenant: Mary Poppins
Notable Productions: The Lion King, most of the Ziefeld Follies
Notable Flops: Apparently, Othello in 1937!

Comments?  Leave one here or email me at


  1. This is so cool!

    The Helen Hayes is definitely among my favorites. I saw The 39 Steps there last summer. It's cute and tiny. I wish I could have put it in my suitcase, taken it home and reassembled it in my backyard!

    Btw, the Belasco has a separate entrance for the orchestra, which used to be the "colored entrance."

  2. Love this series! Shouldn't Legally Blonde, Xanadu and Little Dog Laughed be listed as notable flops? None made their money back. Don't understand why Is He Dead is listed as both a notable production and a notable flop?

  3. Hey Infinity!

    Thanks for writing. Glad you enjoyed the series.

    As far as notable productions and notable flops goes: since so few shows actually make back their investment, I considered notable productions (as opposed to notable HITS) to be shows that had something about them that made them "stick out from the crowd." Maybe an award, a famous performance, or some impact on popular culture. In the case of Legally Blonde, I picked it because it was the first show ever televised in the US(on MTV no less) while it was still running. Xanadu might not have made its money back, but the show everyone said would close in previews ran for more than a year to critical acclaim and cemented Cheyenne Jackson as a true Broadway star. And I put Is He Dead? as both, kind of as a joke. But seriously, it was an important play because it was written by Mark Twain, but not uncovered (or produced) for nearly a century. I put it as a flop because its run, considering the cast, was sadly very short.

    I think there are shows that are hits simply because they make tons of money, not because they are necessarily great theatre; and I think that there are shows that are flops only because they lost money, but in many other ways are important shows.

    Keep reading, writing in, and spreading the word about the blog!


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