Shubert Theater

221 W 44th St New York

LGBT Theater District/Shubert Theater
NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project
Written By NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project

The first initiative to document historic and cultural sites associated with the LGBT community in New York City, illustrating the richness of the city's history and the community's influence on America.

History

The Shubert Theater is one of the Broadway theaters that has had the highest number of productions with LGBT associations, and a large number of these were hit plays. Enormous LGBT-associated hits here have been Kiss Me, Kate (1950-51, opened at the New Century Theater), with music and lyrics by Cole Porter (Best Musical and Best Composer and Lyricist Tony Awards), and with actor Harold Lang; Promises, Promises (1968-72), choreographed by Michael Bennett and Bob Avian; A Chorus Line (1975-90, opened Off-Broadway at the Public Theater) by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante (Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical Tony Awards), directed by Michael Bennett (Best Direction of a Musical Tony Award), with lyrics by Edward Kleban (Best Original Score Tony Award), choreographed by Bennett and Bob Avian (Best Choreography Tony Award), and with Sammy Williams (Best Featured Actor in a Musical Tony Award), who portrayed an openly gay Puerto Rican dancer; Crazy for You (1994-96), with costume design by William Ivey Long (Best Costume Design Tony Award); and Chicago (revival, 1997-2003, opened at the Richard Rodgers Theater – Best Revival of a Musical Tony Award) by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, with music and lyrics by John Kander and Ebb, scenic design by John Lee Beatty, costume design by William Ivey Long, and with actor Joel Grey.

Other big LGBT-associated hits at the Shubert have included The Philadelphia Story (1939-40) with Katharine Hepburn; By Jupiter (1942-43) by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, with lyrics by Hart, and costume design by Irene Sharaff; Bloomer Girl (1944-46), with costume design by Miles White, and with dancer James Mitchell; High Button Shoes (1947-48, opened at the New Century Theater), choreographed by Jerome Robbins (Choreographer Tony Award), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Miles White; Can-Can (1953-55), with music and lyrics by Cole Porter; Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1956, opened at the Belasco Theater), with scenic design by Oliver Smith; Bells Are Ringing (1956-58), choreographed by Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse, with scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du Bois, and with Judy Holliday (Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award); Take Me Along (1959-60), with production design by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Miles White, and with actor Walter Pidgeon; Bye Bye Birdie (1961, opened at the Martin Beck Theater) by Michael Stewart (Best Musical Tony Award), with costume design by Miles White, and with actors Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly; Oliver (1964, opened at the Imperial Theater), with book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart (Best Composer and Lyricist Tony Award); A Little Night Music (1973) by Hugh Wheeler (Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical Tony Awards), with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (Best Original Score Tony Award), and costume design by Florence Klotz (Best Costume Design Tony Award); and The Sunshine Boys (1973-74, opened at the Broadhurst Theater), with costume design by Albert Wolsky.

Shows by LGBT creators at the Shubert have also included Love o’Mike (1917), produced by Elisabeth Marbury and Lee Shubert, and with actor Clifton Webb; A Lonely Romeo (1919), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart and Robert B. Smith; Greenwich Village Follies of 1924 (1924-25), with music by Cole Porter, and lyrics by Porter and others; Padlocks of 1927, with costume design by Orry Kelly and others; The Furies (1928) by Zoe Akins, directed by George Cukor, and with actor Laurette Taylor; A Night in Venice (1929), with costume design by Erte, George Barbier, and Ernest Schrapps; The Street Singer (1929-30), a Busby Berkeley musical with costume design by Orry Kelly and George Barbier, and with actor Cesar Romero; Bitter Sweet (1930, opened at the Ziegfeld Theater), with book, music, lyrics, and staging by Noel Coward; Symphony in Two Flats (1930) by and with Ivor Novello; Gay Divorce (1933, opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theater), with music and lyrics by Cole Porter; Babes in Arms (1937) and I Married an Angel (1938-39) by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, with lyrics by Hart, the latter with actor Charles Walters; Higher and Higher (1940) and Pal Joey (1941, opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theater), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart, the latter with actor Van Johnson; Hold On to Your Hats (1940-41), with scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du Bois; Liberty Jones (1941), with music and lyrics by Paul Bowles, and scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du Bois; They Walk Alone (1941), with music by Benjamin Britten, and with actor Elsa Lanchester; The Doctor’s Dilemma (revival, 1941) and Candida (revival, 1942), staged by Guthrie McClintic, and with actor Katharine Cornell; My Romance (1948-49), staged by and book and lyrics by Rowland Leigh; Lend Me An Ear (1949, opened at the National Theater), with scenic, costume and lighting design by Raoul Pene Du Bois; Paint Your Wagon (1951-52), The Gay Life (1961-62), and Bajour (1964-65), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, the first with actor James Mitchell, and the latter with costume design by Freddy Wittop; The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd (1965), with costume design by Freddy Wittop, and with actor Cyril Ritchard; Ivanov (revival, 1966), directed by and with John Gielgud, with scenic and costume design by Rouben Ter-Arutunian; Seascape (1975) by Edward Albee (Pulitzer Prize for Drama); The Constant Wife (revival, 1975) by W. Somerset Maugham; and Big (1996), with costume design by William Ivey Long.

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LGBT performers at the Shubert have included Jeanne Eagels in The Great Pursuit (1916); Eva Le Gallienne in Mr. Lazarus (1916); the vaudeville team Bert Savoy & Jay Brennan in Greenwich Village Follies of 1920 (1920-21, opened at the Greenwich Theater) and Greenwich Village Follies of 1922; Emlyn Williams in And So to Bed (1927-28); Patsy Kelly in Harry Delmar’s Revels (1927-28); Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in Idiot’s Delight (1936), Amphitryon 38 (1937-38), The Seagull (revival, 1938), and I Know My Love (1949-50); Ethel Waters in Laugh Time (1943); Katharine Hepburn, Cyril Ritchard, and Robert Helpmann in The Millionairess (revival, 1952-53); and Harold Lang in I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1962).

Building Information

Architect or Builder: Henry B. Herts Year Built: 1912-13

Sources

“The 1st List of: Gay/Lesbian/Bi Industry People, Both in Front and Behind the Camera,” www.imdb.com, May 31, 2013. Adam Hetrick, “The Work of Broadway’s Gay and Lesbian Artistic Community Goes on Display Nov. 14 When the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation Gallery Presents ‘StageStruck: The Magic of Theatre Design’,” Playbill, Nov. 14, 2007. Internet Broadway Database. Shubert Theater Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1987).

Cover Photo

Credit: Sarah Sargent/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2019.

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