Wednesday, March 29, 2023

We all know that Broadway is a centuries-old institution. Do you know when the first theater was opened? In 1750! It was located on Nassau Street and was ran by Thomas Kean and Walter Murray. The venue had 280 seats and was gave the stage to Shakespearian plays and ballad operas. Then, after the Revolutionary War, the Park Theater was opened with its 2,000 seats. These are all pretty old venues, but who are the оldest active theaters on Broadway? Let’s find out!

The Belasco Theatre, 1907

And we kick-off our list with a haunted venue. Yes, the legend says that it was haunted by the ghost of David Belasco – producer, director, and playwright. But don’t worry, rumors have it that he was driven away with 1971’s production of “Oh! Calcutta!”. Another rumor is that it was scared off by Marlon Brando, and I personally believe in this rumor, after all – this is The Godfather. 

The Belasco was one of the technological and architectural masterpieces of its time, with its advanced lighting and mixture of Churrigueresque, Spanish Renaissance, Moorish, and Gothic architecture.

The venue has 1,016 seats and through the years has seen notable plays like Network, Golden Boy, and American Buffalo. The last show held there was Girl from the North Country.

The New Amsterdam Theatre, 1903

This Art Nouveau venue was the biggest on Broadway by the time of its construction, accommodating up to 1,702 viewers. It was also able to two performance spaces. 

The New Amsterdam worked as a movie theater from the late ’30s to 1985 when it was bought by Disney, becoming their flagship theater. It gained huge renown as being the first home of “The Lion King”, and currently presents “Aladdin”

The Hudson Theatre, 1903

Yet another architecture masterpiece, the Hudson Theatre was famous for its lobby and the glass ceiling made by Tiffany. The interior of the theater also features classical plaster ornamentation and concealed lighting effects.

The Hudson Theatre switched a lot of purposes through the years. It was used as a radio, a TV studio, and even an adult cinema (not the only theatre with this “fate”). It was converted into a theatre back in 2015, and since then has hosted plays like Burn This, Sea Wall/A Life, American Utopia, and is expected to host Plaza Suite starring Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker.

The Lyceum Theatre, 1903

I guess 1903 was a great year for Broadway. A curious fact about the Lyceum is that theatrical producer David Frohman owned a penthouse apartment with a view towards the stage. He used the small window to wave a white handkerchief to his wife – actress Margaret Illington when she was overacting.

Another fact about the Lyceum is that this is its original name, making it one of the few that never changed the name. Notable productions played there are Liza with a Z”, “Steel Magnolias”, “Oh, Hello”, “Be More Chill”, A Christmas Carol, and Sing Street.

New Victory Theater (1900)

An off-Broadway venue due to its capacity of just 499. New Victory Theater is the oldest active venue and a worthy one of the name “Temple of Melpomene”. When it first opened it had a stunning interior featuring marble stairways, carved balustrades, and a gilded dome. An orchestra pit, a modern stage, and a new lighting system were later added in the 1920s and even once featured a roof garden. The theater’s facade is identifiable by its grand staircase and ornate lampposts. 

The New Victory didn’t have a glorious fate throughout the years. It served as a burlesque house, and then as an adult cinema. However, it was renovated in 1995 as a part of the large-scale revitalization of the area. It is now managed by New 42nd Street as a non-profit which puts on plays year-round for young audiences.

Broadway is the capital of musical theater and has been one for centuries. The оldest active theaters on Broadway prove it. I am sure that it will outlast the current situation and will return in 2021st stronger than ever. 

Are the oldest active theaters on Broadway among the biggest? Do they present the best comedies? Or the best jukebox musical?

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