History Of The Ambassador Theatre On Broadway

History Of The Ambassador Theatre On Broadway

Feature Photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

History Of The Ambassador Theatre On Broadway looks at a theatre built during
post World War I construction in New York. After World War I, the Shubert brothers planned to build six theaters north of Times Square on West 48th and 49th Streets. The Ambassador Theatre was the first of the four that were built. Situated at 219 West 49th Street, it has seen its fair share of struggles. Despite that, it has survived into modern times, which isn’t true for some of its contemporaries. Just three of the four theaters that were built still exist. Furthermore, the Ambassador Theatre is the only one still operated by the Shubert Organization.

The Shubert Brothers’ Continuing Expansion in the 1920s

The Shubert Brothers headed to New York City at the start of the 20th century. In those times, American theater was still dominated by the Theatrical Syndicate. However, it wasn’t too long before the Shubert brothers broke its hold before proceeding to replace it.

With that said, the Shubert Brothers didn’t rise to the top by being complacent. They were still expanding their collection of theaters in New York City and beyond at a blinding pace in the late 1910s and early 1920s. For proof, look no further than the fact that they had just purchased the Century Theatre in 1920 before revealing their intent to build another six theaters in the same year. Three of the four were ready for use in 1921, while the fourth was ready for use in 1925. Indeed, the Shubert Brothers had the Ambassador Theatre built in just 82 days, thus breaking the record for the fastest construction of a theater building in those times.

The rise of the Shubert Brothers ensured the rise of the architect Herbert Krapp. He designed a dozen theaters around Times Square for his clients over the same number of years from 1916 to 1928, which isn’t even mentioning his work for them elsewhere. Chances are good interested individuals can guess the Ambassador Theatre was one of those dozen theaters. It stands out in a couple of ways. First, its facade was ornamented using patterned brick and nothing but patterned brick. Second, its hexagonal-shaped auditorium has a diagonal orientation to increase its seating capacity, which was necessary because of its small lot size. It isn’t clear why these things happened. The speculation is that funding was tight in those times, which wouldn’t be that surprising considering the Shubert brothers’ rate of expansion.

Original Broadway Run

In any case, the Ambassador Theatre opened with The Rose Girl in 1921. Soon enough, it had its first hit with the operetta Blossom Time, which ran for 516 performances. The Ambassador Theatre went on to see other successes such as Queen High in 1926 and Night of January 16th in 1935. Unfortunately, its other shows in the 1920s and 1930s saw less encouraging results for the most part. That was a huge problem because the Great Depression started in 1929, which put enormous pressure on theaters and the companies that owned theaters to perform well. Eventually, the Shubert brothers put the Ambassador Theatre up for sale in 1935, though they retained a lease on it for a time.

The In-Between Years

As such, the Ambassador Theatre saw various uses from the late 1930s to the mid-1950s. Some of these uses were non-theatrical. For example, CBS once used the building as a broadcast studio. Likewise, Cummins Pictures once used the building as a film studio. However, the Ambassador Theatre also saw some theatrical uses in that period. It lost its license because the revue Wine, Women, and Song violated ordinances against obscenities in 1942, but it managed to reclaim its license in 1943. From the mid-1940s to the mid-1950s, the Ambassador Theatre saw use for everything from radio and TV to the showing of foreign movies.

Its Subsequent Broadway Run

By 1956, the Shubert Organization was in a position to make the Ambassador Theatre a Broadway theater once more. Subsequently, it reopened with a comedy called Loud Red Patrick. Like before, it saw somewhat mixed results. Certainly, it had its successes. For instance, The Diary of Anne Frank ran for a total of 717 performances at the Cort Theatre and then at the Ambassador Theatre. Moreover, it claimed a Tony Award, a Pulitzer Prize, and a New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1956. Likewise, the Ambassador Theatre hosted the transfer Stop the World – I Want to Get Off in 1963 and You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running in 1969. Still, its other shows tended to be less notable.

In the 1980s, the Ambassador Theatre entered the news because of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Committee’s efforts to preserve Broadway theaters. The latter designated both the theater’s exterior and interior as landmarks in 1985, which was met with considerable disgruntlement from the Shubert Organization. As a partial concession, the New York City Board of Estimate ratified the designation for the theater’s interior because it had both cultural and architectural significance but refused to ratify the designation for the theater’s exterior because it only had cultural significance.

Later, the Ambassador Theatre entered the news in the early 1990s because of the death of the actress Colleen Dewhurst in 1991. Essentially, she had long been associated with the playwright Eugene O’Neil. Since the Ambassador Theatre was situated so close to the Eugene O’Neil Theatre, some people thought it would be very fitting for it to receive a rename. That never happened.

Meanwhile, the Ambassador Theatre continued in much the same manner as always. Its last show of the 1980s was The Circle, which ran for 208 performances. After that, the Ambassador Theatre hosted no legitimate shows for five years. Fortunately, it would have a huge hit with Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk, which ran for 1135 performances after moving there from off-Broadway in 1996. Subsequently, the Ambassador Theatre would host a small number of shows from the late 1990s to the early 2000s before securing Chicago in 2003.


The current Broadway production of Chicago is a revival that started in 1996. Initially, it was hosted at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, the same venue that had hosted the original Broadway production. Later, it transferred to the Shubert Theatre in 1997 and then to the Ambassador Theatre in 2003. Chicago is still ongoing as of 2022. It has had more than 10,000 performances, thus enabling it to claim several distinctions. For example, it is the longest-running revival on Broadway. Similarly, it is the longest-running show to premiere on Broadway. With that said, it remains to be seen whether Chicago will ever overtake The Phantom of the Opera, which is set to finish its three-and-a-half-decades-long run in early 2023.


Bloom, Ken. Broadway: Its History, People, and Places: An Encyclopedia. New York: Routledge, 2004.

Jackson, Kenneth T. The Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011.

Haskell, David. The Encyclopedia of New York. New York: Avid Reader Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2020.



History Of The Ambassador Theatre On Broadway ClassicNewYorkHistory.com ©2022

ClassicNewYorkHistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business or any organizations is allowed to republish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission. 

DMCA.com Protection Status

NYC's IBM Building
History of NYC’s IBM Building (590 Madison Avenue)
New York's Vineyards and Wine Making History
New York’s Vineyards And Wine Making History
Naming Gotham Book Review
Naming Gotham: Who Does New York City Honor, and Why?
Amityville House
History Of The Amityville Horror House
The Transformation From City Life To Suburbia For A Teen In The 1970s
Laura Nyro
A Look At The Carrer Of Bronx Born Songwriter Laura Nyro
George Santos Saga
The Saga Of George Santos And His Disinformation Campaign
History Of The Shubert Brothers And Shubert Organization
History Of The Shubert Brothers And Shubert Organization
The Nightmare Of The Long Island To New York City LIE Commute
The Nightmare Of The Long Island To New York City LIE Commute
My Experience Taking A Greyhound From NYC To Plattsburgh
My Experience Taking A Greyhound From NYC To Plattsburgh
New York State Thruway Rest Stops
Visiting The Just Opened New York State Thruway Rest Stops
Citi Bike
Is Riding A Citi Bike In NYC Safer Than Riding A Personal Bicycle?
Dakota Building History
The Dakota Building: New York’s Most Exclusive Address
St. James General Store
The Wonder And History Of The St. James General Store
History Of New York's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
History Of New York’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
Rockefeller Center's Top Of The Rock
History And Attractions Of Rockefeller Center’s Top Of The Rock
History Of TSS Stores (Times Square Stores) In NY
History Of TSS Stores (Times Square Stores) In NY
History Of Loehmann's Department Stores
History Of Loehmann’s Department Stores
History Of Sears, Roebuck and Co.
History Of Sears, Roebuck and Co.
Bonwit Teller Department Stores
History Of New York’s Bonwit Teller Department Stores
Michael R. Virgintino Releases His Second Book On Freedomland U.S.A.
Jet's Curse
Jet’s Curse Storms Into Stadium Swallowing Aaron Rodgers
New York Mets Trade Max Scherzer to Texas Rangers
New York Mets Trade Max Scherzer to Texas Rangers
Covid-19 Vaccine In NYC
Describing The Experience Of Getting The COVID-19 Vaccine In NYC