History Of The Broadhurst Theatre On Broadway

History Of The Broadhurst Theatre On Broadway

Feature Photo: lev radin / Shutterstock.com

The Broadhurst Theatre at 235 West 44th Street looks like the Schoenfeld Theatre at 236 West 44th Street. That is no coincidence. The Shubert brothers built the two theaters in response to the success of the Shubert Theatre and the Booth Theatre, meaning they came into existence in more-or-less the same period because of more-or-less the same decisions. Still, the Broadhurst Theatre has since more than managed to distinguish itself from its sibling theater, not least because it has hosted some of the most famous Broadway shows ever produced.

Building the Broadhurst Theatre

A group called the Theatrical Syndicate dominated American theater from the late 19th century to the early 20th century before being replaced in that role by the Shubert brothers in the 1920s. Its stranglehold had been broken by the early 1910s. However, the two sides continued to engage in fierce competition, which fueled a great deal of theater-building on the part of the Shubert brothers. They built the Shubert Theatre and the Booth Theatre on some of the land they had leased from the Astor family in 1913. Both theaters were successful, so they followed up by building a second pair of theaters on the rest of the land leased from the Astor family in 1917. Of course, one of those was the Broadhurst Theatre.

Originally, the Shubert brothers were going to go with a different name for the building. Then, George Broadhurst leased the theater before its completion, thus resulting in it being renamed for him. He was already a successful theatrical producer by that point, but he leased the theater because he wanted a place where he could showcase his work as a playwright. It wasn’t too long before Broadhurst proved flexible enough to also allow other plays by other people.

Herbert Krapp was the one who did the design for the Broadhurst Theatre. By this point, he had already been working with the Shubert brothers for some time. Still, it is interesting to note that the Broadhurst Theatre was one of his first projects working as an independent architect rather than as a part of the architectural firm Herts & Tallant. Design-wise, it is neoclassical, thus enabling it to complement and contrast the more Renaissance-influenced Shubert Theatre and Booth Theatre. Even its interior is done in similar styles, as shown by the Doric columns and pilasters.

Under George Broadhurst

On September 27, 1917, the Broadhurst Theatre opened with a production of George Bernard Shaw’s Misalliance, which ran for 52 performances. The theater had a slow start. That can be seen in how it doesn’t seem to have had a notable hit until Majolaine in 1922. Fortunately, the Broadhurst Theatre seemed to have hit its stride in that decade because it went on to secure several shows of note. Beggar on Horseback did well with 224 performances in 1924, while The Green Hat did well with 237 performances in 1925. Similarly, there was Broadway, which ran for 603 performances from late 1926 to late 1927. Broadhurst’s involvement with the theater ended at the close of the decade in 1929.

Under the Shubert Organization

The Broadhurst Theatre saw a mix of successful and not-so-successful shows throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Victoria Regina started in late 1935 and continued until 1937, which was possible because there was enough demand to sustain 517 performances. Then, there were Early to Bed in 1943 and Happy Birthday in 1946. One can make a decent argument that the successful shows of the 1930s were extra-impressive because of the Great Depression’s impact on Broadway during that period. Certainly, being run by the Shubert Organization wasn’t enough to guarantee success. For proof, look no further than how the company itself went into receivership in 1931.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, the Broadhurst Theatre saw its fair share of hits. For instance, 1950s hits ranged from Seventeen in 1951 and Pal Joey in 1952 to Auntie Mame in 1956 and The World of Suzie Wong in 1958. Furthermore, there were Half a Sixpence in 1965, The Sunshine Boys in 1972, and Sly Fox in 1976. Besides these, the Broadhurst Theatre also hosted a couple of very well-known shows before they transferred elsewhere. One was Cabaret, which was at the theater for a short time in 1966. The other was Grease, which was also at the theater for a short time in 1972. Afterward, the latter went on to become the longest-running Broadway show of its time with 3,388 performances.

The 1980s and 1990s saw much the same pattern. Right from the start, there was Dancin’, which had its longest continuous run at the Broadhurst Theatre. Later, there were Broadway Bound in 1986, Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1993, and Once Upon a Mattress in 1996. It is also interesting to note that Fosse opened in January 1999 before continuing to run for two-and-a-half years. That makes it an excellent example of how some revues have managed to regain their popularity in the late 20th century after their general decline in earlier decades. Other than these things, these two decades are remembered because the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission gave landmark status to the Broadhurst Theatre’s facade and interior in 1987.

Since the 2000s

In the early 2000s, the Broadhurst Theatre saw Into the Woods in 2002 and 700 Sundays in 2004. Amusingly, it hosted a revival of Les Misérables in November 2006, which was remarkably successful with 463 performances considering that the original production had finished just three years before that. Subsequently, the Broadhurst Theatre hosted a mix of revivals, transfers, and other productions. One show of particular note was Mamma Mia!, which transferred over to the theater in 2013. There, it ran for another two years, thus making for a 14-year-long run in total. Another show of note was Anastasia, which started in 2017 and ran for almost two years. That was a stage adaptation of an animated movie. Interested individuals might recognize Anastasia as one of those animated movies from the late 1990s that looked like Disney movies without being Disney movies. Funny enough, it is now a Disney-owned movie because of the 21st Century Fox buyout.

Regardless, the Broadhurst Theatre closed in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, it was hosting Jagged Little Pill, a musical named for an Alanis Morisette album. The show returned when the Broadhurst Theatre reopened in October 2021. Unfortunately, continuing COVID-19 issues caused multiple cancellations, which culminated in it ending in December 2021. From there, the Broadhurst Theatre went on to host A Beautiful Noise, another musical named for a Neil Young album.

References:

https://shubert.nyc/theatres/broadhurst/

http://s-media.nyc.gov/agencies/lpc/lp/1323.pdf

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.

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

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