New Amsterdam Theatre

~ History ~

 

Construction and original run
The New Amsterdam was built in 1903 by the partnership of impresarios A.L. Erlanger and Marcus Klaw and designed in the Art Nouveau style by architects Herts and Tallant. At the time of construction, it was the largest theatre in New York with a seating capacity of 1,702. Along with the Lyceum Theatre, also built in 1903, it is the oldest surviving Broadway venue.

The New Amsterdam opened in November 1903 with a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. For many years, it hosted the Ziegfeld Follies, showcasing such talents as Olive Thomas, Fanny Brice and the Eaton siblings. A racier sister show of the Follies, the Midnight Frolics, played in the New Amsterdam's roof garden theatre. The New Amsterdam was the scene of Marilyn Miller's greatest triumphs in the musicals Sally (1920) and Sunny, which opened in September 1925 co-starring Clifton Webb as Harold Wendell-Wendell and ran for three seasons [1]. But the theatre also hosted serious productions, and in June 1927 Basil Rathbone appeared there as Cassius in Julius Caesar.

Restoration
The Great Depression took its toll on the theatre business, and in 1936 the New Amsterdam closed. It reopened on a limited basis in 1937 but soon was converted to a movie theatre. The Nederlander Organization purchased the landmark property in 1982, but it would not be on the road to rehabilitation for another eight years. In 1990, after a court battle, the State and City of New York assumed ownership of the New Amsterdam and many other theatres on 42nd Street. Disney Theatrical Productions signed a 99 year lease for the property in 1993. The theatre, which had recently been used as a filming location for the movie Vanya on 42nd Street, was in shambles; it would take several years and millions of dollars, to restore it to its original usage and grandeur. The roof garden remained closed when it was discovered that it could not be brought up to modern building codes.

The New Amsterdam was officially reopened on April 2, 1997. In November 1997, after the premiere of the film Hercules and a limited engagement of a concert version of King David, Disney's stage version of The Lion King opened. On June 4, 2006, The Lion King closed in The New Amsterdam Theatre, moving two blocks uptown to the Minskoff Theatre on June 13, 2006. Mary Poppins began previews at the New Amsterdam Theatre on October 16, 2006 and opened on November 16, 2006.

{History and Restoration information from Wikipedia.com}