overview

Opened as the National Theater in 1921 and renamed the Billy Rose Theater in 1959 and the Nederlander Theater in 1980, this venue has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Tallulah Bankhead, Ethel Waters, Noel Coward, W. Somerset Maugham, Guthrie McClintic, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Oliver Smith, and James Baldwin, among others.

During its Tony Award-winning run at the Nederlander, the hit musical Rent (1996-2008), about a group of friends living in the East Village during the AIDS crisis, brought portrayals of LGBT characters and those living with HIV/AIDS to mainstream theater audiences.

Header Photo

Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2017.

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History

National Theater
The two biggest LGBT-associated hits at the National Theater were The Little Foxes (1939-40) with Tallulah Bankhead, and The Corn is Green (1940-41) by Emlyn Williams. Other LGBT-associated productions here included Africana (1927, opened at Daly’s 63rd Street Theater) with Ethel Waters; Tonight at 8:30 (1936 and 1948), written and staged by Noel Coward, with Coward; Macbeth (revival, 1941-42) with Maurice Evans and Judith Anderson; The Cherry Orchard (revival, 1944) with Eva Le Gallienne; Embezzled Heaven (1944-45) with Sanford Meisner; The Day Before Spring (1945-46), with costume design by Miles White; Medea (revival, 1947) with Judith Anderson (Best Actress in a Play Tony Award) and John Gielgud; Crime and Punishment (revival, 1947-48) with John Gielgud; Lend Me An Ear (1948-49), with scenic, costume and lighting design by Raoul Pene Du Bois; The Constant Wife (revival, 1951-52) by W. Somerset Maugham, staged by Guthrie McClintic, and with actor Katharine Cornell; Camino Real (1953) by Tennessee Williams, with actor Hurd Hatfield; Mrs. Patterson (1954-55), with scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du Bois; and The Square Root of Wonderful (1957) by Carson McCullers.

Billy Rose Theater
In 1959, the theater was renamed the Billy Rose Theater. The biggest LGBT-associated hit here was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962-64) by Edward Albee (Best Play Tony Award), with production design by William Ritman, and with actor George Grizzard. Other LGBT-associated productions at the Billy Rose included Heartbreak House (revival, 1959-60), with costume design by Freddy Wittop, and with actor Maurice Evans; Dear Liar (1960), with costume design by Cecil Beaton, and with actor Katharine Cornell; A Family Affair (1962), with book, music and lyrics by James and William Goldman and John Kander, and with actor Larry Kert; Tiny Alice (1964-65) by Edward Albee, with scenic design by William Ritman, and with actor John Gielgud; The Right Honourable Gentleman (1965-66), with scenic and costume design by Loudon Sainthill, and with actor Coral Browne; Where’s Daddy? (1966) by William Inge, which included a gay character; The Rose Tattoo (revival, 1966) by Tennessee Williams; Private Lives (revival, 1969-70) by Noel Coward, and with actor Brian Bedford; The Country Girl (revival, 1972) with George Grizzard; and Jumpers (1974) with Brian Bedford and Remak Ramsey.

Nederlander Theater
The theater was renamed the Nederlander Theater in 1980. An enormous hit here was Rent (1996-2008, opened Off-Broadway at New York Theater Workshop – Best Musical Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for Drama) with Anthony Rapp, about a group of friends living in the East Village during the AIDS crisis. The show is credited with bringing portrayals of LGBT characters and those living with HIV/AIDS to mainstream theater audiences. Other LGBT-associated productions included 84 Charing Cross Road (1982-83), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and with actor Joseph Maher; Amen Corner (1983), a musical based on the play by James Baldwin; Beethoven’s Tenth (1984), with George Rose; and Our Country’s Good (1991), with Peter Frechette and Cherry Jones.

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Other Sites in the Neighborhood

881 Seventh Avenue, Manhattan

Carnegie Hall: Studio Towers

Residences
1697-1699 Broadway, Manhattan

Ed Sullivan Theater (originally Hammerstein’s Theater)

Performance Venues
219 West 48th Street, Manhattan

Walter Kerr Theater (originally Ritz Theater)

Performance Venues