overview

Opened as the Martin Beck Theater in 1924, this venue has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including three big hits: The Voice of the TurtleGrand Hotel, and Guys and Dolls. “First Lady of the Theater” Katharine Cornell also appeared in six plays here.

The venue was renamed the Al Hirschfeld Theater in 2005.

Header Photo
Credit: Sarah Sargent/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2019.

History

When this venue was known as the Martin Beck Theater, there were four LGBT-associated productions that were enormous hits:

  • The Voice of the Turtle (1947; opened at the Morosco Theater) by John Van Druten
  • Man of La Mancha (1965-68), with choreography by Jack Cole
  • Grand Hotel (1989-92), directed and choreographed by Tommy Tune (Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography Tony Awards), and with actor Michael Jeter (Best Featured Actor in a Musical Tony Award)
  • Guys and Dolls (revival, 1992-95), with costume design by William Ivey Long, and with actor Nathan Lane

 

Other LGBT-associated big hits, all musicals, at the Martin Beck:

 

Other plays by LGBT creators at the Martin Beck:

  • A la Carte (1927) by George Kelly
  • Flowers of the Forest (1935) by John Van Druten, and with actor Katharine Cornell
  • The Pirate (1942-43), with costume design by Miles White, and with actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne
  • The Corn Is Green (1943) by Emlyn Williams
  • A Connecticut Yankee (1943-44), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart
  • St. Louis Woman (1946) by Arna Bontemps and Countee Cullen, and with choreography by Charles Walters
  • The Rose Tattoo (1951; Best Play Tony Award) by Tennessee Williams, and with Sal Mineo
  • Orpheus Descending (1957) by Tennessee Williams
  • Sweet Bird of Youth (1959-60) by Tennessee Williams
  • The Grass Harp (1952) by Truman Capote, with scenic and costume design by Cecil Beaton
  • Candide (1956-57), with music by Leonard Bernstein, scenic design by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Irene Sharaff
  • Who Was That Lady I Saw You With? (1958), with scenic design by Rouben Ter-Arutunian
  • Say, Darling (1958-59, opened at the ANTA Playhouse), designed by Oliver Smith
  • The Ballad of the Sad Café (1963-64) by Edward Albee, based on a novella by Carson McCullers
  • A Delicate Balance (1966-67; Pulitzer Prize for Drama) by Edward Albee, with scenic design by William Ritman
  • All Over (1971) by Edward Albee, with scenic and costume design by Rouben Ter-Arutunian
  • Hallelujah, Baby! (1967-68) by Arthur Laurents (Best Musical Tony Award), with costume design by Irene Sharaff
  • Habeas Corpus (1975-76) by Alan Bennett
  • Happy End (1977), adapted by Michael Feingold
  • The Little Foxes (revival, 1981), with costume design by Florence Klotz
  • The Rink (1984) by Terrence McNally, with music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb
  • Moon Over Buffalo (1995-96), with costume design by Bob Mackie
  • Strange Interlude (1963; opened at the Hudson Theater) was the first revival of Eugene O’Neill’s 1928 play, which had included an early closeted gay male character

 

“First Lady of the Theater” Katharine Cornell appeared in five other plays at the Martin Beck, all staged by Guthrie McClintic:

  • Romeo and Juliet (revival, 1934-35 and 1935-36), also with Maurice EvansRalph Richardson, and Tyrone Power
  • The Barretts of Wimpole Street (revival, 1935)
  • Saint Joan (revival, 1936), also with Maurice Evans and Tyrone Power
  • Antony and Cleopatra (revival, 1947-48), for which she received the Best Actress in a Play Tony Award, and also had Charles Nolte in the cast
  • That Lady (1949-50)

 

Other LGBT performers at the Martin Beck:

 

Entry by Jay Shockley, project director (June 2019, with multiple additions).

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: G. Albert Lansburgh
  • Year Built: 1923-24

Sources

  1. “The 1st List of: Gay/Lesbian/Bi Industry People, Both in Front and Behind the Camera,” www.imdb.com, May 31, 2013.

  2. Adam Hetrick, “The Work of Broadway’s Gay and Lesbian Artistic Community Goes on Display Nov. 14 When the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation Gallery Presents ‘StageStruck: The Magic of Theatre Design’,” Playbill, Nov. 14, 2007.

  3. Internet Broadway Database.

  4. Martin Beck Theater Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1987).

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