overview

Opened in 1921, the Ambassador Theater has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Mulatto by Langston Hughes and Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, for which George C. Wolfe earned Best Direction of a Musical Tony Award.

A sampling of other LGBT names associated with the Ambassador include George Cukor, William Ritman, Tom Eyen, Ethel Waters, and Anthony Rapp.

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

History

The biggest theater hits with LGBT associations at the Ambassador Theater were Mulatto (1936) by Langston Hughes (opened at the Vanderbilt Theater); Me and Bessie (1975-76) with Linda Hopkins as Bessie SmithYou Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running (1967-68), with scenic design by Ed Wittstein, and with actor George GrizzardGodspell (1977) by John-Michael Tebelak (opened at the Broadhurst Theater); Eubie! (1978-79) with Maurice Hinesand Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk (1996-99), conceived by and directed by George C. Wolfe (Best Direction of a Musical Tony Award).

Other productions by LGBT creators here included The Great Gatsby (1926) directed by George CukorA Passage to India (1962) based on the book by E.M. Forster, with scenic and costume design by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, and with actor James CocoAbsence of a Cello (1964-65), with scenic and lighting design by William RitmanWe Bombed in New Haven (1968), with scenic design by William RitmanCelebration (1969), with scenic, costume, and lighting design by Ed WittsteinYour Arms Too Short to Box with God (revival, 1980), with music and lyrics by Alex BradfordDreamgirls (revival, 1987) by Tom Eyen, with music by Henry KriegerAin’t Misbehavin’ (revival, 1988-89), with scenic design by John Lee Beatty, lighting design by Pat Collins, and with actors Nell Carter and André De ShieldsThe Circle (revival, 1989-90) by W. Somerset Maugham, with scenic design by Desmond Heeley; and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (1999), with music arranged and supervised by Andrew Lippa, who also contributed additional music, choreography by Jerry Mitchell, and with actors Anthony Rapp and B.D. Wong.

LGBT performers here have included Walter Pidgeon in Night of January (1935-36), Jerome Robbins in The Straw Hat Revue (1939), Ethel Waters in Laugh Time (1943, opened at the Shubert Theater), Tyrone Power in Back to Methuselah (1958), and Judith Anderson in Comes a Day (1958).

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Herbert J. Krapp
  • Year Built: 1919-21

Sources

  1. 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.

  2. Ambassador Theater Interior Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1985).

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

  4. Internet Broadway Database.

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