overview

Opened in 1910 as the Globe Theater, this venue has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Barbara Stanwyck, Lorenz Hart, Oliver Smith, Mary Martin, Robert Mackintosh, Jerry Herman, Charles Nelson Reilly, and Marlene Dietrich, among others.

In 1957, the building was renamed the Lunt-Fontanne Theater for actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, a Broadway couple who had one of the most famous “lavender marriages” (in which one or both partners in a marriage are gay) of their time.

Header Photo

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

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History

Globe Theater
The Globe Theater had a number of plays with LGBT associations: The Harp of Life (1916-17) and Out There (1917), with Laurette Taylor and Lynn Fontanne; Jack and Jill (1923), with Clifton Webb; Keep Kool (1924), with Ruby Stevens (who later changed her name to Barbara Stanwyck) in the ensemble; She’s My Baby (1928), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart, and with actors Beatrice Lillie and Clifton Webb; George White’s Scandals (1923), with costume design by Erte and Cora MacGeachy; and Three Cheers (1928-29), with Patsy Kelly. The Globe served as a movie house from 1932 to 1957.

Lunt-Fontanne Theater
In 1957, it was named the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, becoming one of several Broadway theaters that have been named after LGBT persons. Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were a Broadway couple who had one of the most famous “lavender marriages” (a marriage in which one or both partners are gay) of their time. There have been three huge hits with LGBT associations at the Lunt-Fontanne: The Sound of Music (1959-62), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and with actor Mary Martin (Best Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Scenic Design Tony Awards); Raisin (1975), a musical based on the play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (opened at the 46th Street Theater – Best Musical Tony Award); and Beauty and the Beast (1999-2007), with lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice (opened at the Palace Theater), with actor Gary Beach.

Other shows by LGBT creators here included Little Me (1962-63), based on a novel by Patrick Dennis (Edward Everett Tanner III); Ben Franklin in Paris (1964-65), with scenic design by Oliver Smith; Bajour (1965; opened at the Shubert Theater), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Freddy Wittop; How Now Dow Jones (1967-68), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Robert Mackintosh, and with actor Tommy Tune; You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running (1968), with scenic design by Ed Wittstein, and with actor George Grizzard (opened at the Ambassador Theater); A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (revival, 1972), with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; 6 Rms Riv Vu (1973), with scenic design by William Ritman (opened at the Helen Hayes Theater); The Sunshine Boys (1974), with costume design by Albert Wolsky (opened at the Broadhurst Theater); My Fair Lady (revival, 1976-77), with production design by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Cecil Beaton, also with George Rose (Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award) (opened at the St. James Theater); Hello, Dolly! (revival, 1978) by Michael Stewart based on the play The Matchmaker by Thornton Wilder, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, scenic design by Oliver Smith, and with actor Lee Roy Reams; Private Lives (revival, 1983) by Noel Coward; The Corn is Green (revival, 1983) by Emlyn Williams, with scenic design by William Ritman; Smile (1986-87), by, directed by, and lyrics by Howard Ashman, with costume design by William Ivey Long; and Hello, Dolly! (revival, 1995-96) by Michael Stewart, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, directed and choreographed by Lee Roy Reams, scenic design by Oliver Smith (his last Broadway production), and costume design by Freddy Wittop.

LGBT performers at the Lunt-Fontanne have included Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in The Visit (1958); John Gielgud in Much Ado About Nothing (revival, 1959); Charles Nelson Reilly in Skyscraper (1965-66); George Rose in Walking Happy (1966-67) and Peter Pan (revival, 1979-81); Marlene Dietrich in her Broadway concert singing debut (1967); and Maurice Hines in Uptown… It’s Hot (1986).

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