overview

Opened in 1920, the Music Box Theater has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Ethel Waters, Irene Sharaff, Tom Hulce, Cole Porter, Tallulah Bankhead, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Laurents, Oliver Smith, Cesar Romero, and Marlon Brando, among others.

The biggest hit at this theater with LGBT associations was Deathtrap (1978-82), with scenic design by William Ritman and with actor Victor Garber.

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

History

There have been a large number of LGBT-associated productions at the Music Box Theater that were big hits. The biggest by far was Deathtrap (1978-82), with scenic design by William Ritman, and with actor Victor Garber. Other hits included Cradle Snatchers (1925-26), with Edna May OliverOnce in a Lifetime (1930-31), with Spring ByingtonAs Thousands Cheer (1933-34), with costume design by Irene Sharaff and Varady, and with actors Ethel Waters and Clifton WebbThe Man Who Came to Dinner (1939-41) with Monty WoolleyStar and Garter (1942-43), with costume design by Irene SharaffI Remember Mama (1944-46) by John Van Druten, and with actor Marlon Brando in his Broadway debut; Picnic (1953-54; Pulitzer Prize for Drama), Bus Stop (1955-56), and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1957-59), all by William IngeThe Pleasure of His Company (1959; opened at the Longacre Theater), with costume design by Edith Head, and with actor Cyril RitchardAny Wednesday (1964-66; Best Actress in a Play Tony Award) and Absurd Person Singular (1974-76), both with Sandy Dennis; and A Few Good Men (1989-91) with Tom Hulce.

Other shows at the Music Box by LGBT creators included Music Box Revue (1922-23), with choreography by Hubert Stowitts, who was also a performer; Paris (1928-29), with music by Cole Porter, and lyrics by Porter and E. Ray Goetz; Rain (1935), based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham, with actor Tallulah BankheadI’d Rather Be Right (1938, opened at the Alvin Theater), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart, and costume design by Irene SharaffSing Out the News (1938-39), choreographed by Charles Walters and others, and with actor Will Geer and Musa WilliamsFrom Vienna (1939) and The Land is Bright (1941-42), with costume design by Irene SharaffSet to Music (1939), with music, lyrics, and sketches by Noel Coward, and with actors Beatrice Lillie and Richard HaydnSummer and Smoke (1948-49) by Tennessee WilliamsSeparate Tables (1956-57) by Terence RattiganRashomon (1959), with scenic and costume design by Oliver MesselFive Finger Exercise (1959-60) by Peter Shaffer, with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and with actor Brian BedfordInvitation to a March (1960-61) by Arthur LaurentsDaughter of Silence (1961), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and costume design by Smith and Helen Pons; Romulus (1962), adapted by Gore Vidal, with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and with actor Cyril RitchardLovers (1968; opened at the Vivian Beaumont Theater), with scenic design by William RitmanWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (revival, 1976) by Edward Albee, with scenic and lighting design by William RitmanSide by Side by Sondheim (1977-78), with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and costume design by Florence KlotzEnd of the World (1984), with costume design by William Ivey Long, and with actor Linda HuntThe Octette Bridge Club (1985), with scenic design by John Lee BeattyHay Fever (revival, 1985-86) by Noel Coward, and with actor Robert JoyLoot (revival, 1986) by Joe Orton, with scenic design by John Lee Beatty, and with actor Joseph MaherLes Liaisons Dangereuses (1987), with scenic and costume design by Bob CrowleyMail (1988), with music by Michael Rupert, choreography by Grover Dale, and costume design by William Ivey Long, and with Rupert appearing in the production; A Small Family Business (1992) and The Dinner Party (2000-2001), with scenic design by John Lee BeattyThe Diary of Anne Frank (revival, 1997-98), with costume design by Martin Pakledinaz; and Amadeus (revival, 1999-2000) by Peter Shaffer.

LGBT performers here included Sophie Tucker in Earl Carroll’s Vanities (1924); Clifton Webb and Libby Holman in The Little Show (1929-30); Beatrice Lillie in The Third Little Show (1931); Cesar Romero in Dinner at Eight (1932-33); Will Geer in Of Mice and Men (1937-38) and The Ponder Heart (1956); Marlon Brando in A Flag is Born (1946, opened at the Alvin Theater); Georgette Harvey in Lost in the Stars (1949-50); and George Grizzard in Inquest (1970).

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: C. Howard Crane & E. George Kiehler
  • Year Built: 1920

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. Music Box Theater Designation Report (New York: Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1987).

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