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.

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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 Oliver; Once in a Lifetime (1930-31), with Spring Byington; As Thousands Cheer (1933-34), with costume design by Irene Sharaff and Varady, and with actors Ethel Waters and Clifton Webb; The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939-41) with Monty Woolley; Star and Garter (1942-43), with costume design by Irene Sharaff; I 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 Inge; The Pleasure of His Company (1959; opened at the Longacre Theater), with costume design by Edith Head, and with actor Cyril Ritchard; Any 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 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 Bankhead; I’d Rather Be Right (1938, opened at the Alvin Theater), with lyrics by Lorenz Hart, and costume design by Irene Sharaff; Sing Out the News (1938-39), choreographed by Charles Walters and others, and with actor Will Geer; From Vienna (1939) and The Land is Bright (1941-42), with costume design by Irene Sharaff; Set to Music (1939), with music, lyrics, and sketches by Noel Coward, and with actors Beatrice Lillie and Richard Haydn; Summer and Smoke (1948-49) by Tennessee Williams; Separate Tables (1956-57) by Terence Rattigan; Rashomon (1959), with scenic and costume design by Oliver Messel; Five Finger Exercise (1959-60) by Peter Shaffer, with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and with actor Brian Bedford; Invitation to a March (1960-61) by Arthur Laurents; Daughter 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 Ritchard; Lovers (1968; opened at the Vivian Beaumont Theater), with scenic design by William Ritman; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (revival, 1976) by Edward Albee, with scenic and lighting design by William Ritman; Side by Side by Sondheim (1977-78), with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and costume design by Florence Klotz; End of the World (1984), with costume design by William Ivey Long, and with actor Linda Hunt; The Octette Bridge Club (1985), with scenic design by John Lee Beatty; Hay Fever (revival, 1985-86) by Noel Coward, and with actor Robert Joy; Loot (revival, 1986) by Joe Orton, with scenic design by John Lee Beatty, and with actor Joseph Maher; Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1987), with scenic and costume design by Bob Crowley; Mail (1988), with music by Michael Rupert, 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 Beatty; The 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); and George Grizzard in Inquest (1970).

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