Nederlander Theater (originally National Theater)
Opened as the National Theater in 1921 and renamed the Billy Rose Theater in 1959 and the Nederlander Theater in 1980, this venue has staged multiple productions involving major LGBT performers and creators, including Tallulah Bankhead, Ethel Waters, Noel Coward, W. Somerset Maugham, Guthrie McClintic, Edward Albee, Tennessee Williams, Oliver Smith, and James Baldwin, among others.
During its Tony Award-winning run at the Nederlander, the hit musical Rent (1996-2008), about a group of friends living in the East Village during the AIDS crisis, brought portrayals of LGBT characters and those living with HIV/AIDS to mainstream theater audiences.
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This venue opened as the National Theater in 1921. The two biggest LGBT-associated hits here were The Little Foxes (1939-40) with actor Tallulah Bankhead, and The Corn is Green (1940-41) by Emlyn Williams.
Other LGBT-associated productions at the National included:
- Africana (1927, opened at Daly’s 63rd Street Theater), with actor Ethel Waters
- Tonight at 8:30 (1936 and 1948), written and staged by Noel Coward (who also acted in it)
- Macbeth (revival, 1941-42), with actors Maurice Evans and Judith Anderson
- The Cherry Orchard (revival, 1944), with actor Eva Le Gallienne
- Embezzled Heaven (1944-45), with actor Sanford Meisner
- The Day Before Spring (1945-46), directed by John C. Wilson, and with costume design by Miles White
- Medea (revival, 1947), with actors Judith Anderson (Best Actress in a Play Tony Award) and John Gielgud
- Crime and Punishment (revival, 1947-48), with actor John Gielgud
- Lend An Ear (1948-49), with scenic, costume and lighting design by Raoul Pene Du Bois, and with actor William Eythe
- The Constant Wife (revival, 1951-52) by W. Somerset Maugham, staged by Guthrie McClintic, and with actor Katharine Cornell
- Camino Real (1953) by Tennessee Williams, and with actor Hurd Hatfield
- Late Love (1953), directed by John C. Wilson
- Mrs. Patterson (1954-55), with scenic and costume design by Raoul Pene Du Bois
- The Square Root of Wonderful (1957) by Carson McCullers
- Sherlock’s Last Case (1987), directed by A.J. Antoon
Billy Rose Theater
In 1959, the theater was renamed the Billy Rose Theater. The biggest LGBT-associated hit here was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962-64) by Edward Albee (Best Play Tony Award), with production design by William Ritman, and with actor George Grizzard.
Other LGBT-associated productions at the Billy Rose included:
- Heartbreak House (revival, 1959-60), with costume design by Freddy Wittop, and with actor Maurice Evans
- Dear Liar (1960), with costume design by Cecil Beaton, and with actor Katharine Cornell
- The Wall (1960-61), with actor Robert Drivas
- A Family Affair (1962), with book, music and lyrics by James and William Goldman and John Kander, and with actor Larry Kert and dancer Tommy Abbott
- Tiny Alice (1964-65) by Edward Albee, with scenic design by William Ritman, and with actor John Gielgud
- The Right Honourable Gentleman (1965-66), with scenic and costume design by Loudon Sainthill, and with actor Coral Browne
- Where’s Daddy? (1966) by William Inge, which included a gay character
- The Rose Tattoo (revival, 1966) by Tennessee Williams
- Private Lives (revival, 1969-70) by Noel Coward, and with actor Brian Bedford
- The Country Girl (revival, 1972), with actor George Grizzard
- Jumpers (1974), with actors Brian Bedford and Remak Ramsey
The theater was renamed the Nederlander Theater in 1980. An enormous hit here was Rent (1996-2008, opened Off-Broadway at New York Theater Workshop – Best Musical Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for Drama), directed by Michael Greif and with actor Anthony Rapp, about a group of friends living in the East Village during the AIDS crisis. The show is credited with bringing portrayals of LGBT characters and those living with HIV/AIDS to mainstream theater audiences.
Other LGBT-associated productions at the Nederlander included:
- 84 Charing Cross Road (1982-83), with scenic design by Oliver Smith, and with actor Joseph Maher
- Amen Corner (1983), a musical based on the play by James Baldwin
- Beethoven’s Tenth (1984), with actor George Rose
- Our Country’s Good (1991), with actors Peter Frechette and Cherry Jones
Entry by Jay Shockley, project director (August 2019, with multiple additions).
NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.
- Architect or Builder: William Neil Smith
- Year Built: 1921
“The 1st List of: Gay/Lesbian/Bi Industry People, Both in Front and Behind the Camera,” www.imdb.com, May 31, 2013.
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, November 14, 2007.
Internet Broadway Database.
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