overview

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.

Header Photo
Credit: Christopher D. Brazee/NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, 2017.

History

National Theater
This venue opened as the National Theater in 1921.

The two biggest LGBT-associated hits here were The Little Foxes (1939-40) with Tallulah Bankhead, and The Corn is Green (1940-41) by Emlyn Williams.

Other LGBT-associated productions at the National included:

 

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 George Grizzard
  • Jumpers (1974), with Brian Bedford and Remak Ramsey

 

Nederlander Theater
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) with 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:

 

Entry by Jay Shockley, project director (August 2019, with multiple additions).

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: William Neil Smith
  • Year Built: 1921

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.

Do you have more information about this site?

This project is enriched by your participation! Do you have your own images of this site? Or a story to share? Would you like to suggest a different historic site?

Curated Themes

43 Sites

Broadway Theater District

Other Sites in the Neighborhood

230 West 49th Street
Eugene O’Neill Theater (originally Forrest Theater)
Performance Venues
138-146 West 48th Street
James Earl Jones Theater (originally, Cort Theater)
Performance Venues
106 Central Park South
Barbizon-Plaza Hotel
Organization & Community Spaces